On Glasgow and Edinburgh (Paperback)Robert Crawford (author)
Edinburgh and Glasgow enjoy a famously scratchy relationship. Resembling other intercity rivalries throughout the world, from Madrid and Barcelona, to Moscow and St. Petersburg, to Beijing and Shanghai, Scotland’s sparring metropolises just happen to be much smaller and closer together—like twin stars orbiting a common axis. Yet their size belies their world-historical importance as cultural and commercial capitals of the British Empire, and the mere forty miles between their city centers does not diminish their stubbornly individual nature.
Robert Crawford dares to bring both cities to life between the covers of one book. His story of the fluctuating fortunes of each city is animated by the one-upping that has been entrenched since the eighteenth century, when Edinburgh lost parliamentary sovereignty and took on its proud wistfulness, while Glasgow came into its industrial promise and defiance. Using landmarks and individuals as gateways to their character and past, this tale of two cities mixes novelty and familiarity just as Scotland’s capital and its largest city do. Crawford gives us Adam Smith and Walter Scott, the Scottish Enlightenment and the School of Art, but also tiny apartments, a poetry library, Spanish Civil War volunteers, and the nineteenth-century entrepreneur Maria Theresa Short. We see Glasgow’s best-known street through the eyes of a Victorian child, and Edinburgh University as it appeared to Charles Darwin.
Crawford's lively account, drawing on a wealth of historical and literary sources, affirms what people from Glasgow and Edinburgh have long doubted—that it is possible to love both cities at the same time.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 368
Dimensions: 229 x 149 mm
On Glasgow and Edinburgh is a thoroughly enjoyable book, all the more so for provoking arguments (the Glaswegian’s favorite hobby). Readers familiar with the two cities will enjoy the recitation of familiar history and the frequent occurrence of unfamiliar fact and anecdote. Those who have not (yet) gazed from Castle Street in the New Town to Castle Rock, the high glory of the Old, will read about it and make plans to visit. After Edinburgh, they should fly around the world and arrive at Glasgow and discover Scotland all over again. - James Campbell, Wall Street Journal
The book offers a portrait, not a narrative history, and is intended for visitors as well as for natives and other Scots, many of whom will find, as I did, that they don’t know either city as well as they supposed… On Glasgow and Edinburgh is an enjoyable book, its learning leavened by the author’s wit and sense of the absurd. - Allan Massie, Times Literary Supplement
Crawford…has in On Glasgow and Edinburgh yoked together the two warring siblings of urban Scotland, seeking to calm their feud by writing separately, perceptively and in great detail about each… Crawford’s is a rich piece of work—a kind of literary guidebook, which demands that you go to one or both of these cities and see for yourself. - John Lloyd, Financial Times
Affectionate, sharply observed and sharply written… On Glasgow and Edinburgh…is a highbrow guidebook, as useful to carry on a visit as it is pleasurable to read far away. - Brian Morton, The Independent
This new book—written ‘for both with love’—is about the two cities the poet appears to care about most… Alas, he is fair. His personification of these cities is so thorough, and so in keeping with his overall aesthetic as a poet who tenders contradiction, that you cannot—despite my evil attempts—use the book as a primer on how to stoke up the ancient and holy rivalries… Edinburgh/Glasgow is a culture clash between two cities forty miles apart, and Crawford’s book seeks to do it honor. He calls it ‘a treasured rivalry,’ and he isn’t wrong: each city would be slightly less without the other’s countervailing charm… You could take a walk in each city with the book in your hand and see where ideas have shaped the stone. It’s a tale of two cities as represented by their storytellers, their makars, their minstrels and their celebrants. - Andrew O’Hagan, London Review of Books
Excellent. - John McDermott, Financial Times
Robert Crawford is that rarest breed of Scotsman: one who professes to love Edinburgh and Glasgow equally… He has produced a walking guide to Scotland’s greatest cities that will delight any literary-minded tourist. Many natives will learn much from this agreeable book too. - Alex Massie, New Statesman
A fascinating book filled with pithy observations and unexpected anecdotes. Crawford comes across like an erudite, beady-eyed flâneur, alive to the relationship between topography and history, combining spirited insight with irreverent characterizations… Melding personal reminiscence with inspired historical research he has a keen eye for the ironies and contrasts of city life. As a result there is enough surprising information here to delight even those who know the territory well… Crawford assembles a compelling case for the idea that the two cities get more from their colorful rivalry than they would from a bland collaboration… This richly illustrated, intelligent and compelling work of history and reflection offers heartfelt tribute to both. - David Stenhouse, Scotland on Sunday
Crawford’s aim is not to create a fast-paced travel guide to each city. Instead, he takes the reader in hand, moves to the center of town, selects 24 sites of interest in each city, and sets off on a walking tour. By journey’s end, the reader is utterly—and equally—beguiled by Edinburgh and Glasgow… Crawford is a Scottish Walt Whitman, singing of the cities he loves. - Jo Gibson, Cleveland Plain Dealer
As with all good ideas, one wonders why no-one has ever written a book about Glasgow and Edinburgh before… Crawford attempts, with admirable evenhandedness, to explain their parallel stories… It is of course remarkable that two cities just 50 or so miles apart are so different in character and sensibility. Travel from one to the other and you could be in another country… Far from seeing the Glasgow–Edinburgh rivalry as debilitating, Crawford regards it positively. - Alan Taylor, Glasgow Herald
Crawford impartially analyses the character, past and present of Scotland’s two combatants, not in a dry academic treatise, but a lively and interesting urban exploration which I found captivating… Architecture, streets, parks, gardens, citizens of note, industry, government, history, the arts, vice; all these, and more, are covered here in fascinating, minutely researched detail… Eminently readable, enlightening and entertaining, On Glasgow and Edinburgh is truly a tale of two modern cities. This might be the only book you’ll ever need to read if you want to learn what makes these two places tick; elements in common and aspects which set them apart. - Ian Neilson, The Scots Magazine
This is an unfailingly intelligent and sympathetic book. - Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman
From the eminent poet and professor of literature comes a thoughtful and provocative account of the rivalry that has dogged these two cities. It’s [Crawford’s] belief that this ongoing duel has played a significant part in shaping Scotland, but also that it ought now to be resolved. - Rosemary Goring, Sunday Herald
This is a fascinating book, if in some ways a peculiar one, part coffee table, part high table, elegant and erudite but wearing its learning lightly… Beautifully illustrated—the images of the Falkirk Wheel are stunning—and written in an effortlessly engaging style, On Glasgow and Edinburgh is a bold and breezy book. - Willy Maley, Times Higher Education
A delightfully engaging mix of history, architectural reference, and literary allusion. A most enjoyable read, which will have wide appeal well beyond aficionados of these two great cities. - T. M. Devine, author of The Scottish Nation: A Modern History
A wonderful book—richly informative, critically astute, and lucidly and vividly written. - Ian Duncan, author of Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh
This book is a beautiful idea lovingly accomplished. It is high time that the old and ugly rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh ended, and this book shows us how to do it. Like an inspirational couples counselor, Robert Crawford suggests that bigamy is the answer: we should learn to love both of these great cities with equal passion. He does, and so do I. You should try it, too. - Richard Holloway, author of Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt
People familiar with either place will find much to divert them in these pages, and those who have never visited Scotland’s great cities will feel that they have been there after reading Crawford’s book. - Fiona Stafford, author of Local Attachments
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