Scottish ravens renovate their nest, video


This video from Scotland says about itself:

Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve

Ravens nest early, and are usually sitting on eggs by late February or mid-March at the latest. The onset of laying tends to be related to distance north and/or an increase in altitude. As the Grey Mare’s Tail Ravens nest at 650 metres altitude they usually start laying around the middle of March; so late for Ravens but still very early compared to most British bird species.

This footage was shot on March 10th 2014 as our pair of Ravens completed their annual nest renovation, and just days away from the female laying her first egg.

All footage was filmed and edited by the Grey Mare’s Tail Ranger Service.

More videos about this ravens’ nest are here.

Scottish rainbow flags during Commonwealth Games


This video from the USA says about itself:

Lawmaker Proposes LGBT Rainbow Flag Ban in Louisiana

19 July 2013

Andy Naquin, a Republican City-Parish Councilman in Lafayette, Louisiana has proposed a bill that would ban the LGBT rainbow flag.

By Peter Lazenby:

Scotland shows true colours-with solidarity rainbow flag

Wednesday 23rd July 2014

Gesture highlights Commonwealth persecution of LGBT people

THE rainbow flag is be flown on buildings across Scotland in solidarity with persecuted LGBT people in Commonwealth countries.

Trade union offices in Glasgow will fly the flag for the duration of the Commonwealth games, which start today.

The Scottish government will also fly the rainbow flag outside St Andrew’s House for the first time in its history, alongside those of the Commonwealth and Scotland.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “By flying the rainbow flag, the international symbol of LGBT equality, we aim to recognise the human rights of LGBT people and celebrate the distance that Scotland has come in promoting equality.”

He said the campaign offers a message of hope to LGBT people and a rejection of the anti-homosexuality laws that still exist in 80 per cent of Commonwealth nations.

Forty-two out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality and LGBT people are at risk of death, imprisonment, harassment and degrading treatment.

“This is simply unacceptable and it is right that we should use our Commonwealth Games to raise awareness and promote a more positive vision of the future for a persecuted minority,” added Mr Smith.

Several councils have also pledged to fly the rainbow flag throughout the campaign.

The public is also being encouraged to support the campaign by sharing images using the hashtag #gamespride on social media site Twitter.

Commonwealth Games cabinet secretary Shona Robison said: “It’s important we reinforce our strong support for and commitment to progressing equality and human rights issues.”

See also here.

Nelson Mandela remembered in Scotland


This video is called Nelson Mandela‘s first TV interview in 1961 by ITN reporter Brian Widlake.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Mandela‘s granddaughter thanks Glaswegian supporters

Saturday 19th July 2014

NELSON Mandela’s granddaughter had a simple message for Glaswegians yesterday as Scotland marked the late statesman’s birthday — thank you.

Tukwini Mandela last night led a Mandela Day remembrance ceremony on Glasgow’s Nelson Mandela Place, pointedly renamed in 1988 to the annoyance of South African consulate staff who worked there.

Ms Mandela told reporters that it was a bittersweet anniversary.

But she was grateful to the people of Glasgow: “I know that Glasgow was one of the first cities that awarded my grandfather the keys to the city.

“It galvanised a lot of the European cities to pay attention to what was going on in South Africa,” she said.

The icon of black liberation spent nearly three decades as a political prisoner under South Africa’s white supremacist regime before international solidarity campaigns forced his release.

Glasgow’s decision to grant “the freedom of the city” in 1981 brought vilification in the Establishment press, portraying the gesture as consorting with a terrorist.

But Dundee and Aberdeen soon followed suit and by 1990 the Establishment press was hailing his release as the end of a repressive era.

Golden eagles in southern Scotland


This video from Canada says about itself:

16 August 2011

Birds of prey expert John Campbell teaches his nephew to put an identifying band on a golden eagle chick. Close up and personal views of the nest, its reluctant inhabitant, and the birds’ food sources. Spectacular views of Southern Alberta. The banding is part of a program to protect the species. The band goes on fairly tightly because the birds’ legs don’t grow further in diameter as the bird grows.

From Wildlife Extra:

Golden eagles could return to southern Scotland

Improvements to habitats in the south of Scotland could lead the area to become a stronghold for golden eagles.

A study carried out by the Scottish Natural Heritage showed that the area could potentially support up to 16 pairs, almost four times the present number.

At the moment there are thought to be no more than one or two pairs in Galloway and no more than three in the Scottish Borders.

Prof Des Thompson of SNH, who led the research, told the BBC “We would now like to see on-the-ground, practical work to improve the habitat for golden eagles in the south of Scotland.

“With habitat improvements, we could see connections with the small reintroduced population in Ireland. This would help both groups of eagles and could even help bolster the population in the north of England.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland Head of Species and Land Management, said: “These magnificent birds should be given every opportunity to recover and reoccupy lost range, and must be protected in practice from the effects of human persecution, which remains a significant threat to this species, and in particular to this perilously small and isolated population.”

The total number of golden eagles in Scotland is 440 pairs, with most of the birds found in the Highlands and Islands.

100th young osprey fledges in Loch Garten, Scotland


This video from Scotland is called RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Highlights 2013.

From Wildlife Extra:

Osprey 100 takes off from Loch Garten

The 100th osprey to fledge from Loch Garten Osprey Centre in the Scottish Highlands has taken to the air after days of vigorous flapping to strengthen her flight muscles.

Millicent, the name RSPB staff gave the fledgling, didn’t venture very far for her first flight said Richard Thaxton, RSPB Scotland Osprey Centre Manager.

“She just circled around the nest before alighting in the adjacent dead tree just a matter of metres away. It was huge relief to see both her first take off and first landing completed successfully.”

Millicent’s two siblings, Seasca and Druie are expected to follow suit in the coming days. The young ospreys will spend the next month in or around the nest area until they depart on an annual migration to wintering grounds in Africa.

Ospreys first returned to breed in Scotland 60 years ago following extinction due to egg collectors and other forms of persecution. The first pair to return nested at the nature reserve and the site has been used by ospreys ever since.

Richard said: “It was a magical moment to see Millicent airborne for the first time. It happens every year of course but this time it was particularly special, as she is the 100th chick to fledge from the nest since the birds first returned in the late 1950s.

“It is a magnificent milestone in the huge conservation success story for Scotland. It was a proud moment for all involved in the project, both past & present.”

Keen osprey watchers can keep up to date with all the action in the nest via a live webcam and regular blog updates from Osprey Centre staff.

New Scottish wildcat sanctuary


This video says about itself:

14 October 2010

Two Scottish wildcat kittens have been filmed by a BBC crew.

The notoriously shy animals were filmed at night in the highlands of Scotland.

One of the kittens had an unusual black coat, suggesting that it could have been an incredibly rare dark or “melanistic” genetic form.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scottish wildcat sanctuary created on west coast

A Scottish wildcat sanctuary has been created on the Ardnamurchan and Sunart peninsula on Scotland’s west coast in a bid to save the endangered species, which experts believe could number as few as 35.

The species is threatened from hybridising with domestic cats and to help alleviate this threat all domestic and feral cats in the area have been neutered during the last five years.

This is thought to be the first time feral cats have been managed in such a large mainland area anywhere in the world.

“Cats of any kind are notoriously difficult to survey,” said the project scientific adviser, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, of the University of Chester.

“However over the last six months we’ve really saturated the area with live traps, cameras, vets and ecologists, and had lots of people from the local community out looking as well.”

“The only feral cats seen have already been neutered, which means the population should collapse naturally within the next couple of years.”

This is thought to be the first time feral cats have been managed in such a large mainland area anywhere in the world.

The wildcats of Ardnamurchan, which could number fewer than 10, will be trapped and DNA tested to check they are pure breds. If they are, they will be left to thrive and monitored. However if DNA proves the population turns out to be made up of hybrids pure wildcats could be brought to Ardnamurchan from areas of Scotland.

Dr O’Donoghue said: “Our goal is to establish populations of genetically-pure wildcats. We are determined not to settle for second best or to settle for a bunch of tabbies that bear a resemblance to wildcats.

Protecting anything less than the pure Scottish wildcat will condemn the species to extinction. The behaviour of feral cats and pure wildcats is very different. Scotland’s ecology needs the true wildcat and, outside of a wildlife park enclosure, this is the only place in the UK where they are safe from hybridisation.”

Good Scottish puffin news


This video is about puffins in Iceland.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Scotland’s threatened puffins have successful breeding season

After years of poor summers, birds have had good season and pufflings are ready to take wing, say experts

Alexandra Topping

Sunday 13 July 2014 15.35 BST

After several poor summers for Scotland‘s puffins, the “clowns of the sea” are gearing up to leave the country after a good breeding season, experts have said.

Changes to habitat and food brought on by climate change have created difficult conditions for breeding puffins in recent years, but early indications show that Scotland has enjoyed a positive breeding season, according to the Scottish Seabird Centre.

With pufflings now hatched and ready to take wing, visitors to Scotland have only a few weeks left before the birds – who come to Scottish islands including May, Craigleith, Fidre and Shetland – leave Britain’s northern shores in August, said the chief executive, Tom Brock.

The brightly beaked birds – which stay with the same breeding partner for life and return year upon year to the same nests – arrive in Scotland from mid-March to breed. After mating the female puffin lays one egg which is incubated by both the male and female. Pufflings are strong enough to leave the burrow after four or five weeks, and will take flight with the rest of their colony in August.

“It looks like it has been a good breeding season for puffins,” said Brock. “They have had lots of problems in the last few years with climate change, lack of food and winter storms but early indications are that it’s going to be a good breeding season for them.”

Research on beached humpback whale in Scotland


This video is called Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scotland’s first full humpback whale post mortem conducted on Mull

The stranded humpack whale is thought to have drowned

Scotland’s first full post mortem of a humpback whale – found dead at Fishnish on the Isle of Mull – has been carried out by veterinary pathologists with the assistance of conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The seven-metre, eight-ton animal – believed to be the first humpback whale ever to strand on Mull – was discovered floating close to shore on 25 June, and was craned out of the sea the following evening. The male calf had not recently been feeding and was probably still dependent on its mother.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Science and Strandings Officer Dr Conor Ryan, who is an expert on humpback whales, assisted with a post mortem examination with veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow of Scottish Rural University College to establish the cause of death.

Preliminary results from the examination were consistent with drowning, although the cause is unclear. “This highly unusual and sad discovery is a reminder that Scotland’s west coast waters are extremely special and host a great variety of marine species, including magnificent and iconic humpback whales – and that conservation action and research are vital for the protection of such remarkable animals,” said Dr Ryan. The whale was hoisted out of the water by crane before the post mortem was conducted.

Humpback whales today face a range of threats including collisions with vessels, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution and reduction in stocks of their prey.

People are encouraged to report sightings and strandings of whales, dolphins, porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust at www.hwdt.org or by calling 01688 302620.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are rarely encountered in the Hebrides but are known to migrate through the region far from shore when travelling between their tropical breeding grounds and Arctic feeding grounds. They were hunted in the Hebrides in the early 1900s, but only 19 were caught during 20 years of hunting – suggesting they had been over-exploited by whalers elsewhere to the north and south of Scotland.

Although sightings are still very rare in UK waters, this species is being observed with increasing regularity in Irish waters. Named after the distinctive hump in front of their small dorsal fin, humpback whales are known for their acrobatic aerial breaching and for complex and beautiful songs performed by males during courtship. Adults can range in length from 12-16 metres and weigh up to 36 tons.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland are advising wildlife enthusiasts and boat operators to watch how close they get to dolphins, whales and porpoises if they are planning a cetacean-viewing trip this summer: here.

Sir Walter Scott’s first historical novel, two hundred years ago


Sir Henry Raeburn's portrait of Sir Walter Scott (1822)

By David Walsh in the USA:

Two hundred years since the publication of Waverley

Sir Walter Scott and the drama of history

9 July 2014

Monday marked 200 years since the publication of Waverley, a novel by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), an event of genuine artistic and intellectual significance. Waverley is widely considered the first historical novel—that is, the first work that treated the past not primarily as ornament on a tale of “timeless” morals and manners, but from the point of view of its own distinct significance as the necessary and comprehensible prelude to the present.

Literary critic Leslie Stephens observed that “the special characteristic of Scott as distinguished from his predecessors is precisely his clear perception that the characters whom he loved so well and described so vividly were the products of a long historical evolution.”

Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie')

Scott’s book follows Edward Waverley, a young, high-born Englishman, as he becomes involved for a time in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745—the effort, launched in Scotland, to restore the Stuart dynasty to the British throne. The uprising, led by Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”), was in large measure an effort to turn the clock back to feudal times and forestall the spread of capitalistic relations. Highland clans and Scottish landowners opposed to the 1707 union of England and Scotland and those Scottish merchants who had been damaged by that union—along with a section of English aristocrats—took part in or sympathized with the unsuccessful rebellion against the government of George II.

Scott brilliantly portrays the uprising and its consequences from the social, political and moral points of view (in his study of the family, private property and the state, for instance, Friedrich Engels wrote, “Walter Scott’s novels bring the Scotch highland clan vividly before our eyes”), without sacrificing tension and spontaneity. The reader encounters a host of characters, English and Scottish (and even French), from many social backgrounds and taken from life. Waverley is an artistic accomplishment of the highest order, even if it is not yet Scott’s very finest work.

The novel has a great historical value, but that in and of itself would not be a compelling enough reason to recommend it to a wide audience or to urge a consideration of Scott’s body of work as a whole, which is the primary motive for this article. Waverley is immensely enjoyable and entertaining, dramatic and gripping, and almost “Shakespearean” in its objectivity. Scott is able, to a remarkable degree, to give the principal parties their respective due. This certainly includes the clan and Jacobite leaders, even while he recognizes and identifies the hopeless and retrograde nature of their rebellion.

Illustration for Scott's Waverley

Scott was on the eve of his 43rd birthday in July 1814. He was already a celebrated narrative poet—The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810)—and, in fact, Waverley was published anonymously in part to protect his existing reputation should the book fail to please the public. Scott had read and studied voraciously, accumulating a store of local and national history, poetry, ballads, folk tales and more, as well as undergoing a more conventional education. Waverley, with its profusion of cultural and historical allusions, is the book of a man well into life. In its richness and maturity, it is not a typical “first novel,” in that sense.

The appearance of Scott’s novel made an immediate and enormous impression. According to the Walter Scott Digital Archive at the Edinburgh University Library, “The success of Waverley was phenomenal and established Scott as a novelist with an international reputation. The first edition of one thousand copies sold out within two days of publication, and by November a fourth edition was at the presses.”

Ian Duncan, in an introduction to a recent edition of Waverley, suggests that the book “has a strong claim to be the most influential work in the modern history of the novel.” Scott went on to author another two dozen novels over the next decade and a half or so, in the process becoming the most lionized and popular literary figure of his day.

Thirteen of the novels, including most of the highly regarded ones, are set between 1644 and 1799, most of those in Scotland (or northern England), and treat various sides of the great historical transitions of the day. The subject is often civil war or internecine religious conflict, in which hostile social forces violently collide, treated generally through the activities of rather unheroic and secondary figures.

Scott’s stature in the first third of the nineteenth century and beyond is almost impossible to conceive of today. He became a venerated, even adored, figure, whose work reached wide layers of the reading public and influenced countless writers, including Victor Hugo, Alexander Pushkin, Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy.

Alexander Pushkin

Pushkin, the great Russian poet, for example, wrote: “The influence of Walter Scott can be felt in every province of the literature of his age. The new school of French historians formed itself under the influence of the Scottish novelist. He showed them entirely new sources which had so far remained unknown despite the existence of the historical drama of Shakespeare and Goethe.” Tolstoy’s War and Peace owes a direct and unmistakable debt to Scott.

Both Charles Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge and, more successfully, A Tale of Two Cities would have been unthinkable without the earlier writer’s example. In a letter, Dickens wrote of reading such Scott novels as “Kenilworth [1821]…with greater delight than ever,” and also noted that “in Scott’s Diary which I have been looking at this morning, there are thoughts which have been mine by day and by night.”

George Eliot, another major English novelist, also admired Scott tremendously. A biographer comments that her “passion for books seems to have sprung into being on her first contact with Sir Walter Scott,” when she read Waverley in 1827 or so. The biography continues, “The love of Scott lasted throughout her life,” and cites Eliot’s later comment, “It is a personal grief, a heart wound to me, when I hear a depreciatory or slighting word about Scott.”

The latter’s poems and novels inspired operas (Donizetti, Rossini, Bizet), musical pieces (Schubert, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Sullivan), theatrical works and paintings. Eleanor Marx observed that her father “read and reread Walter Scott; he admired him and knew him almost as well as he knew Fielding and Balzac.” Franz Mehring commented that Marx “recognized a number of Walter Scott’s novels as being models of their kind.” He apparently considered Old Mortality (1816), which treats the conflict between Scottish Presbyterian rebels (“Covenanters”) and Royalists in the late seventeenth century, to be a particular “masterpiece.”

Ironically, Scott’s The Lady of the Lake was so popular that it inspired both abolitionist Frederick Douglass (who, after his escape from slavery in 1838, chose his last name from a central character) and the Ku Klux Klan (which allegedly adopted the custom of cross burning from the Scottish clans’ tradition depicted in the work).

A conservative in his political and social views, Scott nevertheless breathed the same air as his more radical (although, in some cases, only in their youth) contemporaries William Wordsworth, Ludwig van Beethoven, Friedrich Hölderlin, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Robert Owen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Friedrich von Schlegel (all born in the years 1770 to 1772!). The great event here is the French Revolution of 1789, which erupted when they were at an impressionable age.

Scott was hostile to the French Revolution and social upheaval in general, although The Heart of Midlothian (1818) opens with a scintillating account of a popular revolt. In any event, something of the drama of the stormy era unquestionably entered his bloodstream—and never left it. As Trotsky noted in a very different context, “the ‘spirit’ of an epoch…is reflected in everybody, in those who accept it and who embody it, as well as in those who hopelessly struggle against it.” (It is not for nothing that Scott authored a nine-volume biography of Napoleon in 1825-1827.) One becomes aware of this intense dramatic element as the best of Scott’s novels progress toward their climactic confrontations.

He was a product in part of the Scottish Enlightenment. As Peter Garside has pointed out, “There is still a tendency…to think of Scott solely as a nineteenth-century figure, but of course his first thirty years [half his life] were spent in eighteenth-century Edinburgh” (Scott and the “Philosophical” Historians, 1975). Garside continued, “Scott had a strong sense of the intellectual and cultural importance of the Scottish Enlightenment as a whole,” which included such figures as Adam Smith, David Hume and Robert Burns.

Occurring in a “post-revolutionary” society, the Scottish Enlightenment had a politically moderate coloring for the most part, but its humanism, belief in reason, general broadmindedness and hostility to the arrogance of authority certainly helped shape Scott’s outlook. (One of his professors at the University of Edinburgh in 1790-1791 was the Enlightenment philosopher Dugald Stewart, who was a sympathizer of the French Revolution, at least in its initial stages, and fell under suspicion as a result.)

A generally tolerant and democratic sensibility is to be found in Scott’s work—for instance, in his scathing treatment of anti-Semitism in Ivanhoe (1819). In addition, it would be difficult to imagine this rather contemptuous passing comment by one of the central female characters in Waverley appearing in a novel prior to Scott’s day: “I believe all men (that is, who deserve the name) are pretty much alike; there is generally more courage required to run away. They have besides, when confronted with each other, a certain instinct for strife, as we see in other male animals, such as dogs, bulls, and so forth.”

(Scott, to his credit, was a sincere admirer of Jane Austen, among other female writers. In his journal, he commented, quite wonderfully, “The Big Bow-wow strain [!] I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch [referring to Austen], which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!”)

David Daiches, in his 1951 essay “Scott’s Achievement as a Novelist,” rejected the notion of Scott as an “ultra-romantic figure.” Instead, he argued, “Scott’s best and characteristic novels are a very different matter. They might with justice be called ‘antiromantic’ fiction…. It is worth noting that the heroine of the novel considered by most critics to be Scott’s best [The Heart of Midlothian] is a humble Scottish working girl.”

That heroine, Jeanie Deans, travels to London by foot to try to obtain a reprieve for her sister, falsely charged with child-murder. When she reaches the English capital, “she pours out her heart in her humble Scots diction” to the queen. “And when Jeanie tries to find out how she can repay the kindness of the noble duke who had helped her to her interview with the queen, she asks, ‘Does your honour like cheese?’ That is the real Scott touch.”

Scott’s historical novels, argued famed essayist Thomas Carlyle, “taught all men this truth, which looks like a truism, and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others, till so taught: that the bygone ages of the world were actually filled by living men, not by protocols, state-papers, controversies, and abstractions of men.”

One tends to remember, as Daiches pointed out, the minor or “middle” characters who abound in Scott’s work, the practical and energetic Scottish lawyers and farmers, the eccentric pedants and courthouse hangers-on, the landladies and tavern-keepers, the adventurers and vagabonds, the merchants and gypsies. The novelist is moved by the traditional heroism of an earlier day (and saddened by its passing), but finds it impotent, while he takes satisfaction in “the peace, prosperity and progress which he felt had been assured by the Union with England in 1707” and brings colorfully to life those who are making the most, for better or worse, of the new conditions.

Scott’s writings began to fall out of favor in the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it is not terribly difficult to figure out why. There are areas of life, as Scott himself indicates in his comment about Jane Austen, excluded from his work. The rise of the psychological novel and its more intimate, fluid treatment of human relationships made Scott a less attractive figure. His deliberately roundabout style, his often leisurely, sometimes careless approach, which suggested a real or imaginary rural world in an earlier age, seemed both artificial and stodgy in the light of mid-century realism and, later, naturalism.

Mark Twain in 1895

Mark Twain famously ridiculed Scott in Life on the Mississippi (1883), amusingly, if mistakenly, accusing the Scottish writer (clearly with Ivanhoe and such in mind) of setting “the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society.”

On the other hand, bourgeois critics and writers took advantage, so to speak, of Scott’s weak side and his less appealing qualities as part of a wider attack, after the 1848 revolutions and the appearance on the historical scene of the working class, against the very concept of historical change and progress. As conscious or unconscious defenders of the status quo, which was now threatened from below, historians and novelists alike increasingly tended to treat society in an unhistorical manner, accepting the given social order and relationships as having existed from all time.

As the left-wing Hungarian critic Georg Lukács argued, in The Historical Novel (1937), “Since history…is no longer conceived [after 1848] as the prehistory of the present, or, if it is, then in a superficial, unilinear, evolutionary way, the endeavours of the earlier period to grasp the stages of the historical process in their real individuality, as they really were objectively, lose their living interest…. [H]istory is modernized. This means the historian [or novelist] proceeds from the belief that the fundamental structure of the past is economically and ideologically the same as that of the present. Thus, in order to understand the present all one has to do is to attribute the thoughts, feelings and motives of present-day men to the past.”

Lukács’s work, in fact, led to a revival of interest in Scott, and it is worth briefly going over a number of his conceptions. Like many intellectuals in the Stalinist orbit, Lukács was at his most useful when dealing with eras very distant in time from his own. When he arrived at the twentieth century, his literary criticism inevitably strained and twisted to conform to both the Stalinist political and cultural lines.

In The Historical Novel, Lukács first addresses the rise of a new, widespread historical consciousness out of which a writer such as Scott could emerge. He associates that development with “the French Revolution, the revolutionary wars and the rise and fall of Napoleon, which for the first time made history a mass experience, and moreover on a European scale.” The quick succession of upheavals between 1789 and 1814 “gives them a qualitatively distinct character, it makes their historical character far more visible than would be the case in isolated, individual instances.”

Moreover, discussing the new, mass character of the armies in the Napoleonic wars, the far-flung experiences of hundreds of thousands, or millions, which extended from Egypt to Russia, Lukács remarked, “Hence the concrete possibilities for men to comprehend their own existence as something historically conditioned, for them to see in history something which deeply affects their daily lives and immediately concerns them.”

In the wake of the Restoration of the European monarchies after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, a new type of argument in favor of historical progress had to emerge: “According to the new interpretation the reasonableness of human progress develops ever increasingly out of the inner conflict of social forces in history itself; according to this interpretation history itself is the bearer and realizer of human progress. The most important thing here is the increasing historical awareness of the decisive role played in human progress by the struggle of classes in history.”

Although Britain was held up in the early nineteenth century as the model of peaceful, upward development, keen observers such as Scott, wrote Lukács, “were made to see that this peaceful development was peaceful only as the ideal of an historical conception…. The organic character of England’s development is a resultant made up of the components of ceaseless class struggles and their bloody resolution in great or small, successful or abortive uprisings.” Much of Scott’s novel-writing concerns these episodes.

Scott’s choice of “mediocre, average” heroes pointed to his renunciation of Romanticism and his effort “to portray the struggles and antagonisms of history by means of characters who, in their psychology and destiny, always represent social trends and historical forces.” Lukacs continued, “For the hero of the epic is life itself and not the individual.”

“In Scott’s most important novels historically unknown, semi-historical or entirely non-historical persons play the leading role…. Scott thus lets his important figures grow out of the being of the age, he never explains the age from the position of its great representatives…. For the being of the age can only appear as a broad and many-sided picture if the everyday life of the people, the joys and sorrows, crises and confusions of average human beings are portrayed.”

There is a great deal more to be said on the subject of Scott and the historical novel, but let this suffice as an introduction. If any readers, unfamiliar with the novelist’s work, develop an interest in his novels as the result of this essay, its purpose is served.

Puffins of Staffa island, video


This video from Scotland is called Puffins on Staffa.

About this video:

Staffa National Nature Reserve

Apart from Fingal´s Cave and the amazing rock formations, Staffa is a great place to see wildlife. In particular there is a small Puffin colony which gives visitors a chance to see these colourful and busy sea birds.

The Puffins of Wales face a stormy future: here.