Scotland: The Story of a Nation Paperback – Illustrated, January 17, 2003
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A very readable, traditional history told as a tale from its beginnings up to now.”Neal Ascherson, The Observer (London)
Lovers of history, literature, romance, or adventure will, after the first pages, be pulled irresistibly to the end. Their only regret after reaching it may be [waiting] for a sequel.”Booklist
A well-told traditional history.” The Washington Post
- Publisher : Grove Press; Illustrated edition (January 17, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 752 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802139329
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802139320
- Item Weight : 2.35 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.61 x 8.98 inches
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
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The book, while well-written, appears to have been composed in rote fashion. Each chapter is headed by an excerpt from Sir Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather, and then a paragraph or two about the current geographical location of what is referenced in the Tales. Almost every chapter starts this way. And then the chapters go into great detail about the kings, queens and historic personages: the Romans, the Picts, Robert The Bruce, William Wallace, and then fifteen straight chapters about the individual royalty - over 350 pages.
Why only two stars? For over one hundred years (ca. 1750 - 1850), Scots were subject to the Highland Clearances, where tenant farmers were evicted from their land by the aristocratic owners, and the use of the land changed from farming to sheep herding. People starved, and this was the beginning of the Scottish emigration.
And let's put the Clearance into some perspective in this book. On one page of the book, the author quotes another authority who states that, "In the Highlands there was the break-up of the old clan land-systems and the development of individual crofting tenancies, and of course the beginning of the great Highland Clearances of land for sheep." And on another page, "...the irreversible decline of indigenous Highland culture, which was being subjected to the barbarous severities of the Highland Clearances (1750-1850), when thousands of impoverished clansmen were ejected from their homes to make way for large-scale sheep-farming."
That's it. The only mention of the Highland Clearances is part of a quote on one page, and part of a small paragraph on another page.
The book's text totals over 690 pages, and less than 100 words are spent on what was probably the major Scottish social upheaval. And this imbalance gets even worse. Sir Walter Scott, the major Scottish author, is afforded thirty full pages, and that is where, for all intents and purposes, the book ends - in 1832. An Epilogue follows, a full twenty-nine pages, which takes the story up to the year 2000.
To put it bluntly, this overly unbalanced history is just what the cover blurb says: "A well-told traditional history." I was looking for a bit more, in addition to the kings and queens, the palace intrigues, and the Act of Union which forever wed Scotland (and its loss of independence) to England, and resulted in Great Britain.
What the people were going through in their daily lives is absent from this history, and we're left with a sterile text book recitation of which king followed which, what the dynasties were, how long the kings lived, and how they died - all without any cognizance of what was going on outside the palace walls. Without a doubt, primary documentary evidence is probably scant related to the everyday life of a tenant farmer. However, there appears to have been little or no effort made to dig deeper than regency.
I would recommend this book for the broad strokes. I am looking for other historical books to refine what I have learned.