Sunday, February 13, 2011

North America's Scottish Colony

From The Literary Review of Canada's review of  Ken McGoogan’s  How the Scots Invented Canada: 

The title is deliberately provocative, to the point of being preposterous, in the same vein as its inspiration—Arthur Herman’s How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It. It sounds as if it were conceived after one too many Lagavulins by someone who has just given the puff-chested toast of drunk Scotsmen everywhere: “Here’s tae us. Wha’s like us? Damn few an’ they’re a’ deid.”  
This habit of self-congratulation has long annoyed those unfortunate enough not to have any Scots blood coursing through their veins. The backlash was perhaps best put by T.W.H. Crosland at the turn of the 20th century in his book The Unspeakable Scot: The Scotsman “is the one species of human animal that is taken by all the world to be fifty per cent cleverer and pluckier and honester than the facts warrant.”  
Except, in this case, the facts support McGoogan’s contention. Of our 22 prime ministers, 13 can claim Scottish heritage; over half the 36 Fathers of Confederation were Scottish Canadians; Scots explorers such as Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser crossed the continent and established settlements in the West; their countrymen such as George Simpson and Donald Smith ran the biggest companies and banks; Scots immigrants such as Sir John A. Macdonald, Tommy Douglas, George Brown and James McGill made their mark in politics, journalism and education, while others such as Alexander Graham Bell and Sandford Fleming were at the forefront of innovation and invention. 

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