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Bruce Lenman is Professor of History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. John Duncan Mackie (1887-1978) taught at St Andrews, Glasgow and London universities before being appointed Historiographer Royal of Scotland in 1958.
This book is written as more of a story of Scotland than a history. It is well developed, interesting, captivating and exciting. Probably the finest history book I've ever read. Gives an incredible overview of Scotland, and explains why those Scots who have become expats love their country despite all of the problems they have had (Highland clearances). For anyone who has been to Scotland this is a great way to learn so much about the country, and their courageous and proud people. I recommend this very highly. An enthralling book to read.
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This is simply put one of the best places to start an inquiry into Scottish history. Allowing the comments of one of the other reviewers, this book might not answer EVERY question that one might have regarding all of the specifics of Scots history. As in any book that sets out to tell the whole history of a people in under five hundred pages, there are omissions and a little of opaquenesses. Setting this aside, both the original author and the updaters of this book have done a remarkable job putting together a history that is equally entertaining and enlightening. This book DOES do an adequate job illustrating all of the changes of power and intricacies that are necessary to understand the interrelation between England and Scotland and the Highland and Lowland populations. It is fair which is important. And it is just a fun read..... Beyond this, obviously, this book raises additional questions regarding the history of Scotland that must be answered by additional reading. But, then again, this is a book that as an intitiation, makes one want to read more. I highly recommend this book....
You know those parts of the bible where so-and-so begot so-and-so who begot so-and-so? This book reads very much like that through the first 200 pages. It gets better, but overall, I have found this book to be a slow, laborious read heavy on names and light on what the people with those names actually did. Sure, so-and-so-1 marched on [insert burgh] and was repulsed by so-and-so-2 who later was killed fighting son-of-so-and-so-1, but I'd also like to know at least a little about the personality or the motivations or even just the normal occupations of those so-and-sos.
I'll put this another way. It's like reading a book about farming that was written by someone describing how the farm looks from an airplane at 30,000 feet. You get nicely outlined plots that rotate with the seasons, but none of the real struggles, turmoils or story of what the life of those plots entails.
If you want to read this book as a way to find out the History of Scotland, skip along to something else. If you want to use it as a reference to discover who you should explore next time you want to read about Scotland and her people, buy it. You'll basically have a genealogy of the country.
In advance of a trip to Scotland, I have been immersing myself in volumes of history about it, and I am comparing this fine volume by J.D. Mackie with that edited by Jenny Wormald, 'Scotland: A History', both in kindle format. Mackie's is evidently a great achievement — an entire history of Scotland written by a single person, rather than the collection of chapter contributions that forms 'Scotland: A History'. Mackie's style is enjoyable readable (if ever so slightly dated) and there are no sudden changes of gear, as sometimes strikes one in 'Scotland: A History'.
Both are roughly the same size in terms of page count, but 'A History of Scotland' in a sense covers less but more deeply: it stops in the 1970s ('Scotland: A History' stops 30 years later) and contains only history (unlike the two thematic chapters — one, on the Scottish diaspora, rather thin in terms of content and the other, on Scottish literature, too specialised for a generalist volume of this kind — in 'Scotland: A History). 'A History of Scotland' also, to my mind, contains much better coverage of the earliest periods of Scottish history including the period before the Roman conquest of Britain (i.e. the period that includes the Pictish civilisation) and the medieval period. Also very fine is the section on the religious turmoil of the 16th and 17th centuries. Both books start to lose focus to some extent in the 19th and 20th centuries, as though not quite enough time has elapsed even yet to see the events of those periods in their proper contexts. Mackie's volume is also largely arranged around the central figures of monarchs, and this approach leaves him in a bind when Scottish monarchs become less Scottish than British or, dare I say, English monarchs.Read more ›
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The book is full of history and appears balanced in view but has far too many references to things not documented. For someone who knows nothing about British royalty, Scots history and geography this is not the place to start. There are many confusing references. I had trouble understanding what and who Argyle is, why you spell Stewart/Stuart two ways with seemingly interchangable spellings, and many many royalty/title related terms that are confusing (duke/earl/baron etc. what's the difference?). A glossary would help. Otherwise, keep a dictionary and a good map handy. Also the successions and following who murdered whom needs more diagrams and what diagrams and maps there are should all be redrawn for clarity.
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