In This Review In This Review
Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion
By J. H. Elliott
Yale University Press, 2018, 360 pp.
In this erudite and engaging book, Elliott, one of the most distinguished historians of early modern Spain, explores the similarities and differences between Scottish and Catalan nationalism. The two movements’ histories run in striking parallel, starting with the construction of their founding myths five centuries ago and moving through common stages of rebellion, dynastic union, nation-statehood, home rule, and, finally, the clamor for independence. Despite the book’s magisterial scope and subtle detail, however, a lack of method hampers the analysis. Elliott is an old-school historian; for him, great men, wars, and national interests drive policy. He is less interested in analyzing the masses, something that requires a firm grasp of popular psychology, social change, and ground-level politics. Ignoring these factors leaves him perplexed about why separatism is rising in both places. “There seems no good reason,” he says. Nor can he sort out why Catalan nationalists appear more fervent than their Scottish counterparts. Is it their distinct language, the potential economic gains of indepen-dence, their sometimes more repressive central government, failures of imagination by Scottish leaders, indoctrination by pro-independence Catalan governments, or some combination of these factors? Or is it just chance? Elliott cannot say.
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