Christopher Harvie

Christopher Harvie, professor of British and Irish Studies at Tübingen University, holds honorary chairs at Strathclyde and Aberystwyth. Scotland: A Short History, published by Oxford in July, is about to go into its second edition.

‘You don’t hate us in Scotland, Master?’ said Professor John Stuart Blackie, the Teuto-Gaelic classicist, to Jowett of Balliol. ‘We never think of you at all,’ came the lapidary reply.

Drafting a sketch for a BBC radio programme on devolution, I was rung by Professor Phil Williams, a colleague at Aberystwyth who is also Plaid Cymru’s spokesman on energy....

Diary: Cars and Cuckoo Clocks

Christopher Harvie, 26 January 1995

‘Cuckoo clocks,’ said the President. Orson Welles on the Prater Wheel slipped in and out of my mind. ‘Cuckoo clocks: the one area where the Swiss haven’t run us out of business.’ Last year I was made cochair of a government-university colloquium on the future of industry and society in Baden-Württemberg, Europe’s most prosperous region, but one perilously dependent on the building of cars. In July we were in the early planning stages and the university president, Adolf Theis, was playing devil’s advocate with some other ci-devant industries: ‘The watchmaking companies in the Black Forest went over to quartz, lots of capital investment, but they lost out at the lower end to the Pacific Rim, and at the quality end to Swatch. And they’ve nearly all gone, or been taken over. But the cuckoo clock people didn’t change at all. They’ve survived, and they’re still family firms.’ ‘People associate cuckoo clocks with the Black Forest,’ the chancellor said. ‘They don’t want digital technology. They’re paying for tradition.’

A few years back I was having lunch in Soho with a London publisher, trying tactfully to find out why a book of mine – about Scotland – cost so much and never seemed available in Scottish bookshops. I cited an Edinburgh firm whose handsomely-produced list seemed ubiquitous in the north and also quite affordable. ‘Ah,’ said my host, ‘but X is only worried about where his next Chinese carry-out is coming from,’’


Implosion in the Glens

5 September 2002

David Walker (Letters, 19 September) suggests that Scotland is more spendthrift Hyde than canny Jekyll, and can't, therefore, transform itself into a bourgeois region like Baden-Württemberg in a oner. I agree, but I think that the purpose of devolution was to create a framework within which new policy priorities could be made. This need not mean more cash but ought to require efficient and rational...

Much of the tale is conveyed by the covers. A sad, thoughtfully dithering photo of the prime minister fronts What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown? The cover of Christopher Harvie’s book features a...

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At the Skunk Works

R.W. Johnson, 23 February 1995

In 1937 a small gas field was discovered near Whitby in Yorkshire. In 1943 in Nazi-occupied Holland drilling began in a search for gas which met success only in July 1959 when the Groningen field...

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Missing Elements

Rosalind Mitchison, 14 May 1992

In all our sets of mental pigeonholes there is one labelled ‘don’t bother’. It contains groups of people and of ideas to which we have decided not to pay attention. These books,...

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Enemies of Promise

Angus Calder, 2 March 1989

Just seventy years after Friday, 31 January 1919, when troops and tanks stood by to quell a mass rally, in Glasgow’s George Square, of West of Scotland workers campaigning for a forty-hour...

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