On Glasgow And Edinburgh
Feature by Willard Manus

Think New York and Boston. Los Angeles and San Francisco. Or even Athens and Sparta.

That coupling epitomizes the rivalry between Scotland's two main cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The rivalry goes far back in time and continues to this day. Innumerable writers have explored the rivalry, the latest of whom is Robert Crawford, in a book entitled ON GLASGOW AND EDINBURGH (Harvard University Press).

"Within Scotland...since at least the 18th century, a sense of sparring and sometimes outright competition between the two cities has been a defining aspect of the nation," Crawford writes, adding, "It still continues to be so. These two cities still look, feel and sound markedly different."

Edinburgh has long thought of itself as the Athens of the North, thanks to its classical buildings and castles, and especially its history as the capital of an independent country. Edinburgh has a genteel, even an effete, public image, populated as it is by large numbers of lawyers, civil servants and bankers.

Glasgow, on the other hand, has prided itself on being more down-to-earth and working-class, "the workshop of the world."

Each city has its own accent. "Glasgow's is guttural and enlivened by glottal stops. Edinburgh's is more singsong, often rising toward the end of a sentence," Crawford explains. "Each has its own municipal government, sports teams, universities, newspapers and sense of direction."

All of these differences are explored by the author, a literature professor at St. Andrew's College. His tale of two cities goes deep into their history, geography, architecture and culture over the centuries. Mostly, though, Crawford concentrates on the present-day life of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

"Most of this book is arranged sequentially in terms of space, rather than chronology," he writes. "Its core sections progress along streets and through-parks. I have cast these chapters mainly in the form of town-center excursions that use the visible fabric of the city--its built environment--as a gateway into the area's character and past...My choices can be disputed, another writer might have paid far more attention to football, folksiness and food, far less to literature, gardens, and murder...but I hope that they work."

So detailed and informative is the book that it should be considered must reading for anyone contemplating a trip to Scotland. Armchair travelers can take much pleasure from it as well, thanks to the author's vivid and assured way with words.