This book argues that while Anglo-Saxon culture has given rise to virtually no myths at all, myth has played a central role in the historical development of Scottish identity. Hugh Trevor-Roper explores three myths across 400 years of Scottish history: the political myth of the ancient constitution” of Scotland; the literary myth, including Walter Scott as well as Ossian and ancient poetry; and the sartorial myth of tartan and the kilt, invented ironically, by Englishmen in quite modern times.
Trevor-Roper reveals myth as an often deliberate cultural construction used to enshrine a people’s identity. While his treatment of Scottish myth is highly critical, indeed debunking, he shows how the ritualization and domestication of Scotland’s myths as local color diverted the Scottish intelligentsia from the path that led German intellectuals to a dangerous myth of racial supremacy.
This compelling manuscript was left unpublished on Trevor-Roper’s death in 2003 and is now made available for the first time. Written with characteristic elegance, lucidity, and wit, and containing defiant and challenging opinions, it will absorb and provoke Scottish readers while intriguing many others.
I believe that the whole history of Scotland has been coloured by myth; and that myth, in Scotland, is never driven out by reality, or by reason, but lingers on until another myth has been discovered, or elaborated, to replace it.” Hugh Trevor-Roper
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The late Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre of Glanton) was Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford and a prolific scholar. His last book, Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne, was published by Yale University Press in 2006.Review:
"This is one sly hoot of a book."—Laurel Maury, Los Angeles Times (Laurel Maury Los Angeles Times 2008-07-13)
"As with so many of the tales Trevor-Roper has to tell, the truth may not be as romantic as the legend, but its irony makes it no less compelling."—Adam Kirsch, New York Sun (Adam Kirsch New York Sun 2008-07-23)
"The aim of this wonderful work of scholarship and literary wit is to show how the 'customs and costumes of the Scottish Highlands'. . .were reinvented, embellished, and extended to embrace all of Scotland and her glorious history. . . . [A] marvelous book."—Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe (Katherine A. Powers Boston Globe 2008-07-13)
"This last book displays a fine wit. . . . Its publication makes a welcome tribute to a fine historian as well as his last word on the imagined past."—William Anthony Hay, The Washington Times (William Anthony Hay The Washington Times 2008-07-27)
"The real pleasure of this posthumous effusion is the sheer joy the author evinces in showing off generous measures of tendentiousness and his undoubted historical bona fides."—The Atlantic (The Atlantic 2008-11-01)
"Delightful."—Robert Landrum, The Historian (Robert Landrum The Historian)
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