Paul Ewing's Reviews > How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It

How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman
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's review
Feb 14, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: best-books-on-history
Read from January 01 to February 10, 2012 — I own a copy

Even though I've only finished the first 100 pages, this book has transformed my thinking about the origins of the modern world.

Key quotes: "Scotland would generate the basic institutions, ideas, attitudes, and habits of mind that characterize the modern age." p. 11.

"'The people have the right to confer the royal authority upon whomever they wish.'" --George Buchanan, "The Law of Government Among the Scots," 1579

Robert Burns, "'A man's a man for a' that."

"...the Act of Union [with England] launched an economic boom. In the span of a single generation it would transform Scotland from a Third World country into a modern society, and open up a cultural and social revolution." p. 54 [the accumulation of much wealth precedes every cultural 'golden age' whether it be in Scotland, Renaissance Italy or Classical Greece, P.E.]

Arthur Herman lists "the books that dominated the thinking of Europeans in the last quarter of the 18th century" and the "Scottish names stand out":
"Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," David Hume's "Treatise of Human Nature," William Robertson's "History of the Reign of Charles V," Adam Ferguson's "History of Civil Society," John Millar's "The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks," Thomas Reid's "Inquiry Into the Human Mind," Francis Hutcheson's "Systems of Moral Philosophy," and Lord Kame's "Sketches of the History of Man." p. 63

"Hutcheson defined rights as universal, and did not recognize any distinction based on gender. The other, even more important, was slavery. 'Nothing,' he said, 'can change a rational creature into a piece of goods void of all rights.'" p. 82

In 1777, in Edinburgh, the Court of Session not only freed Joseph Knight, an African slave purchased in Jamaica and brought home to Scotland by his new master; but it also permanently outlawed slavery in Scotland! pp. 104-105

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