This first posting will include very basic books on Scottish history. But basic doesn’t mean simple or shallow. These books are the ones that I have used in my college classes. Some are scholarly and others read like popular history. But don’t be fooled they provide a great foundation for an understanding of the history and events that have changed Scotland from a Celtic nation, to a feudal kingship to a modern industrial nation. At least one of these books should be at the foundation of your Scottish research library.
SCOTLAND: A NEW HISTORY by Michael Lynch
This book was written in 1992 but the information is timeless. It includes 25 chapters starting with the Picts and moves up through the centuries defining the Scottish identity by exploring the historical, cultural and political events. The book is easy to read and can be used as a research book, using only the chapters of most interest. Mr Lynch has also has a companion book called THE OXFORD COMPANION TO SCOTTISH HISTORY. Though it doesn’t’ read like a dictionary it is more theme oriented rather than linear history and is a nice companion to his other book. Cost: New about $16.00 used: $1.17 (Amazon)
Magnusson’s approach is to tell the story of Scotland by answering the question…”What does it mean to be Scots?” His is not a pure scholarly approach thought he does provide the reader sources, he is looking at themes and events most heroic and warfare history. His book is easy to read and will provide enough excitement for the reader to seek out more in depth research. I especially like the chapter on the REAL MacBeth. He provides the reader with a Scottish king who suffered character assassination from Shakespeare that many a Scot doesn’teven know that Macbeth was probably their last Celtic King. He reigned successfully for 17 years on the cusp of the feudal age in Scotland. Cost: $15.30 new and $5.00 used (Amazon)
This was the text used in a recent class on Scotland at my local university. I found the book to rather boring to read, though I already had a pretty good foundation in the basic history of Scotland. The book is a series of thematic articles from Scottish scholars and though it provides a overview of Scottish themes it falls far from the in depth history from either of the ones previously mentioned. Though there are those who find it a useful source to start your Scottish studies. I can’t agree but I offer it here to provide choice. Cost: New $19.95 (amazon) used; $3.97 (abe)
Don’t be fooled by the title though the purpose of the book is Medieval Scotland the author provides a really good overview of the history from the times of the Roman invaders, the early people (Picts, Britons, Angles and Scots) as well as early Christianity and the Viking invasions before he even gets to the history of the 10th century and forward. What I like is that he provides sources that can be check for the serious researcher but the book is written in a way that is not overly scholarly. Throughout the book he keeps the people, the monarchy and the church at the forefront of the history he is telling the reader. For the many medieval storytellers this is a must book. Cost: New $29.97 and used $23.04.
Other books often found in a writer's library of Scottish history books include the following, but given their copyright dates may be outdated. This is because Scottish studies have seen, in recent years, a resurgence in active scholarship. In large part because of the increase in Scottish Nationalism: many see themselves first as Scots and then as British.
- A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND by J D Mackie (1984)
- SCOTLAND: A CONCISE HISTORY by Fitzroy Maclean (2000)
- SCOTLAND by John Prebble (1984)
- THE BIRLINN COMPANION TO SCOTTISH HISTORY by Ian Donnachie, George Hewitt (2007)
The next posting will include books on the different Scottish languages.
Your Christmas treat from the PNW: