The book jumps back and forth in time a lot, but I found it easy to follow. It was great to gain a better understanding of events that I have heard mentioned but never actually researched.
I would recommend this book if you find Scottish history interesting as it is very concise. A good overview of Scottish history, but the narrative gets very confused at times and he skips back and forward more than makes sense. Mar 22, Andi rated it really liked it. I walked into downtown Aberdeen and embarrassed myself mildly by asking the clerk — in my distinctive American accent — where the Scottish history section was.
He presumes a certain level of knowledge — particularly geographical — from the reader, but I love the broad strokes he applies to history. I am, though, in the I walked into downtown Aberdeen and embarrassed myself mildly by asking the clerk — in my distinctive American accent — where the Scottish history section was. M also tells me that Neil Oliver did a good documentary video series for the BBC by this same title; I might have to check that out as well.
Dec 18, Caron rated it did not like it. In condensing so vast a subject as the history of Scotland into a single book, Neil Oliver set himself a virtually impossible task. Instead of following one or two key themes, he has valiantly tried to cram in everything, but much of the time there's no room for detail to make it interesting. The result is page upon page of name dropping and brief, even dismissive, descriptions. Passages in the book are thoughtfully written, even poetic, but on the whole it is pure tedium.
Commencing his walk through time before the Big Bang because, he explains, historians are often criticised for not going back far enough , Oliver takes the reader on a wild, breath-taking and heart-breaking ride through the mists and mountains of Scotland — the rugged Highlands, green-hilled lowlands and mirror-surfaced lochs; from the time of the earliest peoples to the Romans, Angles, Britons, Picts, Saxons, and all the others who laid claim to the magnificent and difficult land that came to be known as Scotland.
Oliver crams it all into these pages. Poetic, moving, exciting, heart-wrenching — much like the beautiful country and its amazing hardy people, this is a terrific book that reads more like a wonderful work of fiction half the time or you wish it was , rather than the brutal, unapologetic reality it is.
Exposing the greed, enterprising spirit, creative and artistic endeavours, as well as boldness, foolishness and so much more of those hailing from all walks of life as well as every shore and island as well as city that forms Scotland, this is a marvellous introduction to the country and its rich and vibrant history and people — a people so many of us including me have descended from. Highly recommended for lovers of history, Scotland and cultural adventurers who enjoy an unforgettable read. Jul 19, Sarah rated it really liked it Shelves: Oliver's enthusiasm over telling Scotland's history led to creative metaphors and flowery language throughout.
Sometimes I wished it read more like a textbook — brief and to the point. But other times I loved the extra emotion. Scotland's history is one of hardship. Fighting within to determine who should be in power, fighting invaders, fighting the English, who never seemed to give them a break. Centuries of turmoil under an unstable monarchy make it clear to me what a stabilizing force democrac Oliver's enthusiasm over telling Scotland's history led to creative metaphors and flowery language throughout.
Centuries of turmoil under an unstable monarchy make it clear to me what a stabilizing force democracy can be. No need to argue over claims, legitimate or not. An election points to a very clear winner.
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A few dark spots in Scottish history: Aug 18, Craig Dickson rated it really liked it. This was an interesting and well-written history of Scotland, I enjoyed reading it. I picked it up in the discount bin in Bookworld on Princes St a year or two ago, but it took me a while to get round to reading it. Neil Oliver hedges his bets about when is the best time to start a history by going right back to Pangaea and Panthalassa, and following the geology of how Scotland formed.
Then he covers the ice ages and the peopling of Scotland, it's pre-history and goes right up to the modern era. It was impressively done, and I learned a lot of stuff about things that I kind of felt like I knew but actually didn't. Growing up somewhere there are things which seem so familiar you feel like you know them, but if asked to tell someone else it'd become pretty clear pretty quickly that you don't. That was part of my motivation to read this book - to get an actual grip on what happened during all those things I heard about. Like what was the deal with the Dal Riata and the Picts?
Why did the Romans build Hadrian's Wall? What was up with Robert the Bruce? This book answered all these questions and many more, in a clear and entertaining way. It suffered from the thing where I would get hazy about which King was which, but that's just down to the scope of the history, not a fault of the author. Anyway, it was cool and now I have a lot more knowledge of the history of my country which I can half-remember when it comes up again. Apr 04, Sam Culver rated it liked it.
Quick paced but never skipping detail, brimming with enthusiasm and clearly a deep love and passion for the subject. Never felt stodgy considering all that is discussed. For a history book to be readable for the masses, it has to maintain a sense of narrative, keep the excitement high and remain relatable.
BBC One - A History of Scotland - Episode guide
This book does all that. Fascinating history of Scotland's game of thrones through the millennia. Interesting personalities, stomach turning gore, mind numbing political machinations, and the rise and fall cycles of the country's fortunes. Political controversy aside, I have always enjoyed watching Neil Oliver. All-in-all, the book is a reasonably good overview of Sco Political controversy aside, I have always enjoyed watching Neil Oliver.
He begins at the dawn of time, and I can honestly say that it took a bit of perseverance for me to get through the initial chapter which dealt mostly with land formations and rocks. There is a point to it all, though, and perseverance pays off. By chapter three he had my full attention, and by the end he brings the reader full circle back to the land.
This really is an overview, something to whet your appetite for further reading and exploration. Lists for said further reading for each chapter can be found in the back of the book, which can provide a starting point for additional research in any period of interest. Feb 26, Melinda rated it it was amazing. I listened to this as an audiobook.
And man I love listening to Neil Oliver. His voice is delightful - in fact I suspect he could read me the phone directory and it would be good! That said, this guy is also an amazing historian and researcher. His work is always top notch. Told purely from the Scottish POV. Puts English history in interesting context when you hear about it from "the other side". Jan 18, Brian Willis rated it really liked it. Solid overview of Scottish history with focus on the more important moments in its development.
If you want the champion of the long version, which is riveting despite its length, see Magnus Magnusson's Scotland: The Story of a Nation. The 10 episode television version is also very engaging. What differentiates Oliver's version from others is his distinct focus on the Scottish perspective of things as distinct from Scotland as Solid overview of Scottish history with focus on the more important moments in its development.
What differentiates Oliver's version from others is his distinct focus on the Scottish perspective of things as distinct from Scotland as part of a British nation which, before you protest, is actually not all that common. As promised, Oliver also pulls the curtain away from all the myths and digs into the realities of the medieval and pre-medieval Scottish monarchs and clans. Few will have noticed it - but it was atmospheric and cleverly used in places.
To the minus points now - and unfortunately there are plenty. Firstly to the presenter: Without a doubt he was chosen because of his fan base in the TV series Coast. However he lacks the story telling ability required for a history series. Instead of whipping up the audience, it feels like we are being read to from a National Trust guidebook.
Lets us turn to the history covered. While I was impressed by the attempt to cover a wider breadth of history - the series failed to keep up this standard. Quickly it lurched in to devoting almost two episodes to Wallace and Bruce. Now there was a clear attempt to give a new angle on the story - but its hard to get interested in these topics that have been done to death on TV and probably in schools.
It felt that they lacked any kind of passionate storytelling. Schama's series worked so well because he made it a very personalised version of history - what he saw as important. A History of Scotland clearly has had a number of committees discussing what should be in the series and having read the newspaper reports on the series, it seems to be the case that it is the same people who are responsible for pumping out the usual dull Scottish history series like "In Search of Scotland".
BBC A History of Scotland 01of10
The cost is that the show feels like a Scottish history tour guide rather than an engaging personal journey by one man. And the cardinal sin has been committed! You never ever let other professors and specialists on to the show to talk about dusty old documents. This happened far to often in the series. If you have to refer to the documents then the presenter should do that and only in small doses. No long dialogues or as Oliver did at one point - whip out a edition of "Dialogue on the Laws of Kingship" - looked like he hadn't learned his lines and so resorted to reading from the book.
A school pupil could get aways with that - not a BBC History presenter. A History of Scotland has many more episodes to go. But it needs to be more radical and get away from its over-reliance on professor type history. Oliver could work as a presenter - but he needs to inject his own personality into the show - not read something that has been prepared for him. History documentaries like this are about one person taking a journey, its this journey that the audience will latch on to, and return to watch time and time again. Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.
At the dawn of the first millennium, there was no Scotland or England. In the first episode Oliver reveals the mystery of how the Gaelic Scottish Kingdom - Alba - was born, and why its role in one of the greatest battles ever fought on British soil defined the shape of Britain in the modern era. Oliver charts the 13th century story of the two men who helped transform the Gaelic kingdom of Alba into the Scotland of today. Robert Bruce's year struggle to secure the Scots' independence is one of the most important chapters in Scotland's story.
Oliver explores the role the Scottish church played in promoting Robert Bruce, the propaganda campaigns, both at home and abroad, and how the Declaration of Arbroath persuaded the Pope to finally recognise Scotland as an independent nation. At one time, Gaelic Scotland - the people and the language - was central to the identity of Scots.
This is the story of how the policies of the Stewart royal family in the 15th century led to the Gaels being perceived as rebels and outsiders.
Oliver describe how the ambitions of two of Scotland's Stuart monarchs were the driving force that united two ancient enemies, and set them on the road to the Great Britain we know today. While Mary Queen of Scots plotted to usurp Elizabeth I and seize the throne of England, her son James' dreamt of a more radical future: