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On Glasgow and Edinburgh

On Glasgow and Edinburgh

Robert Crawford

ISBN 9780674088030

Publication date: 11/16/2015

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.


  • 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


  • Poet and critic Robert Crawford is Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St. Andrews.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 5-7/8 x 9 inches
  • Belknap Press