There are numerous histories of Scotland, but those that work best envelop the reader in both fact and storytelling, acknowledging that the mists of time may have blurred truth and fiction, for much of Scottish history has relied on the oral tradition. The three histories explored below are written by men who had music in their soul and Scotland singing in their blood as they produced accessible, readable, epic Scottish history books.
A History of Scotland - Neil Oliver
Neil Oliver first presented A History of Scotland on television – thorough, visual, maybe one too many shots of a brooding Oliver contemplating Scottish landscape reeking history... The book that followed starts with a powerful description of Scotland’s formation and early beginnings; it ends with an analysis of Scotland in modern times. Whilst critics would have it that both television series and book have historical errors Oliver’s love of his country and his subject provide a wonderful introduction to Scottish history. There are numerous sources for those interested in further exploring particular historical periods or figures. Oliver studied Archaeology at Glasgow University; he is knowledgeable about his subject, passionate about his country and eloquently celebrates the joys and the horrors of Scotland’s past.
Scotland: The Story of a Nation – Magnus Magnusson
Magnus Magnusson is best known for presenting the long running television series Mastermind, which he hosted from 1972 to 1997. He was born in Iceland but spent the majority of his life in Scotland. His interest in history stretched from translating Icelandic sagas to a deep affinity with and fascination with Scotland’s past, evidenced both in writing and in active membership and leadership of organisations such as the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland. Scotland: The Story of a Nation is a meticulously researched history of Magnusson’s adopted nation. The book is divided into digestable sections which can be devoured easily, thus useful for those who want to read the book through and those who want to dip in and out to increase their knowledge of particular people, subjects or periods.
The Story of Scotland – Nigel Tranter
This book is written by a man who declaimed himself a storyteller not a historian. Tranter was a prolific writer who wrote a league of fictional works focusing on key periods and figures in Scottish history. His subjects included Macbeth, Queen Margaret, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. His book is a story – easy to read, sometimes difficult to digest, written in a style that may cause a reader to question and/or explore further areas of interest and debate. Once you have read this history you may well become hooked on Tranter’s other works...