American Scots: The Scottish Diaspora and the USA

American Scots: The Scottish Diaspora and the USA

American Scots: The Scottish Diaspora and the USA

American Scots: The Scottish Diaspora and the USA


Some 30 million people worldwide claim Scottish ancestry, making the Scots one of the world's largest diasporas. There are few countries around the globe without a Caledonian Society, a Burns Club, a Scottish country dance society, or some similar organization expressing the Scottish social and cultural heritage. This book describes the Scottish diaspora in the US, which is one of the largest. The book includes interviews with Scottish Americans about their family histories, their membership of Scottish societies, and their continuing links with the Scottish homeland. Academic interest in diasporas has grown as the world's population has become more mobile and as forced migration has led to major increases in the numbers of refugee diasporas. In relation to the Scottish diaspora, there is increasing interest, partly as a result of devolution and the existence of a Scottish Government able to engage directly with Scots overseas. The book explores theories of diaspora and how the Scots fit into these. It describes workings with American Scots and reports on detailed interviews which cover family histories and issues of identity and belonging. It deals with diaspora events, such as National Tartan Day, and concludes with some discussion of the continuing nature and importance of expatriate identity. The book will be of interest to those studying notions of identity, such as sociologists, geographers, or political scientists. It provides a fascinating study of how American Scots relate to their 'home,' and it offers insight into how those in Scotland perceive Scots who live abroad.


This is a book about the Scottish diaspora — or at least a part of it. Estimates of the size of the diaspora vary and nobody really knows how many people across the globe claim Scottish ancestry. But Scottish politicians Kenny MacAskill and Henry McLeish (2006) suggested that estimates range extremely widely from forty to eighty million, in comparison to a ‘home’ population actually residing in Scotland of barely five million. On the other hand, the Scottish Diaspora Forum, which was part of Scotland’s 2009 Year of Homecoming, referred in its online publicity to a diaspora of ‘more than thirty million’. Either way, the numbers are huge, relative to the size of the population in Scotland itself.

Although the Scottish diaspora may be found in all parts of the world, the largest groupings are generally acknowledged to be in North America and Australasia. Data from the 2000 United States Census, for example, showed that 5.4 million people in the US claimed Scottish ancestry, representing 1.7% of the population. More recently, the 2006 American Community Survey indicated a total of six million people with Scottish ancestry, also representing 1.7%. This is a significant number and this book therefore focuses on the Scottish diaspora within the United States, because of its size and importance.

Perhaps the main theme of the book — the continuing importance to the diaspora of being both American and Scottish — is demonstrated by the T-shirts belonging to one of the people interviewed as part of the research. He was a businessman, working in the oil industry, and was also a senior office-bearer in the local St Andrew Society. While having a very clear picture of modern Scotland himself, nevertheless he believed in the importance of heritage and tradition:

1; accessed April 2011

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