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Rewrite this book
on March 19, 2015
While many Osprey books are well done, this one should be rewritten as
both the text and the colour images are misleading or inaccurate.
The seven kingdoms of the Picts did not exist at the same time according to a paper by Dauvit Broun in Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Medieval Era, edited by Cowan and McDonald. Matriliny has been discredited by Alfred Smyth in Warlords and Holy Men.
Because there is so little known about the Picts, much has been borrowed or invented. Although there are major errors of interpretation, I'll focus on one: the end of the Picts.
While Wagner calls the murder of the Pictish nobility a legend, he feels it's probably true: 'While not exactly history this story certainly explains how the Scots could inherit the land when "the Picts were far superior in arms"'. Wrong.
Such a murder would have been written down in church annals, the best source for dates and events in this period. Not a syllable about it in the contemporary annals.
Actually the kings of both Picts and Scots were decisively defeated by vikings in 839 and that was noted by the annalists: 'The heathens [Norsemen] won a battle against the battle the men of Foirtriu [Picts] and Eoganan son of Aengus [king of Scots], Bran son of Oegnus and others almost innumerable fell there.' --Annals of Ulster
Kenneth MacAlpin (Cinaed mac Ailpin) became king in a power vacuum and reinvigorated the resistance to the Norse. He became king of Picts in 843 and ruled about 17 years. All of the references to murder and destruction of the Picts date to a period hundreds of years after his death.
In case you were wondering, the annalists were not shy about reporting murder. The Chronicum Scottorum recorded the death of Muiredhach son of Eochaidh, king of Uladh (Ulster), who was murdered by his brothers, Aedh and Aengus, and others in AD 839.
Some may say the book is only an introduction and need not be too accurate. I disagree. I think it should be rewritten by a person with a qualification in Scottish History or Celtic Studies who is aware of recent scholarship.
Better introductory books:
Martin Carver, Surviving in Symbols: A Visit to the Pictish Nation, Historic Scotland
Angus Constam & Peter Dennis, The Strongholds of the Picts, Osprey
Stephen Driscoll, Alba: The Gaelic Kingdom of Scotland AD 800-1124, Historic Scotland
Nic Fields, D Spedaliere & S Sulemsohn Spedaliere, Hadrian's Wall, Osprey