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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,512 ratings  ·  215 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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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
Baal Of
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Soldier turned Senator turned author Jim Webb has given us a total of ten books, of which the best known is probably 2004's Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, an analysis of the Scots-Irish in history and especially in the USA. From William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on to the Battle of Bannockburn and the complicated plight of Ulster, the author shows us how the Scots-Irish fondness for direct action, tribalism and problem-solving has its origin in the old country and has endu ...more
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. ...more
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
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
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, memoir
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
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
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
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." ...more
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
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
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
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
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 )
Will Manuel
May 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
I read this based on a podcast. Some of the first part about how the Scots got independence and the beginning of the Ulster plantation were interesting. I didn't have a lot of love for the descriptions of the author walking around thinking. When I got to the chapters defending Andrew Jackson and claiming that the Civil War wasn't really all about slavery, he lost me completely. I am Scots-Irish and had hoped that this would be more of a linear history. Instead, it was full of a lot of the stuff ...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
Tamara Suttle
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved everything about this book!

Webb's thoroughly researched book explained so much about my extended family's values, traits and characteristics - along with my own.

Things I had never thought about like their political leanings and their view of government and their clannishness i.e. fierce loyalty to family and often aloofness to strangers!

If you are of Scots-Irish descent or have an interest in US history, this is a must read!
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. ...more
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,
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
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
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
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
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. ...more
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
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
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James Henry "Jim" Webb, Jr. (born February 9, 1946) is an American politician and author. He has served as a United States Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Counsel for the United States House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and is a decorated Marine Corps officer.

Outside of working in government, Webb is also an Emmy Award winning jou

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