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A History of Scotland

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Editorial Reviews

Ten thought-provoking episodes bring a fresh perspective to Scotland’s past and challenges many o the perceived notions of Scottish history. With stunning, BAFTA winning cinematography and mesmerizing narrative the series tells of battles and allegiances, political intrigue and religious conflict. The series reveals the fascinating struggles, power brokers, incidents and characters across the years from William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Sir Walter Scott to the Highland-Lowland rivalry, the Covenanters, the Daren disaster and the tobacco lords. Using the very latest in historical research A History of Scotland is a sweeping and insightful chronicle of an often turbulent, but continuingly fascinating nation.

Special Features

How the Celts Saved Britain: A provocative two-part documentary presented by Dan Snow
24-page booklet containing historical facts and striking images of Scottish landmarks

Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Various
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Subtitled, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 17, 2010
  • Run Time: 600 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003K025MI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,904 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A History of Scotland" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Archaeologist Neil Oliver is amazing in his knowledge of the history of Scotland.
Amy Jarecki
The history was presented in a way that we found easy to understand and follow, and the visuals were for the most part engaging and interesting.
Carl M Johengen
Neil Oliver is witty and engaging and backed up by a great script, beautiful cinematography and well suited background music.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Quentin D. Stewart on November 17, 2010
Format: DVD
Each of these ten episodes is one hour long and so you are treated to a crash course in Scottish history in just 600 minutes. It is bloody, turbulent and filled with pathos and Neil Oliver is engaging and delightfully Scottish just as Simon Schama in "A History of Britain" is particularly English, and both are very fine story tellers and historians - at least at the popular level. I enjoyed every minute of this series and was sorry it was over.

The first episode alone, "The Last of the Free," might be worth the price of this DVD. The viewer is treated to breathtaking vistas of Scotland with all its lochs, mountains, castles and fastnesses as Neil Oliver recounts the murky history of Scotland as it first emerges from the pages of history via Tacitus and his account of the Roman general Agricola's foray into Caledonia in 88 AD. Not much else is known of the northern barbarians for centuries, but they reemerge as the Picts as the Romans leave Britain for good. As Angles and Saxons replace Romans in the south we see Picts in the northeast of Scotland, Gaels in the west, and Britons in the south around the year 500 AD. Despite the Viking invasions of the British isles Kenneth MacAlpin arises as king of the Picts, but it is his grandson, Constantine II, who becomes the first king of Scotland. During his 43 year reign Constantine introduces Gaelic ways to the Picts and Scotland is now known as Alba in Gaelic and Scotland in English even though the isle of Britain would remain an island of separate kingdoms and divided nations under no single monarch for centuries to come.

Episode II "Hammers of the Scots" fast forwards almost three hundred years to the brutal Alexander II who crushes all opposition and succeeds in uniting all of Scotland.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Chris Linke on November 15, 2010
Format: DVD
I loved Simon Schama's "A History of Britain." When I heard about "A History of Scotland," hosted by Neil Oliver, I was intrigued. Never having heard of Oliver before, I wasn't sure what to expect. Surprisingly, the two hosts are quite similar in how they present their histories, and in a way, they succinctly represent their respective nations: Schama's delivery is unctuously English, Oliver's is passionately Scottish.

The first sensation you feel as you begin to watch "A History of Scotland" is one of time travel. The gorgeous scenic footage of Scotland could have been shot in 1009 as easily as 2009. And as Oliver narrates, it seems as if the ancient land itself is telling you its story.

Historical recreations also illustrate Scotland's history, and their production value is quite good. But you can only do so much in that manner, so Oliver's on-camera appearances help to glue everything together. His storytelling style is enjoyable, although occasionally, his walking-away, talking-over-the-shoulder standups remind me a bit of Eric Idle leading us to the house where he was born in "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life."

Not being terribly knowledgeable about Scotland's history, I can only take Oliver at his word as far as historical accuracy goes. There's no way to share every story from Scotland's long history, but over four DVDs, what stories Oliver does tell are detailed and rich. Not a dry recitation of names and dates, but a portrayal of emotions from flesh-and-blood historic figures. Oliver also does a fine job of coalescing the sometimes confusing relationship between Scottish kings, the British monarchy and religion into an understandable narrative. Perfect for those of us who sometimes can't get our Jameses and Jacobites straight.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Ian Hunter on September 12, 2010
Format: DVD
This is a riveting account of a turbulent history of yet another small country fighting for its integrity, let alone its independence, from its much bigger southern neighbour. The early portion of the formation of one country revealed much new information. Wallace at Stirling Bridge, The Bruce at Bannockburn and the Declaration of Arbroath remain the defining incidents in the forging of the nation. The disaster of Flodden was never covered; maybe just as well! A frank account of the Young Pretender's (Bonnie Prince Charlie's) attempt to re-impose a Catholic Crown on Protestant Great Britain helps correct the Scottish versus English fabrication. A bigger fabrication was Walter Scott's role in the 'tartanisation' of Scotland; brilliant marketing but a deflection of the essential character of the country. This might have been conveyed with the story of Red Clydeside and the birth of the Labour Party; it wasn't touched. Despite the two omissions, the series really is excellent and contrary to the image of rain, some of the landscapes had light that was crystal clear; just like the story-telling!

Ian Hunter.
Author of The Early Years
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55 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Ecosse lady on September 23, 2012
Format: DVD
After loving Neil Oliver's 'A History of Celtic Britain', I was absolutely shocked and dismayed by this series after only the first two episodes.

The visuals are mostly helicopter shots of landscapes and clouds, repeated shots of dripping blood, and actors in costume who stare menacingly into the camera.

It's take on Scottish history is no better, and can be described as superficial and weirdly selective at best. It skips most well known events entirely, focusing instead on de-bunking Scotland's 'myths' of nationhood--for example they focus on William Wallace being a cruel man by repeatedly mentioning how he made a belt out of a dead enemy's skin--(no mention is made of the phenomenal cruelty of Edward I)--and this 'anecdote' is taken out of context of the general practices of the time . Whether the belt story is true or not is of no importance because it is not relevant in the story of Scotland's History compared to the impact his fight for freedom from the English had, and if you want to mention cruelty: his horribly cruel death in England. It seems the series just wants to dismiss or reduce his symbolic value to the Scots. Why? I wonder...

When this series originally came out there was huge controversy and condemnation from Scottish academics about it being Anglo-centric. And I have to agree, not only does is it seem designed to tell the Scots : 'You were never a nation, and when you were pretending to be you were barbaric!' but the series also has a skewed and unsatisfactory way or relating what few selective facts it does give. And it's only visual attraction is due to the beauty of the repeated shots of Scottish landscape...

My family and I couldn't watch beyond the second episode and have thrown it out. This series can only please non-Scots, and the English part of the Westminster Government. I am shocked at the BBC!!!
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