Book Reviews

Scots Who Made America by Rick Wilson

12 November 2006 | Book Reviews
Originally published at The Skinny

The first man on the moon was the son of a Scotsman and Uncle Sam himself came from Greenock
We’ve all seen them: the portly, T-Shirted American tourists hunched over the Mitchell Library’s microfilm readers, desperately seeking evidence of their “Scotch” ancestry. Rick Wilson sheds some light on America’s curious Scotophilia: love or loathe the USA, it seems that Scotland is at least partly responsible for what America is today.

For those who thought Scotland’s key exports were Haggis, Whiskey and See-You-Jimmy bunnets, prepare to be amazed at the Scottish blood flowing in the most iconic Americana. The dollar sign, baseball and television all have Scottish roots; the first man on the moon was the son of a Scotsman and Uncle Sam himself came from Greenock.

There is no refuting Wilson’s thesis but it’s difficult to read such gung-ho patriotism. “I wish to avoid the impression of ‘wha’s like us’ chest-thumping,” he writes, but what remains is a dilute, pedestrian Nationalism disguised as scholarship. It’s interesting to read about Conan Doyle and Harry Lauder – but only if you don’t know anything about them already. The book has charm and it’s nicely accessible but some of the entries are tenuous and one might mention a few omissions. Perhaps this is too cynical: the book is innocuous and amiable and will be enjoyed by dads across the nation