In his first work of nonfiction, bestselling novelist James Webb tells the epic story of the Scots-Irish, a people whose lives and worldview were dictated by resistance, conflict, and struggle, and who, in turn, profoundly influenced the social, political, and cultural landscape of America from its beginnings through the present day.More than 27 million Americans today can trace their lineage to the Scots, whose bloodline was stained by centuries of continuous warfare along the border between England and Scotland, and later in the bitter settlements of England's Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Scots-Irish migrated to America in the eighteenth century, traveling in groups of families and bringing with them not only long experience as rebels and outcasts but also unparalleled skills as frontiersmen and guerrilla fighters. Their cultural identity reflected acute individualism, dislike of aristocracy and a military tradition, and, over time, the Scots-Irish defined the attitudes and values of the military, of working class America, and even of the peculiarly populist form of American democracy itself.
Former navy secretary Webb (Fields of Fire; etc.) wants not only to offer a history of the Scots-Irish but to redeem them from their redneck, hillbilly stereotype and place them at the center of American history and culture. As Webb relates, the Scots-Irish first emigrated to the U.S., 200,000 to 400,000 strong, in four waves during the 18th century, settling primarily in Appalachia before spreading west and south. Webb's thesis is that the Scots-Irish, with their rugged individualism, warrior culture built on extended familial groups (the "kind of people who would die in place rather than retreat") and an instinctive mistrust of authority, created an American culture that mirrors these traits. Webb has a genuine flair for describing the battles the Scots-Irish fought during their history, but his analysis of their role in America's social and political history is, ironically for someone trying to crush stereotypes, fixated on what he sees, in almost Manichaean terms, as a class conflict between the Scots-Irish and America's "paternalistic Ivy League-centered, media-connected, politically correct power centers." He even excuses resistance to the "Northern-dominated" Civil Rights movement. Another glaring weakness is the virtual absence of women from the sociological narrative. Webb interweaves his own Scots-Irish family history throughout the book with some success, but by and large his writing and analysis are overwhelmed by romanticism. (Oct. 5) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Outstanding
Posted February 17, 2010 by SeaRation , Medford, MALike all his other books, Webb has put forth an outstanding effort and the resulting story makes for very enjoyable and informative reading.
2 . Scots
Posted March 27, 2009 by ray noble , Houston, TXAs a Scottish expat, living in Houston, it is inspiring to read about the history of ones own country, giving an insight into Scots culture and history, all of which manifests into how we are today. Stereo types exist because they are invariably true on average !!!
October 10, 2005
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Excerpt from Born Fighting by James Webb
Big Moccasin Gap
Gate city is more than four hundred miles from Arlington, down the long spine of mountains that marks Virginia's western border. It takes seven hours to drive there, interstate highway almost all the way. I go west on I-66 until it hits the mountains, then hang a left on I-81, keeping those low, blue ridges off to my right as I tear my way south, heading through history. I-81 is a busy road, lots of New York and Pennsylvania license plates weaving in and out of heavy traffic. The exit ramps whiz past my vision, heading off the interstate to towns like Staunton, Lexington, Roanoke, Radford, and Wytheville. I recognize the counties, Rockbridge, Botetourt, Franklin, and others, places where my ancestors once built log cabins and scraped corn patches out of the mud before heading farther south or west.
The mountains are beautiful, smoky from the haze that the sun makes when it burns into the pine. My mind plays tricks. I tell myself that I've been right over there, once upon a time, or at least my blood has, taking water straight from a stream and staring out into the wild unknown, dreaming of the majestic deliverance that must be just over the next horizon, hiding in a valley that no white man has ever seen before. Or maybe the next horizon, or the next one, or the next one after that. Which is why my people kept on going, some of them getting hung up, staying behind in the cul-de-sacs of Appalachian hollows while the more adventurous worked their way, rat like, through the maze until it broke out into Kentucky and then Missouri, Texas, and Colorado, and one day even hit the palm-lined beaches of California.
Because that is the story of my people, not for a generation or for ten generations but for forever. There was a time more than two thousand years ago when the Celtic tribes dominated middle Europe. They made beautiful jewelry and carvings. They were poetic and warlike. They followed strong leaders, even to their deaths. They brought their women and children to the battlefield and put them behind their ranks so they would be sure not to retreat. And they did not retreat. But they refused to recognize leadership beyond their local tribes and thus would not become a nation. And they had a permeating discontent that caused the more determined of them to keep pushing, every generation, a little bit farther into the wild unknown.