How the Scots Invented the Modern World

How the Scots Invented the Modern World
How the Scots Invented the Modern World
by Julie Lorenzen
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The following paragraphs provide a brief summary of each chapter of Arthur Herman’s book, How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Herman makes good arguments in order to defend the books title. However, perhaps a more appropriate title would have been How the Scots Contributed to the Modern World.

The first chapter of How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman chronicled John Knox, a writer and strict evangelical preacher. According to Herman, Knox’s goal was to turn Scots into God’s chosen people and Scotland into the New Jerusalem. He wiped out Catholicism and embraced Calvinism. Scottish society enveloped these principles.

Chapter two was about the treaty of 1707 that made Scotland part of Great Britain. The main point was that although the Scots feared the worse for their country, their country ended up better off—especially since they had better access to England’s markets. The treaty seemed to be the springboard for the enlightenment.

In Chapter three, Herman’s main point was that Francis Hutcheson was one of two people who helped to prove that the proper study of Mankind is Man. He developed an altruistic philosophy that dealt with man as a moral being whose purposes was to seek happiness by helping others.

Chapter four introduced the other Scottish man whose interest in the study of mankind contributed greatly to the Scottish enlightenment—Lord Kames.  Born Henry Home, Kames earned his name by becoming a judge in the Court of Session. Kames believed that society, government, etc. formed to protect man’s property. Unlike Hutcheson, Kames was more cynical and focused on self-interest rather than altruism. 
Also, one of Kames’ biggest contributions to the enlightenment was the library he created.

In chapter five, Herman discussed the differences between the highlands and the lowlands in eighteenth-century Scotland. The people in the highlands were organized in to clans with chiefs as leader. Kames called the Highlands a “pastoral society.” Its inhabitants were primarily herdsman. They also tended to be Catholic and spoke Gaelic unlike those in the lowlands who were Presbyterian and spoke English. In contrast to the pastoral society of the north, Glasgow and Edinburgh, part of the lowlands, were starting to show all the signs of being a commercial society. In chapter five, Herman explained the differences between the two lands that made the conflict written about in chapter six possible.

In chapter six, Herman provided all the details of the Jacobin revolt of 1745 and explained how the revolt united the two parts of Scotland. In the end the Jacobins lost and suffered terribly at the hands of the Duke of Cumberland who led the opposing army to victory. He actively sought out Jacobites and had them executed. In addition, parliament banned the traditional dress of the Highlanders. Also the military spirit of the Highlands disappeared, which made the Highlanders who fought and died at Culloden symbols of something missing from Scottish identity.

Herman titled chapter seven Profitable Ventures. His main point was that the defeat of Jacobitism led to the beginning of the Scottish enlightenment. The Scottish economy grew immensely. Herman asserted that the Scots were the first group of people to experience an economic boom in the modern, capitalistic era.

The contributions of Adam Smith and his friends served as the main topic of chapter eight. Smith became famous by writing The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  He was part of a group of religious moderates who reformed the Kirk, the Presbyterian establishment. As a result, an opposing Presbyterian, John Witherspoon who saw the moderates as elitists, ended up in America. 

In chapter nine, Herman revealed that Ulster Scots were the first of the three primary groups that appeared in America. They arrived in 1713. The Lowlanders followed and the Highlanders. Many of the Highlanders were refuges from the 1745 conflict. Herman’s main point was that that as the result of Scottish settlements in the east and in Appalachia, “the Great Awakening transformed the culture of colonial America […]. (202)

Chapter ten was entitled Lights from the North: Scots, Liberals, and Reform. The main point was that Scotland provided thinkers, politicians, inventors and writers that gave confidence to Great Britain. The Scots, Herman asserted, help to remake British politics, galvanize educational institutions, and redo the British infrastructure.

One of the main points of chapter eleven was that Sir Walter Scott single –handedly changed the course of literature in the early nineteenth century.  By doing so, he gave Scotland a new identity that lasted until the industrial age.

In chapter 12, Herman’s main point was that the Scots contributed significantly to fields of mechanical engineering (improvements to Newcomen steam engines), medicine (medical training, public health, obstetrics). According to Herman, the Scots also were experts at transportation and proved it by creating roads, railways and the Caledonian Canal. Also with his improvements to the steam engine, Watts urbanized industrial activity. 



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