From Nashborough to the Nobel Prize: The Buchanans of Tennessee


by Rueben Kyle

The story of the Buchanan family of Tennessee, a story that in many respects mirrors the history of the country but culminates in an accomplishment that few achieve.

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This book relates the story of the Buchanan family of Tennessee, a story that in many respects mirrors the history of the country but culminates in an accomplishment that few achieve. Like many of the European settlers of North America, the Buchanans’ story begins in Scotland, moves to Ireland, and crosses the Atlantic. It follows the family as it settles a dangerous and difficult new world, helps build a community and society in mid-19th century America, survives the brutal Civil War and the challenging years after that conflict, and thrives in the 20th century. The title From Nashborough to the Nobel Prize refers to the path leading to James McGill Buchanan Jr., who was not a political figure or a businessman like others of the family but a scholar and teacher. James Buchanan won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 1986 as the founder of the field of Public Choice, which applies the tools of economics to public decision making. Public choice has been described as “politics without romance.” James Buchanan was representative of the hard¬working, independent-minded family, even the prototypical American family, from which he came.


Reuben Kyle’s insightful new book on the Buchanan family of Tennessee brings long overdue attention to an almost forgotten but pivotal Tennessee governor and one of Tennessee’s handful of Nobel Prize laureates. Kyle deftly combines research in public sources with historical evidence from the family to put together a fascinating story of challenge and achievement. From Nashborough to the Nobel Prize belongs in the bookcase of every reader of Tennessee history and biography.

    Carroll Van West, Ph.D.

    Editor in Chief, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture


From Nashborough to the Nobel Prize is a fascinating chronology of the Buchanan family, tracing its journey from 17th century ancestral Scotland to the 18th century Tennessee frontier, through Indian and Civil wars of the 19th century, to reconstruction, reformation, and modern-day politics. This band of farmers, soldiers, entrepreneurs, educators, politicians, and world-class scholars has made its mark on Tennessee, America, and indeed the world. From Major John Buchanan’s book of arithmetic to populist Tennessee governor John Price Buchanan’s politics and then his libertarian Nobel Laureate grandson James McGill Buchanan Jr.’s creation of the field of Public Choice, the family has made history with deeds and ideas. Economists will naturally be attracted to the book simply for the insights it provides regarding the forces that shaped the Nobel laureate. Historians will unfold a new leaf in the Scots-Irish migration and their role in the settling and development of Tennessee. And laymen, be they Tennesseans or not, will enjoy an epic story of hope, ambition, struggle, and success through dedication, discipline, and plain old hard work. Generations of Buchanans have led by example with those values and impressed them upon others with regularity. Their place in history is defined by the great contributions they have made to the lives of others.

    J.R. Clark, Probasco Chair of Free Enterprise

    The University of Tennessee / Chattanooga