There's something especially attractive about a book that tackles its subject so definitively, and is so well researched, that you know it's probably the last book that's going to be written about the subject for quite some time. At the Crossroads of Time: How a Small Scottish Village Changed History by Andrew C. Scott is just such a book. Nicely produced as a hardback with some inset illustrations and a central section of colour photographs, this is a book whose physical presence matches its lasting value as a work of reference to anyone with any interest in or links to the village of Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire. The end result is a fine example of microhistory, a growing area of historical study that focuses on small units of research and which, by one definition, asks "large questions in small places".
The publisher's blurb notes that "Lesmahagow has many claims to fame, and many of its sometime residents have taken up influential roles in the history of the nation. Andrew C. Scott's family lived in the village for more than 300 years, and in this book he explores the fascinating story of this unassuming settlement." It concludes: "Given its extraordinary legacy in the arts, the sciences and in the world of politics, Lesmahagow may well claim to be a village that changed the world."
If the book's geographical area of interest is small, its time frame is huge. We begin in the geological past, some 4.6 billion years ago, and spend four well-written chapters moving to the point where the first nomadic humans appear. We then move through the whole history of human occupation of Lesmahagow and the surrounding area, with a particular focus on individuals who have made names for themselves. The book concludes with a chapter looking to the future. The quality of the underlying research is obvious throughout, but nowhere more so than the long list of notes and extensive bibliography at the back of the book. There is also a very comprehensive index.