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Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
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Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  646 ratings  ·  120 reviews
More than 27 million Americans today can trace their lineage to the Scots, whose bloodline was stained by centuries of continuous warfare along the border between England and Scotland, and later in the bitter settlements of England’s Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Scots-Irish migrated to America in theeighteenth century, traveling in gro ...more
Paperback, Expanded Edition, 400 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Broadway Books (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,222)
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Doug
This book was interesting in parts and reasonably well written. It's really a book in two parts, one about the history of the Scots-Irish beginning in Scotland, the Plantation in Ireland through the English civil wars, and emigration, the second about the Scots-Irish in America. The first part is revelatory since most histories of Ireland relegate the Ulster Scots to a minor role. A history from their perspective is enlightening.

The second part, the Scots-Irish experience in America, has both g
...more
Carol Storm
Dreadful history -- dishonest on every level!

I know that James Webb was a fighting Marine in Vietnam. I honor his service. But I still think this book is dishonest,distorted, and offensive on every level. Time and again as I was reading it I just wanted to throw it against a wall. Whatever his skills as a fighting man, Webb is a limited intellect with no sense of history and no capacity for self-perception. As a result, his book is so biased, selective and dishonest it boggles the mind.

It's grea
...more
Rick
Mar 05, 2008 Rick rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Appalachians who thought it was a coincidence that they grew up how they did
This book confirmed my suspicions that I have more in common with those from the hills of North Carolina and Kentucky than I do with flat-landers and city dwellers from my own state of Pennsylvania. As far as how you grow-up, live and think, being an Appalachian matters a lot more than which state you call home. I saw a lot of myself and even more of my family in Webb's descriptions of the stubborn, anti-authoritarian, self-reliant, blunt, clannish Scots-Irish who settled those mountains and lar ...more
Bob Woods
I read this book because half of my family comes from Scots-Irish (found out that "Scotch-Irish" is a derogatory term!) stock, and I wanted to understand the history of these people. In terms of history, there were some great details that were provided, but nothing I could not have gotten on Wikipedia. The point of view of the author (Jim Webb) is that of someone who comes from this lineage and is trying to make a political point today of why certain groups of people think the way they do. From ...more
Mary
While I was growing up in the 70's, I was very envious of my friends who had identifiable ethnicities. I wanted to be a hyphenated American but the roots of my family tree were sunk deep in the weeds and lacked the romance of stories of Cold War refugees, escaping pogroms, or sighting Ellis Island. Yet, WASP was certainly not fitting and caused my parents to recoil. As Born Fighting unfolded, the "aha" moments came thick and fast and I also understood that the lack of identifiable culture I grew ...more
Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Webb has certainly done his research but it's hard to get past his lack of objectivity and exaggerated pride. And, while I accept that values are passed from generation to generation, are certain traits really "in your blood???" Anyway, if the Scots-Irish ever decide to do T-Shirts (i.e "Kiss Me, I'm Irish or Polish or Whatever"), I think they should read, "Kiss My Arse, I'm Scots-Irish."
Fred R
I'm not a huge fan of ethnic boosterism, but this sweet and pugnacious paean to the hillbillies among us is moving and enlightening. The Scots-Irish are among the few groups in America that it's ok, for some reason, to despise, and Webb's book seems like a necessary corrective.
Vic
Selective history at its worst..The English did not settle Scots lowlanders in Ulster to fight the Irish. The SCOTTISH King James VI did it to break up the Gaelic confederacy of McDonald in Scotland with their Irish kinsfolk McDonells in Ireland. This Gaelic alliance threatened Edinburgh rule.(He couldn't do it until he also became James I of England )It was to solve a SCOTTISH governmental problem. Historic enemy of the south west Scottish lowlanders was more the Gaelic Highlanders than the Eng ...more
Camille K.
I would actually give this 2.5 stars.

It's more a primary text than an actual history. He gives a broad overview of the general stories and stereotypes, and so his text is valuable as that. But his survey of religion, I can at least say, is downright sloppy. Just as one example, he says that the Great Awakening was mostly a Baptist phenomenon. I have no clue where he gets that. Forget Edwards since he's up North so out of Webb's purview. But Whitefield??? HELLO??

There are other sloppy things. Mo
...more
Sarah
Here is a writer who boldly and unapologetically wears his racist and conservative hypocrisy on his sleeve. I have a hard time with a point of view that so clearly ignores or negates the roles ALL OTHER races play in American society, as well as the sheer pain and destruction this group caused in American history (see, Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears; Appalachian illiteracy and the effect on American politics; Southern KKK and Jim Crow laws). Webb willfully ignores the negative, emphasizin ...more
Patrick
Anyone with Scots-Irish heritage or who knows anyone of such heritage should read this book. It is a fascinating chronicle of an often-marginalized group of rugged individualists, their movements and contributions throughout history, and how they played a key role in the shaping of the United States. It gave me a new appreciation for my heritage, a deeper understanding of my most deeply ingrained values, and my place in the world. It is inspiring, and I recommend it to anyone with an appreciatio ...more
Denise
This is a book everyone interested in their Scots-Irish heritage should read. It is a non-fiction piece of work with a structure similar to a novel. It validates a lot of what I have always felt/believed, particularly about the generalization of WASP's and how the Scots-Irish history and culture is definitely contradictory than this over-generalization of white America. It also explains a lot about myself...a lot to embrace...particularly my own individualism and willingness to fight for a princ ...more
Robert Davidson
one of the few books that try and explain the history of the ulster scots to lay people who find it hard to understand the illogical stubborn stance of this group. loyalty, bravery and most importantly, independence of thought are hallmarks of these people and i am pleased how webb showed how much they contributed to the U.S.A.. a very entertaining read that made me proud of my ancestry. ( though i have no time for racism or religious discrimination )
Ben Rothman
It's a very good book when Webb isn't boasting about his and his family's military exploits.
John
I do a bit of genealogy. I was in the midst of researching my wife's Rodgers line, a Scots-Irish Presbyterian family (of which there are a few on my side too). But I did not really know the story of this group of people. So when I saw this at a book sale I picked it up. Figured a book by an ex-senator would be just OK; was I wrong-what a great writer and historian. I could not put this down.
Mr. Webb does a great job of not only capturing the history of a people, but tying them into the dynamic
...more
Catherine
I have put off reading the book because I thought I knew what it was about. I am afterall of Scots and Irish heritage and have done much study in the area.

I was blown away! It was terrific and not only did I have what I knew confirmed but the wealth of information and detail that was added takes my breath away. As a family researcher, I now have new places to look for things and new ways to interpret data which may lead to new connections that can be confirmed.

My father read the book with great
...more
Allan Leonard
There's no denying the fighting spirit of the Scots-Irish, particularly as James Webb describes the defence of the frontier in the Appalachian Mountains. However, Webb goes too far in defining this attribute as somehow ethnically unique.

Webb also overplays the Scots-Irish role in the American War of Independence. One throwaway passage is, "Although the trained minds of New England's Puritan culture and Virginia's Cavalier aristocracy had shaped the finer intellectual points of the argument for p
...more
The American Conservative
'Webb, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran, a former assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy, and more recently a novelist, tries to correct this “gaping vacuum” in our understanding of American origins. On the way, he strives to restore to the 27 million Americans who can claim descent from the Scots-Irish a sense of pride in who they are and from whence they came. His social history is partly a tribute to a “forgotten people,” a family memoir, and a political polemic. He tr ...more
Lisa
Aug 29, 2010 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: history
An amazing book by (somewhat surprisingly) a Democrat, chronicling the history of the Ulster Scots AKA the Northern Irish Protestants AKA the Scots-Irish into the New World and beyond. I have been reading this book for 4 months. It is not a slow read, but I found myself so facinated with the history of this people that I had to stop after every chapter and read or watch more about the events described such as Hadrian's Wall, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, the Ulster Plantation, The Siege of ...more
Sarah Beaudoin
As a memoir, this book is interesting and enjoyable. However, it does not appear intended to be a memoir, but rather a historical analysis of the Scots-Irish people and their role in shaping America. Webb does a great job of exploring this but unfortunately he's unable to step back and do so in any sort of unbiased, critical fashion. The result is a historical overview that also glorifies an entire people, even in moments when that glorifying is questionable. For instance, I appreciate Webb's ef ...more
Bill
Being of Scots descent I was interested in learning of the history of the Scots-Irish in America. The The tribulations they experienced were many as where the contributions they made. While one does get an appreciation the author's emphasis on confrontation and class distinctions were oft putting. What I found particularly offensive was his lionization of Andrew Jackson, in my judgment, the most overrated president in American history. Alas, my bias is showing, but I just care much for the book. ...more
Vince
Decent history of the Scots - Irish in the USA, a misunderstood group to be sure. Still the author ends up an apologist for all sorts of bad behavior. He will never get my vote if he runs for elected office. You're supposed to buy into the argument that the Confederacy, white racism and all other sorts of bad behavior are just misunderstandings. Frightening stuff to be sure.
Zachary

Sentor Webb produced a book that is lyrically written, and is full of love for its subject. However, this is more of a hymn to the Scotts-Irish than a real, objective history of the people. It is clear that Webb loves and feels indebted to the culture that produced him, and feels deeply rooted to his people's bloodlines. I cannot and will not begrudge him that, and it can certainly be well understood and enjoyed so long as one keeps in mind what it is. It is a history written from the Scotts-Iri
...more
giselayvonne
Wow. It took me forever to finish this simple book. I even kept it past its return date from the public library by two weeks. I didn't know what to make of it while reading and having just finished, I still do not know.

The first 200 pages had a lot of repetition: the Scottish Kirk, the war-like people, the fierce independence, etc...it was so repetitious. The last pages were a whirlwind of different aspects of the modern representation of Senator Webb's proposal of the Scots-Irish.

I read this
...more
Lorrir
A bit of dry reading, interesting, but with caution. Webb has covered a lot of territory referencing Fischer and his tome, Albion's Seed, which, if read, gives a far better and more comprehensive understanding of the various influences of settlers of the first 13 colonies and early expansion westward. However, Webb's personal history, found from time to time, highlights commonalities with some, repeat some, of those with Scots Irish roots. It was interesting to recognize those common traits, but ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
-Review in Spanish-

De todos las nacionalidades y culturas que aportaron su granito de arena al 'American melting-pot' el granito granito que aportaron los Scots-Irish es una roca poderosa, no un granito. Básicamente son la esencia de la América que los anti-americanos desprecian. Ellos aportaron al país la tenacidad y las ganas de pelear y salir adelante a pesar de todo y de todos. El elemento básico que les define es la individualidad. El conocimiento que han pasado genéticamente es que nadie n
...more
Sandra
I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, hoping to learn something about my own Scots-Irish heritage. Unlike Webb and his family, my father really didn't want to talk about his own humble and largely dysfuntional origins. Webb does a good job of tracing the sad migration of lowland Scots to Ulster and from there to Appalachia and beyond. I now have a clearer picture of how these peoples' struggles with the English, with other Catholic Scots and the entrenched American aristocracies p ...more
Bap
Jim Webb, the Senator from Virginia traces the history and personality of the Scot-Irish who resisted English encroachment and embraced the stern Presbyterian, dissenter creed. Although they were Gaels themselves . They emigrated to the Ulster plantations as a bulwark against the Irish whose land had been expropriated. They withstood an Irish uprising and adopted the watchword of "No Surrender", however after about 70 years in Ulster, they realized that they were no more free than the Irish. Hen ...more
Kam
Much more interesting than I thought it would be. But it is a very romantic notion of Scots-Irish people. This guy used to work for Reagan (who has some S-I in him) and was a lifetime armed forces person so it would make sense he views S-I people with romanticism and pride. But if you live in areas with heavy S-I influence or are of S-I decent (as many Americans are) this book will likely make you understand more about the character of many people who share this decent.

I disagreed with some of h
...more
Rebecca
Sometimes you find a book that speaks to your soul, that your blood reaches out to and embraces, and you feel like you've come home when you didn't even know you were away. With the feeling of a puzzle piece finally sliding into place, my history, my home, my people came out and claimed me. I've known that my family came from Ireland, fairly recently, but almost everything else has been a blank. But the little slivers of knowledge I did have came together, the outlines completed and the colors f ...more
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115559
James Henry "Jim" Webb, Jr. (born February 9, 1946) is the junior Senator from Virginia. He is also an author and a former Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

A 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Webb served as a Marine Corps infantry officer until 1972, and is a highly decorated Vietnam War combat veteran. During his four years with th
...more
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“In such a wild, uncharted place the book of God was vital, for it nourished their spirit and laid boundaries for their conduct. Other subjects simply had no relevance. Trigonometry and calculus would not help them find their way among the mountain trails. Adam Smith's economics were of no consequence in the matter of planting corn and breeding cattle. Nor did they need the essays of Plato or the plays of Shakespeare to teach them how to shoot a rifle, or to make clothes from animal skins, or to clear away the wilderness with their own bare hands.” 3 likes
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