Book Review: The Scots – A Photohistory

The ScotsThe Scots: A Photohistory. By Murray MacKinnon and Richard Oram. Published by Thames & Hudson, 500 Fifth Ave., New York NY 10110. . 2003 hbk, 2012 sbk. 224 pp. Illustrations, index. Hbk $40,  Sbk $21.95

If you have ancestors living in Scotland after the invention of photography in 1839 you will like this book. The introduction to the book creates the big picture highlighting the major events in Scotland during the nineteenth century: repression, clearance and revival in Gaelic speaking areas; highland life and the 1886 Crofters Act; the rise and decline of industrialization and urbanization in the Lowlands; issues within the church with schism and revival to irrelevance; shifting politics from conservatism, to liberal and radical.

The following chapters portray: people; places, coastal and rural life; work and industry; transport; sport and leisure. The majority of the images are sepia-toned albumin prints, but most 19th century types of images are included. The images selected are the best of the best in terms of clarity, composition and quality.

It was for the abundant excellent images and good captions that I purchased this book. The surprise was the quality and clarity of the accompanying text. The authors do an excellent job of describing how and in what ways life was changing in Scotland. The authors show the interconnectedness between events and the ripple effects of changes in society. One example is the 1843 Disruption of the Church of Scotland destroying the seamless join between Church and State; resulting by 1845 in new parochial boards being created to administer poor relief and by1861 the Church losing its legal powers over schools.

This book is a pleasure to read and to look at. It is highly recommended if you have Scottish ancestry from the 1830s up through the end of WWI.

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