Review

Scotland: The Story of a Nation

by Magnus Magnusson



"History on the hoof" is how Magnus Magnusson describes his
approach to the massive subject of the history of Scotland. This
dynamic work encompasses the geology, prehistory, ethnicities,
politics and cultural events that are all elements in the answer to
the question, "What does it mean to be Scots?"

The story begins with a description of how the distinctive terrain
of the land evolved. The craggy shoreline, outlying islands and
Highland hills were key factors in who came to live in Scotland and
what they had to do to defend it, starting with Scotland's first
tribes. Mr. Magnusson gives a lively account of the Picts, Scots,
Gaels and Britons who skirmished among themselves until they banded
together to fight Viking invaders from the north and, later, Roman
invaders from the south. Scotland has always seen its share of
warfare, largely from England. Independence from England has been a
constant struggle for Scotland and recounting its battles
introduces a wealth of fascinating characters from William Wallace
(whose adventures and sorry ending readers may remember from the
film Braveheart) through the unlucky Stewarts. We also meet
the real-life MacBeth; his chapter details his ill-starred rise to
power and notes the differences between the actual history and the
story we all know from Shakespeare's play.

However, if there is a literary figure that serves as an
illuminating spirit for SCOTLAND: The Story of a Nation, that
person must be Sir Walter Scott. One of Scotland's most successful
novelists, with twenty-seven historical romances concerning
Scotland to his credit, he wrote a history of Scotland and
dedicated it to his grandson. Excerpts from TALES OF A GRANDFATHER
begin every chapter of SCOTLAND and Mr. Magnusson takes careful
note of the events that inspired Sir Walter Scott and how his firm
pro-English philosophy colored his works.

What Magnus Magnusson and Sir Walter Scott have in common is a
sense that storytelling informs history. There are so many vivid
legends and people in Scottish history that writing a compendium
organizing them all into a swift and logical narrative is no small
accomplishment. Also, while the book does not pretend to be a
travel guide, it offers useful tips for finding the monuments and
landmarks that represent the nation's history. Bring it with you
when you travel.

SCOTLAND: The Story of a Nation is indispensable for those who
simply wish to know more --- and for those who wish to know
everything --- about Scotland, its past and present.

Reviewed by Colleen Quinn (CQuinn9368@yahoo.com) on January 23, 2011

Scotland: The Story of a Nation
by Magnus Magnusson

  • Publication Date: January 17, 2003
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802139329
  • ISBN-13: 9780802139320