"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Monday, December 6, 2010


After finally taking the time to catalog my own Scottish research library I thought over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas I would share some of my favorite books that should appeal to those of you who are writing Scottish romances. I know the cost of books is getting more and more expensive but with this list of books I am going to touch on some themes that I have in the past been asked to research. For the most part the books listed are my books in my own library so if someone needs to know if a certain topic is covered I would be happy to check it for you.

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.


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)

SCOTLAND: A HISTORY by Jenny Wormald

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.

Another book you might consider on Scottish history is A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND by Scottish archaeologist Neil Oliver who also produced the 10 disk DVD series for Scottish TV of the same title. Though books make better sources for information this DVD series by Oliver would make a wonderful addition to anyone’s library. The visuals in the video are sometimes a bit too dramatic and there are large chunks of Scottish history missing but what is shown is well researched and the audience will be captivated if only with the scenery, which is to die for.

Another book worth looking at if you like history told through the eyes of those who lived during an event or period, you might enjoy a new book recently published… SCOTLAND: THE AUTHOBIOGRAPHY 2,000 YEARS OF SCOTTISH HISTORY BY THOSE WHO SAW IT HAPPEN by Rosemary Goring. What I like about the book is you can start anywhere in the book by choosing a period and get a first hand account of an event in that period. Though not a traditional history book, this is the type of book that prods the muse into going in new directions with characters who reflect the events told by primary sources.

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:


Sarah Hoss said...

Thank you so much for this post. I loved it, but then, I am a book worm and love to do research on Scotland!

Melisende said...

Just picked up "the Faded Map" The Lost Kingdoms of Scotland" by Alistair Moffat