Book Review

Anna Groundwater, Scotland Connected: a timeline for Scottish history in the wider world, Luath,£9.99, 9781908373625

Reviewed by Donald McCormick

Anna Groundwater suggests that the reader should not sit down and read her book from end to end but to ‘Dip in and dip out. It might be better to come to it in the spirit of enquiry, or exploration.’ This is very sound advice. Scotland Connected quickly becomes addictive as one moves from the left hand column (Scotland) as the lead-in with an event in Scottish history that takes our interest, moves to the middle column (British Isles) to see what was happening in the near neighbourhood at the same time and then moves to the final column (The World) to have a look at the wider context. As a random example from the book let us take the pre Union period 1695-1698: Poor harvests have had a negative impact on the Scottish economy, exacerbated by the English parliament’s Navigation Acts forbidding Scottish and Irish ships from trading with the American colonies. Obviously, things were not going well for us but a damn sight better than for Finland where, as column three points out, one third of the population were killed off by famine in these years.. Oh, and the Prussian army adopted the goose step. Scotland Connected is a timely work as there are forces which appear to be presenting the United Kingdom as the planet’s best friend past and present – forever grateful for the Empire and, therefore, eager to give us the sweetest trade deals – while simultaneously presenting a singulary isolationist view towards nations which we have worked with for a century. Remember the pre Great War Times headline ’Fog in Channel. France cut off. Now, of course, all of Europe would be cut off. This is a great wee book for anyone interested in how our own wee country at the edge of Europe fitted in with the rest of the World. A useful and fascinating read so go and buy it now!

Donald McCormick is a retired history teacher, anti-ideologue and a grumpy optimist.