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About Christopher Harvie

Christopher Harvie is a historian who was professor of British and Irish studies at Tübingen University, Germany. His homepage is here. He was a member of the Scottish parliament from 2007-11. His website is here

Among Christopher Harvie's many books are Scotland: A Short History (Oxford University Press, 2002), Deep Fried Hillman Imp (Argyll, 2004); Mending Scotland (Argyll, 2005); A Floating Commonwealth: Politics, Culture, and Technology on Britain's Atlantic Coast, 1860-1930 (Oxford University Press, 2008); and Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown (Verso, 2010)

Articles by Christopher Harvie

This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

After the fall: Hobsbawm from the north

The great reach of the historian Eric Hobsbawm found its limit at the borders of multinational Britain, says Christopher Harvie.

Glasgow's Victorian farewell

Scotland's largest city plans to remove Victorian-era statues from a landmark square. A backward move in the name of progress, says Christopher Harvie.

A Grimm fairytale: Anglo-Hanoverian union (1715-1837) and after

The historical links between Germany and Britain - aristocratic, political, industrial - are full of lost possibility. A retrace of their course suggests that one current should still be retrieved, says Christopher Harvie.  

Christopher Harvie

The transformational change I believe to be essential is to recognise the end of the private car. In 1903 the poet John Davidson saw the rise of individual powered transport as a break with the essentially collective - though not compulsive - spirit of the 19th century and the railway, in a remarkably perceptive poem called 'The Testament of Sir Simon Simplex concerning automobilism'. In this he set out the 'two legs good, four wheels better' philosophy which governed the twentieth century. Among its enthusiasts were of course Henry Ford and his admirer Adolf Hitler, who saw mobility per se as an absorbing alternative to thought. With one car per four people in the 1920s the USA led the way into hyperindividualised mania. Despite the fact that only 15% of world population owned 85% of the world's cars - a proportion which remained constant because of population growth - there was no increase in human knowledge or efficiency (Anthony Trollope's 'railway compartment as mobile office') given the need to power and steer the car. This lay behind the accelerating decline of the USA after the 1980s, its urban identity and the physique problems of its people. The issue was solved by the impact of Peak Oil after 2010, with a rapid rise of oil to $300 a barrel, making a 'car-friendly society' impossible and imposing a rational transport/life balance.

Or so we must hope.

The matter of Britain

The paths of national politics in Scotland and England are ever more divergent. Through a singular mix of intellectual biography, modern history and political critique, Christopher Harvie - bus-pass in hand - draws on the evidence of his own career and work to make sense of the change.

A 'dishonesty of the conscientious': Gordon Brown’s tragedy

The literature of human fall and frailty illuminates the political fate of Britain’s prime minister.   

A Manchester of the mind

The Guardian newspaper has its intellectual and moral roots in the northern English city of Manchester. The distance it has travelled - and the condition of the country it has left behind - is measured in the character of its online "Comment is Free" forum, says Christopher Harvie.

The lords of humankind

The social damage of governmental and financial negligence in the banking crisis is clear from the perspective of Scotland’s border-country, finds the scholar-politician Christopher Harvie.

"Choosing Scotland's future": a compressed history

The corrosion of Gordon Brown's London government increases the chances that Alex Salmond's Scotland - fuelled by a renewable-energy revolution - may take its leave of Britain, says Christopher Harvie.

Gordon Brown vs Scotland: the balance-sheet

Britain will pay the price for years of financial excess - and Scotland's Alex Salmond should exert it from Gordon Brown, says Christopher Harvie.

Scotland's election, history's tides

The historian Christopher Harvie is a candidate in the election to the Scottish parliament on 3 May 2007. He sees his target seat embodying the conflicting currents of the country’s long political journey.


The democratic intellectual: George Elder Davie

The distinctive quality of Scotland's educational philosophy was defined by George Davie (1912-2007) as the "democratic intellect". The idea has helped form the country's search for autonomy, says his former student Christopher Harvie.

Life on Airstrip One

Britain is a globalisation success story, says the "Economist". Decay and corruption have brought the country's economic model nearer collapse, replies Christopher Harvie.

Union in a State: a Scots eye

Scotland's parliament voted to abolish itself in on 16 January 1707. In 1999, devolution restored a measure of self-government. Now, Scots are contemplating independence once more. The historian and Scottish National Party candidate Christopher Harvie explains why.

Scottish independence? No fear!

Scotland’s election of May 2007 may be decisive for the future of the British state. On St Andrew’s Day 2006, three leading Scottish writers urge voters to choose the route of national independence.

Britain's tax nexus: able fraudsters, useful idiots

While Britain's political and media classes are obsessed with the succession to Tony Blair as New Labour leader and prime minister, the country's economy is being drained and distorted by massive VAT fraud, writes Christopher Harvie.

Red Clyde and Yellow Press

The legal feud between a leading Scottish politician and a tabloid newspaper is, writes Christopher Harvie, a farcical footnote to an epic, unfinished story: the decline of Scotland's industrial and political self-confidence and the withering of the British union.

A German dream: some day my prince will come

Germany's hosting of the soccer world cup is an opportunity to showcase the intimate, convivial and undervalued charms of the country's railways and rural life, says Christopher Harvie.

Gordon Brown's Britain

The "United Kingdom" is in the throes of a major debate about national identity, patriotism and "Britishness". The latest contribution by Gordon Brown, senior government minister and New Labour's co-architect, recycles flawed ideas, withered histories and exhausted minds, argues Christopher Harvie.

A Scottish-Chinese dream: Maglev made easy

A bullet-train link between Scotland’s two major cities is a realistic ambition for an old nation seeking a new place in the world, writes Christopher Harvie.

The German solution?

An economic model in crisis, a polity in chaos? No, says Christopher Harvie of Tübingen University – Germany has the resources to survive its troubles and confound its critics.

Remembering Robin Cook

Robin Cook, leading Scottish and British politician, died suddenly on 6 August 2005. The historian Christopher Harvie recalls a school friend, student debater, political comrade and intellectual opponent across forty-five years, and provides a warm, witty, unillusioned assessment of his career.

Looking into Wales: a nation displayed

An Englishman has tackled the art history of Wales and become a ‘Living National Treasure’, as the Japanese would say. Is the metropolis interested? Don’t ask…

Journeys to the Rhine

European rail travel (unlike British) is getting faster. This veteran Euro-commuter isn’t sure that he approves.
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