Skip to comments.Eminent Historian Debunks Scottish History As Largely Fabrication
Posted on 05/19/2008 4:05:09 PM PDT by blam
Eminent historian debunks Scottish history as largely fabrication
A book by the late Hugh Trevor-Roperand due to be published five years after his death argues that Scottish history is based on myths and falsehoods
SCOTLANDS history is weaved from a fraudulent fabric of myths and falsehoods, according to an explosive new study by one of the worlds most eminent historians.
The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History, is the last book, and one of the most controversial, written by the late Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Now, five years after his death, the book is to be published at one of the most pivotal periods in Scottish political history.
It will provide an inflammatory contribution to the constitutional debate as it debunks many claims upon which the argument for independence is founded.
In the book, Trevor-Roper claims that Scotlands literary and political traditions, which claim to date back to the Roman invasion of Scotland in the first century AD, are in fact based on myth and were largely invented in the 18th century.
Even the kilt, the ultimate sartorial symbol of Scottishness, was invented by an Englishman in the 1700s. The Declaration of Arbroath, presented to the then Pope in 1320 to confirm Scotlands status as an independent state with an ancient constitution, is dismissed as being loaded with inaccuracies. It contains information on imaginary kings of ancient Scotland, created by historians, to provide false evidence that the Scots arrived north of the border from Ireland in the third century AD, before the Picts.
Scots are also accused of fabricating their own literary tradition, culminating in the publication of The Works of Ossian. These were claimed to have been translated from ancient sources in Gaelic about the lives of Celtic heroes, but have long been suspected of being a figment of the imagination of James Macpherson, the 18th-century Scottish poet who claimed to have translated them.
Trevor-Roper also declares that when the Scots were looking for a writer and poet to rival Shakespeare, following the Act of Union in 1707, they found nothing, leading to ancient writings being forged and passed off as Scottish literature.
It was natural that Scots, seeking compensation for the end of their independent history and politics, should turn to discover and appreciate their native literature. Unfortunately when they looked for it, they could not find it. There was none.
In Scotland, it seems to me, myth has played a far more important part in history than it has in England.
Indeed, I believe 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 to replace it.
The myth of the Highland dress was perpetuated by historians to provide a symbol by which Scots could be universally identified, as well as to support the countrys textile industry.
Trevor-Roper says the traditional dress of the Highlanders was a long Irish shirt and a cloak or plaid, which only the higher classes had woven in stripes and colours creating tartan.
The kilt did not, Trevor-Roper claims, come into being until the mid-18th century, when it was created by Thomas Rawlinson, who was an English quaker from Lancashire.
Rawlinson decided to shorten belted plaids after workmen in the Highlands, where he was staying, said they were uncomfortable.
But Michael Fry, the Scottish historian, said: I dont think Trevor-Roper is a very reliable guide to Scottish history. Lots of things emerge in history and just because we cant pin down their origins it doesnt follow from that \ everything about it is phoney. There is a distinguished school of medieval Scottish literature, and poetry in something that is recognisably Scots was being written in the 14th century.
Tartan was worn in Scotland in the Middle Ages . . . and it just so happened that there was an evolution where this pattern, which was common in many parts of Europe, became distinctive in Scotland. His claims about the kilt prove absolutely nothing at all about the history of the dress.
Just another one of those cannibal kings from the fenns on the Continent out to steal a real history from a real people.
Come on, mon, what did he say about haggis?
Interesting article, but none of this is news. There’ve been a slew of books and articles in the last five years or so critical of accepted ideas about the Celts—including by Steven Oppenheimer, John Collis, and Simon James. Too bad TR didn’t publish the book while he was alive. They never explained the delay.
Like all debunking, it’s probably gone too far. There were plaids in Britain in the first century AD, tho’ I think he’s right about no kilts til the 18th c.
He said he couldn’t stomach it.
Dammit. Now this after checking the family history at the website of the Old Bailey proceedings and finding out what a bunch of crooks my ancestors were!
Advocated a limited hunting season and a bag limit of five per person per season.
I read this more than a decade ago in Eric Hobsbawm’s “The Invention of Tradition.”
“When the legend becomes fact,print the legend.”
From “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”.
Best not go after William Wallace
Whether or not Scottish history is mythical, I still think England still deserves to be independent from them!
PS: No way did the Scots antedate the Picts! In fact, there were Angles in what is now Scotland before the Scots arrived!
The story's been around for years that the "little plaid" or kilt per se -- the garment with permanently sewn-down pleats and a waistband -- was invented by a tailor in Lochaber some time in the 18th century. This website begs to differ, pointing out depictions of the small kilt occurred in the 17th century.
The "great plaid" or actually just the "plaid" however dates back as far as recorded history goes. It was a sort of do-it-yourself kilt - you laid the HUGE rectangle of cloth down on the ground, pleated it side to side, then slid your belt under at waist height, lay down, flipped the end panels over the front, buckled the belt, and stood up. (Is that perfectly clear? There are guys at the Highland Games who demonstrate this!) The left over top piece could be flung over your shoulder, used as a rain coat, or just hang behind like a tail.
The "little kilt" is just the belted plaid with the top cut off and the pleats sewn down.
And "Ossian" was exposed as a fraud in the 18th century by none other than that good old literary combatant, Dr. Johnson. This is NOT news. The fact that James McPherson decided to pass off some of his own poetry as translated from an 'ancient manuscript' does not in any way invalidate other authentic (if incomplete) sources.
So Trevor-Roper is being more than a little disingenuous here.
(Isn't this the guy that declared that the fake "Hitler diaries" were "authentic"? Some 'eminent historian', that.)
“Och, sir, ‘tis a rare visitor that sees the Wild Haggis Romp!”
I see “revisionist” history isn’t just an American problem.
This can’t be true. We all know that oral tradition is the only pure form of history and it cannot be refuted by silly historical evidence.
Our own Native Americans clearly demonstrate that whatever those who claim to be Native American may claim that their ancestors knew, felt, or believed is absolute fact and is incapable of nullification by racist critics.
As a descendant of Scots, I hereby declare that all of these myths are true, have always been true, and will forever be true, until we decide that they are inconvenient, in which case they will no longer be true. Moreover, we Scots are individually and collectively entitled to reparations, with interest, for everything that has been visited upon us or might have been visted upon us had we been paying attention.
Thanks for the interesting link.
Another Trevor-Roper whiff: “declining gentry” were behind the English Revolution in the 17th c. But he deserves to be remembered fondly for his scathing attack on A. J. P. Taylor’s defense of Hitler in the ‘80s.
Sorry,, Taylor’s book came out in 1961. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Tried - any tips?
Just punched in my last name in the search box and cme up with a lot of hits. Helps to have a very common name.
Sorry. You meant the website!
About the only way you could continue to wear tartan or play the pipes was to join the army . . . .
The whole "clan tartan" thing didn't really take hold until Victorian times, and the assignment of particular patterns or "setts" to a particular clan is purely a Victorian fantasy. There were some pre-1745 tartans associated with districts, probably mostly because the local weavers had favorite patterns and tended to weave a lot of them. But there was no organized "system" such as they have now.
That historical excuse gives me free rein to avoid tartans that I hate and wear the ones that I like. My dad's family's "official" tartan is dull and boring, so I wear one of my mom's many patterns. She's a MacDonald of Glencoe, but I like the MacDonald of the Isles better, so I wear that. My husband's Marr tartan is hideous and enough of it to cover 6'6" of quarter-Scot, quarter-Irish, and half Heinz 57 would be a public eyesore, so he wears Gordon, with which he has sort of a vague family connection through his dad.
Somebody once asked a Lowland Scot if his family had a tartan, and he replied, "No. Thank God my family could always afford to wear pants."
I have that same picture demonstrating the use of a belted plaid in an old book on tartans from the late 50s or early 60s.
In 1967 I was a competitive Highland Dancer. Girls still wore kilts in those days, the "Flora MacDonald" outfit didn't come in until later, unless you were dancing the Lilt.
It's "Alba gu braith!"
Thanks Blam.In the book, Trevor-Roper claims that Scotlandâs literary and political traditions, which claim to date back to the Roman invasion of Scotland in the first century AD, are in fact based on myth and were largely invented in the 18th century... Scots are also accused of fabricating their own literary tradition, culminating in the publication of The Works of Ossian. These were claimed to have been translated from ancient sources in Gaelic about the lives of Celtic heroes, but have long been suspected of being a figment of the imagination of James Macpherson, the 18th-century Scottish poet who claimed to have translated them.I don't think there are many who regard Ossian as anything but a recent invention; I don't doubt that this isn't a unique approach, though. :')
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Ouch, me ancestors were a randy lot I’ve got to say. Me pur people had a need fer pickin pockets and the like also. No, not nice fellows at all.
Hoot mon, only we wild and barbarian scots could invent haggis and deem it fit food for humans.
Ye canna take that distinction awa from us.
Never trust anyone who writes a book that is not to be published until five years after his death.
Wasn’t he Welsh?
Don’t know who invented pants put they are a very bad idea. Kilts are so sensible given the First Law of Human Male Thermo-Dynamics. That being give your b**ls some air.
These (The Curse Of The Red-Headed Mummy) are the people who invented pants...they did so after they domesticated the horse and discovered that the inside of your legs (when straddling a horse) needed protection too.
Raiding cattle is a legitimate sport.