The Sources of US history

The United States, and the Western Hemisphere for that matter, did not spring up tabula rasa, but have roots in European History. In the Case of the United States and Canada, that history is closely tied to English, Scottish, and to some extent French History. The two strongest roots being English and Scottish in the US (Canada and Louisiana have closer ties to the French history). The problem is that Scottish history is pretty much neglected in the US, which is a shame.

Not that I wasn’t somewhat aware of Scottish contributions to North American History. My friend, Neil Oliver, forced this into my attention with his excellent works on Scottish history. What is really hammering the point home though is that I am reading Arthur Herman’s How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Herman’s book is an enjoyable read and a very edifying work on Scottish history from the Reformation forward. What I particularly like about it is how he links Scottish and World history, with an emphasis on North American.

Of course, there is a comment about John Witherspoon moving to New Jersey to take the job at Princeton that I found quite amusing:

Reading the handwriting on the wall, Witherspoon accepted an offer from the American Colonies he had declined befor: to become president of the College of New Jersey in Princeton. In that guise, he will reappear in the next chapter…But in 1768, his departure marked the final triumph of the Moderates and their vision for an enlightened Church of Scotland.

Of course, the Next chapter would be the American War for Independence and John Witherspoon was a fundamentalist of the extreme right wing variety who was highly influential in the Independence movement. Naturally, I thought that Scotland did not have much of a loss when it sent Witherspoon to the Colonies. That move was far more detrimental to North American politics in many different ways. Of course, Witherspoon, as were others in the North American Independence movement were far more influenced by Scottish than English history. One commentor has mentioned that the rebellious nature of US politics comes from the Scots, Scots/Irish, Irish, and Border Country than English politics. This would be because of the unsettled nature of those people during this period. After all, the last actual battles on British soil took place during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Whether I am totally in agreement with that last comment needs to be seen.

But, it stands for certain that many of the concepts that are present in US history have roots in the history of Britain, whether English or Scottish. In my opinion, Scottish history is far too neglected in the North American curriculum. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in this topic read the books below.

See:
Neil Oliver, A History of Scotland
Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: