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

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,299 ratings  ·  193 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 the eighteenth century, traveling in gr ...more
Paperback, Expanded Edition, 400 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Broadway Books (first published 2004)
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3.81  · 
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 ·  1,299 ratings  ·  193 reviews


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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
Baal Of
This is a self-aggrandizing, myopic view of Webb's people, with an entrenched narrative of long-suffering while making excuses for anything negative. While I grant that there is a lot of truth contained in this book, and Webb does present a fair amount of the complexities of the history, he persistently casts everything in the light of how great the Scots-Irish are, and how they have been unfairly maligned by the "liberal elite" and those damn educated people. So while he talks on one side about ...more
Lisa
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Doug
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Denise
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Fred R
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Rick
Nov 09, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Tim
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up from BookBub for an obscenely low price, having had it recommended to me by my friend Keith. I’m half Irish (“Potato Irish” not Scots-Irish), but my maternal grandmother came from County Antrim in North Ireland and believe you me she hated the English, so there’s some commonality, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mr. Webb’s thesis is that is that many U.S. citizens are descendants of the Scots-Irish, which originated in Scotland, marked by intense tribal loyalty and a willingnes
...more
Mary
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-aloud
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."
Vic
May 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
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
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
Robert Davidson
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 )
Gerry
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, history
From Hadrian’s Wall to William Wallace to Robert the Bruce to the Roundheads and Cavaliers of the English Civil War – the American experience began centuries before and has carried on since the Jamestown Colony (1607) was founded in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The modern day education of the South is still rampant with myths that every white person owned slaves; Senator Webb dispels this and other myths of Southern States Americans and does so with a compelling argument backed up with facts of ...more
Kam
Sep 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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
John
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Beaudoin
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Ben Rothman
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
It's a very good book when Webb isn't boasting about his and his family's military exploits.
Michael Sigler
Mar 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Wow, where do I even begin with this book? I was really excited to read this book, a supposed history of the Scots-Irish people and how they shaped American history. Instead, I ventured into a book that is mostly ignorant conservative propaganda and a misplaced heralding of Southern American culture.
The story starts out with the steeped history of Scots, which Webb seems to build to detailed accounting of -- but no, hope you didn't want that, cause you're getting 2000 years in 20 pages instead,
...more
Alaine
Apr 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
Chapter One: The opening quote glorifies Andrew Jackson. Gross. Only a few lines into the actual chapter, the author engages in route talk. Route talk shuts me down. I could not care less what road someone took to get from A to B. This from someone who looks at maps for entertainment. "I took the five to the 405 to the blah, blah, blah." It's so boring! Unless you have a story to tell me about the journey, I don't care about your route.

Chapter Two: Some crap about how in today's politically corr
...more
Elizabeth Schaefer
I was given this book as a present to learn more about my heritage and honestly of this is any indication of what my heritage is I am deeply ashamed. The first 3rd/4th of the book was well written then it fell apart in narrative, coherent thought, and writing. By the time Webb was writing about Andrew Jackson it was increasingly scattered in thought and racist. Once Webb tried to discuss the civil war the writing was incoherent and the content very racist. It was so racist I was genuinely shocke ...more
Anna
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Very far from an unbiased history of the Scots-Irish, but still an interesting read.
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
Catherine
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
giselayvonne
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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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
“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.” 4 likes
“Philadelphia became the Ulster Scots’ most popular port of entry for two reasons. The first was that the Pennsylvania colony had been created with an eye toward accommodating religious freedom and thus largely welcomed the Ulster dissenters , at least initially. And the second— equally as important—was that the communities in New England and New York wanted nothing to do with them.” 1 likes
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