The Monday Book – Born Fighting – Jim Webb

Jack’s job is the Monday book this week again – so a day late of course – –

I may have reviewed this book some years ago, but there’s nothing wrong with revisiting a book!

When I first read the book I was impressed, first of all, with the description of early Scottish history and then with the history of the ‘Scotch Irish’ in Ireland.

On re-reading, though, I have some doubts. I read ‘Wales – A History’ recently and that sheds a rather different light on the early history of the Celts (or Brythons) and that paints a contrasting picture. The lowland Scots, who were Webb’s ancestors, were part of the Brythonic culture and spoke Welsh rather than Gaelic or Scots. He doesn’t really cover that period well.

Then his coverage of the lowland Scots in Ireland seems to me now to be written strongly from a Protestant point of view and is rather condescending about the majority Catholic population. There is only passing reference to the Potato Famine which was effectively a British ‘pogrom’ against the inhabitants of the country and hugely important.

The book isn’t just a general history, but a very personal history and it’s important to bear that in mind. Webb’s roots are in Appalachia and he really starts from there and weaves everything around that. There’s no doubt that he set out to place himself in that context and that’s fair enough.

Webb writes well and Born Fighting is an easy read, however I would strongly recommend reading other books about the history of the Celts and the Appalachians alongside this one.

Wales – A History – Gwynfor Evans

The Thistle and the Brier – Richard Blaustein

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