Scotland: A History

Scotland: A History

Scotland: A History

Scotland: A History

Synopsis

Scottish history has long been dominated by the romantic tales of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. But the explosion of serious historical research in the last half-century has fueled a keen desire for a better-informed and more satisfying understanding of the Scottish past.
This attractively designed book--boasting scores of illustrations, include eight color plates--brings together the leading authorities on Scottish history, who range from Roman times until the present day, offering a more accurate and sophisticated portrait of Scotland through the ages. The contributors take us from medieval Scotland, to the crisis created by Mary Queen of Scots and the trauma of Reformation, to the reign of James VI and the Union of the Crowns (1603). They discuss the seventeenth century, when a stern Calvinist Kirk launched an unprecedented attack on music, dancing, drama, and drinking, and the remarkable transformation of enlightenment Scotland, when the small nation became a great force in European literature, with such eminent figures as David Hume, Adam Smith, Robert Burns, and James Boswell. We discover that in the nineteenth century the Scottish economy, by some criteria, outpaced the rest of Britain, and its preeminence in heavy engineering was unquestioned. And we follow Scotland through the turbulent twentieth century, enduring two world wars and a depression, before ending on a high note, with Scotland enjoying its first parliament in three hundred years.
What emerges here is a portrait of a confident people who slowly built an important place for themselves in the wider world--the story of a remarkably positive, assured, and successful kingdom.

Excerpt

'Stands Scotland where it did?' asked Macduff in Shakespeare's Macbeth. 'Alas, poor country!' answered Ross. 'Almost afraid to know itself!' This wellknown quotation from that play which has given us so many quotations offers a quite remarkable number of interpretations when thinking about Scotland from the early medieval period to the modern age. Macbeth was, of course, written at one of the great pivotal times in Scottish history, shortly after the Union of the Crowns of 1603. Its author's attempt to dramatize 'real' Scottish history, its sympathetic portrayal of a kingdom rent by murder, self-ambition, total failure of loyalty, on the verge of being rescued by the great Malcolm Canmore—akin, in that sense, to the similar portrayal of that darkest of periods of English history, the reign of Richard III, before the advent of Henry Tudor—stands in very sharp contrast to the savage and utterly fictitious James IV by Robert Green of 1599; Green tapped into English hostility to the likely union with Scotland, Shakespeare to acceptance of it, however grudging. In other words, the English succession crisis made Scotland very centre-stage. That refers to a particular historical moment. But one might extrapolate from that the more general point that historiographically Scotland has had had to fight hard against the normal instinct of marginalization; famously, Scots are very interested in their past, real or invented, but who else is? Macbeth, for example, picks up on Scottish witchcraft, and no wonder in view of the royal demonologist who inherited the English throne in 1603. But how many collections of essays on witchcraft trawl through Europe, include England, which was not a major witch-persecuting society, but ignore Scotland, which was? Scottish historians, especially in the last half-century, have fought very hard to demonstrate that Scotland—Scottish history—does not stand where it did. 'To know itself' is not a matter of fear, but confidence. It is therefore very pleasurable to acknowledge Oxford University Press's agreement with that; already there is an Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, but that was based on the chronological history of England, although incorporating comment on Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. This volume, however, is one of a number of recent OUP publications on Scottish history, and the editors and . . .

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