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History of Civilisation in Scotland
By John Mackintosh in 4 volumes.


This is a most interesting set of books that looks into the civilization in Scotland. I found a review of Volume 4 of this set but it also gives an overview of the other 3 volumes as well and here it is for you to read here...

WHETHER it is that the subject of the present volume, which deals with the 19th century and our own age practically, makes it more interesting, or whether Dr. Mackintosh has fairly excelled himself in his crowning volume, we cannot decide, but we feel that this volume is the best of the four. Doubtless both facts conduce to this result. In any case Dr. Mackintosh must be congratulated on finishing his History of Civilisation in Scotland. It is exactly ten years ago since the first volume was issued from the press, so that considering the nature of the work his readers have no cause to complain of any undue delay on the part of the author. It will be remembered that the first volume dealt with the history of progress in Scotland up to the time of the Reformation—the antiquities of the country, the chaotic history of Picts and Scots, the Norse and Norman invasions, the wars of the independence and the history of the Stewarts. It gave full accounts of the state of the people—their life, homes, education, literature, and religion. The second volume may be called the Reformation volume; it detailed that memorable struggle in the nation's history, and its consequences on the material, social, religious and literary position of the people. The third volume covers the period from 1603 to 1746; it finishes the political narrative. The covenanting struggle, the Restoration and Revolution, the Treaty of Union and its results, and. the two rebellions which had their centre in Scotland were narrated and discussed on philosophical grounds. The social state of the people, their education, their literature and culture, their trade and commerce were vividly described. This third volume ended with an excellent summary of European philosophy in the 17th and early part of the 18th century. The aim of this summary, interesting as it was in itself, was to indicate the historical connections of the Scotch philosophy.

The fourth volume, with which we have here to deal, opens with a history of Scotch philosophy extending to 163 pages. It is in every respect an admirable summary of its subject; we believe that Dr. Mackintosh would be conferring a benefit on the young men who attend philosophy classes in Aberdeen and the other Scotch Universities, were he to publish these chapters separately in handbook form. We admire our author's method of exposition in this very difficult subject. He first tells the main facts of the writer's life, and then succinctly recounts his leading positions in philosophy. By judicious and extensive quotations he makes the writer speak as much as possible for himself. His exposition of Hume and Smith is particularly good, and, as he says himself, he enters more fully into the philosophy of Hamilton than into that of any other philosopher, for two reasons—he considers him an abler psychologist than any of his Scotch predecessors, and, secondly, he believes that his philosophy has received but scant justice at the hands of the critic and expositor. Doubtless Mill's attack on Hamilton is one reason for his not receiving the honour and position that are his just due in the history of philosophy. It is in criticising Hamilton that Dr. Mackintosh gives us a little auto-biographical note that will be appreciated by those who know the circumstances under which these portly volumes of a History of Civilisation have been produced. In discussing the subject of attention and concentration of ideas on a matter, Dr. Mackintosh says: "In my own case the initial stage was extremely difficult; the circumstances were unpropitious to the acquisition of the power of concentrating attention, as I was almost constantly in the midst of bustle, and seldom alone. By a long course of persistent effort I gradually acquired a. complete power of at once concentrating my mind, by an act of will, upon whatever subject I wished to investigate. This will be understood when I state that the whole of this history of mine was written, proof sheets revised and corrected, upon the counter of my own small shop in the midst of the clattering of a stirring street and at the same time attending to customers coming in and out. Thus though constantly interrupted, I mentally work on, unconscious of noise."

The next three chapters, pp. 164-265, deal with the literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. As a rule living writers are excluded, with an exception or two. In his criticisims, Dr. Mackintosh is very precise—we might almost say mathematical, for he makes use of the Hamiltonian terminology in describing a writer's mental calibre, and we continually come across such expressions as this: "His imaginative and reproductive faculties" were good or bad as the case might be. There is a freshness and precision about such criticisim that make it most welcome. With his literary judgments we can find little fault and much to praise. His esteem for Byron was a surprise. "In short," he says, "Byron is unquestionably the greatest poet that appeared in Britain during the last two centuries." Of Scott he says with Hamiltonian terseness: "His reproductive and imaginative faculties were good, but his elaborative faculty and analytic powers were not of a high order." He repeats the good story about Dr. Norman Macleod and the Chartist weaver at Loudon. "The weaver with his shirt sleeves turned up, his apron rolled about his waist and his snuff-mull in his hand, vigorously propounded his favourite political doctrines. When he had concluded he turned to the minister and demanded an answer, and Norman replied thus:-'In my opinion your principles would drive the country into revolution and create in the long-run national bankruptcy,' 'Nay-tion-al bankruptcy,' said the old man meditatively, and diving for a pinch, 'Div-ye-think-sae,' then briskly, after a long snuff, 'Dod, I'd risk it'." Then follows seven chapters, pp. 256-490, dealing with the progress of the nation in science, medicine, education, mining, manufacture and commerce, architecture, painting and art. These chapters contain an immense mass of most valuable information; they should be useful to publicists and journalists. The labour and research involved in the statistics, facts and descriptions must have been enormous. We are delighted to see such a mass of valuable and authentic information brought together in so handy a compass, on subjects, too, upon which our national greatness and progress almost entirely depend.

The last chapters contain concise accounts and lucid criticism on the political and ecclesiastical movements of the present and past century. One chapter deals with the "Political and social movements," and it is marked by impartiality and unbiased discrimination. The account of ecclesiastical movements of the last century and a half is extremely well done. The author's leanings are always to the side of freedom and expansion, but he is fair to Tory and to Moderate, as a historian of civilisation should be. Nothing can be clearer than his narrative of the events that led to the Disruption in 1843. The last chapter, number 51, contains a summary of the whole four volumes; it is a most useful thing, and brings the whole force and object of the work briefly into focus. Dr. Mackintosh maintains that moral qualities are the main force in civilisation and not intellectual powers. That Scotch history appears to support his contention must be evident in the perusal of his work; yet it would be well also to ponder and consider the position held by Dr. Crozier, the latest authority on civilization, who maintains that material and social conditions form the main element in progress and civilization.

In a final section Dr. Mackintosh discusses the present war of interests between capital and labour. The remedies proposed through socialism he rejects in the main, and he thinks co-operation may prove a palliation, if not a remedy. We close this excellent volume with the feeling that Dr. Mackintosh has deserved well of his countrymen in thus placing before them in clear narrative and incisive comment the facts and principles of their history from its commencement in the misty past to the progress and bustle of the present age.

You can download any of these 4 volumes below and I might add that while it can be read from beginning to end it is likely more worth while to dip into the bits that interest you.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3  |  Volume 4


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