Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland, By Neal Ascherson

Paperback review

Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 01:00


Book Title:
Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland


Neal Ascherson


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What Neal Ascherson means by “stone voices” is the way human experience in Scotland has been built so intimately into its geology that “a people and its stones form a single cultural landscape”. We get a stylish, erudite and thought-provoking tour through the country’s history via its landscape. Among the famous stones considered is the “Stone of Scone”, the inauguration stone of the kings of Scotland through the ages stolen by Edward I in 1291 and returned in 1996. Also considered is the Hill of Dunadd, “for most Scots, the place where Scotland began”, because it was settled by Irish, whom the Romans called “Scotti”, and became the first capital as the centre of the Dal Riada kingdom of Argyll and the Isles. City landscapes also feature in the accounts of the referendums on devolution in which the author actively partook. The transformation of Scottish society from rural/pastoral to urban/industrial, in the period 1760-1850, was an “obliterating, scattering cyclone” leading to a “deep psychological fault” in national self-confidence (the “St Andrew’s Fault”). It is still there, and Ascherson worries that it may threaten the future autonomy or independence of the country.