Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 15- Favorite book dealing with foreign culture

Now that the ants seem to be under control, I have books to attach to themes.

Thank goodness I've kept book notes. This theme was hard. When I looked through my notes, however, I found the perfect book.

Now, you don't have to agree with the premise. You can think that it really was a bunch of Germans or Norwegians or Japanese who invented things first. What I think you should take away from reading this is part of the subtitle, "The true story of how Western Europe's poorest nation...". That's the part that is remarkable about the Scots, whether you believe they were first to invent the things the author claims they were.

Scotland has a fertile lowland area where crops easily grow. But the Highlands, the romantic area we generally associate with Scotland, is not fertile. It's rocky and windy and it's hard to eek out an existence in substandard soil. Thousands of years of war with the neighbors to the south and a 'royalty' that couldn't even get along with one another had left Scotland a very poor place.

But visionaries within the country realized that the way up, out of poverty, was to raise the living standard of everyone. Schooling became mandatory and at one point, Scotland's literacy rate was the highest in the world. In the 17th Century, it became mandatory to record births, deaths, marriages and land transfers. A census was instituted, the first of its kind to actually count citizens. Now days, all these records are a boon for those doing ancestral research.

So many things invented by a Scot became the foundation to expand knowledge and provided a better way of life. For example, Macadam Roads, a method of building a road so water drained off the road to the side, lead to the connection of all towns in Scotland by a single track road. Having a good road on which to test things lead to the pedal bicycle and the pneumatic tire.

The author's style is conversational and I thought, but I could be a bit biased, that it was a great read. When I have a tent at a highland games, it's one of the books I have out on the table and strongly recommend people read to get a feel for where they come from.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


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