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Sunday, July 30, 2006

SCOTLAND'S HISTORY; THE TOP 10

This is the title of a BBC programme due to air on Burn's night. According to Scotland on Sunday
A major TV series to be broadcast later this year will set out to find the greatest events in Scottish history. Viewers will be asked to nominate their most important moments and then vote for them in a nationwide poll.

Great battles will compete with feats of engineering, culture, intellectual thought and politics for the top slot, although seminal sporting moments will not be forgotten.

The producers want to find out which events have captured the imagination to the extent that they are ingrained as part of the national identity.

This means key dates such as the victory at Bannockburn in 1314, and the Act of Union in 1707 will be compared with the publication of a work of literature or a major achievement in the sporting arena.

The series, with a budget in excess of £100,000, will be kick-started by TV promotions asking viewers to send in their nominations. Three half-hour programmes in November will use on-screen champions - celebrities and historians - to make their case for 30 key events. Viewers will then be encouraged to vote for their favourites online.

The series will culminate in a one-hour studio debate among a seven-strong panel of Scotland's leading historians, chaired by Professor Tom Devine on St Andrew's Night (November 30), when the winner will be revealed.

Events already certain to feature strongly are the Wars of Independence, in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the 18th-century publication of the works of Robert Burns, the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, and the 16th-century Reformation.

Les Wilson, the creative director of Caledonia TV, which is making the series for BBC Scotland, said: "We want to generate a public debate about the 10 things you really should know about if you are living in Scotland. It is a way of stimulating discussion and debate about Scottish history."

The programme will follow a similar format to other blockbuster series in which the public has played a major part, including Restoration, about neglected buildings, and Greatest Britons, in which viewers voted for Winston Churchill as the towering figure of British history.
Good to see BBC Scotland spending some money on this even if, following the success of Great Britons, it is a bit of a no-brainer. I have commented
1) James Watt's invention of the steam engine. All modern industry grew from this. Purists can say he merely improved Newcomen's engine in the same way Shakespeare merely improved on the earlier play called Hamlet.

2) Publication of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations The modern world's economy is based on this.

3) James Clerk Maxwell's equations. While not as simple as Einstein's he acknowledged that he had built on Maxwell. Electronics, radio & most of modern physics is derived from this.

4) Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin. This has savedliterallyy many hundreds of millions of lives including that of Churchill during the war. There is some argument as to how it happened & whether the Americans would have got there a bit later anyway but nonetheless its importance is clearly enormous.

5) The Declaration of Arbroath. This overturned the feudal position that authority devolves downwards & established firmly that all authority comes from the citizen, willing to defend his rights to the death if need be & that the ruler is merely our representative. The anarchistic strain to all Scots & our respect for education rather than bowing to rank & what this article, hopefullyironicallyy, refers to as the great & good. One can argue that, like Magna Carta, it was an agreement to restrain the king in the interests of the great nobles but it is a vastly more philosophical document than that.
.....................
It will be seen that I have omitted Bannockburn, Stirling Bridge (with more regret) & other battles, Burns, Knox & Walter Scott (all of whom are world class figures) & all footballers & film stars since I don't think the total influence of any of them, no matter how great, matches that of my choices.
Despite the fact that the events suggested by the BBC (& indeed the "great & good") are conventional history or show-biz related it should be remembered that the runner-up in the Britons series was Isambard Kingdom Brunel so I hope Scots show a similar regard for progress.

I am sending a copy of this article to the BBC & will put any response on here as addendumum.

Comments:
It's usual to refer to the Maxwell equations: plural.
 
"whether the Americans would have got there a bit later anyway": ignore such arguments. In science, someone would always have got there later - but no-one ever knows how much later.
 
Fleming has been given a free ride on penicillin for too long. I agree on its importance, but Howard Florey [a South Australian] and a Jewish refugee did all the essential work to make it practical. Fleming didn't do a thing toward this, and has been overpraised. See your own comparison of Newcomen and Watt.
Being half-Scottish, I am partial to the argument that the Scots are the world's geniuses [after the Jews of course].
Cheers
 
Dearieme
Thank you for that - I have corrected.
Maxwell's Equations are described on http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/HBASE/electric/maxeq.html & I can see exactly why they don't have the popularity of Einstein's - I, being merely a dilettante do not understand them but I am assured that among physicists he takes no second place to Einstein.

Barrie - I am going to have to read up on Fleming, you may well be right.

On your 2nd point Benjamin Disraeli once said "Wherever I go in the world I find a Scotchman & wherever I find a Scotchman he is at the top of the poll." which, from such a source, I take as very high praise indeed.
 
Please note that the final programme in this series will be aired on St Andrews Day- not Burns night as is stated above. Viewers can nominate thie favourite topics on the BBC Scotland website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/scotlandshistory/suggestions/
 
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