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Scotland: The Story Of A Nation

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  601 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
A vivid look at Scotland's long and difficult road to nationhood, re-exploring some cherished myths and unearthing a wealth of fascinating new detail.
Paperback, 752 pages
Published November 5th 2001 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, (first published 2000)
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K.M. Weiland
Mar 05, 2016 K.M. Weiland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is magnum opus. It is a sprawling, ambitious, fascinating exploration of the history of one of the most endlessly romanticized countries on the planet. It starts a bit slow with the Ancient Era, then dives into the kind of anecdotes and character studies that bring history to life. As soon as closed the cover, I wanted to just start it all over again.
Jul 28, 2012 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Well, it took me a while, but I finally finished it. Firstly, I must begin by saying that Magnus Magnusson's Scotland is definitely in the popular history category. However, I thought it was a good basic introduction, or broad overview, of Scottish history. I had previously done intensive reading and research on particular areas of Scottish history (particularly the Reformation and Enlightenment eras), but I had never read a general history of Scotland. This book gave me a much better view of th ...more
Hazel West
Oct 24, 2011 Hazel West rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-histories
This book has been my companion since I started to first study Scotland's history. Magnusson is a great author in that he write clearly and easy to understand and is also very engaging. This book is pretty much an overview of all of Scotland's history and may not be the best for studying one particular subject, but is great for the novice. I use it all the time as a reference when I need a quick look-up. I have a friendly battered paperback with notes scrawled all through it that shows my devoti ...more
Dec 25, 2010 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, maps
Not your grandfather's history book. At 700+ pages, it's not light reading. More of a history-cum-travelogue. Using Walter Scott's The Miscellaneous Works Of Sir Walter Scott: Tales Of A Grandfather, History Of Scotland as his framing story and whipping boy, Magnusson recasts the entirety of Scottish history in a more modern vein than Scott's nineteenth century work.

The cover blurb advertises this as a "traditional" history. If by that they mean heavy on politics and battles, it is. Not a lot of
Great information, and a really thorough overview of Scottish history. Some of the place references that are relative to modern-day UK highways might not be so useful for an American like myself, but otherwise all good info.
Only thing is, it's just SO dense that it's hard to get through. Took me the better part of a year, and I'd say maybe 10% of it really stuck. I'd sacrifice some of the detail for something that's a little more engaging so as to encourage some better retention.
Feb 22, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentlyread
At 750 pages, maybe not the book you'd pack in the carry-on luggage--but an excellent, very readable yet meticulously detailed history of Scotland. Besides his friendly prose and comprehensiveness, what I like about Magnusson's approach is that he relates his historical narrative at every point to the historical monuments, markers, and ongoing commemorative projects that travelers want to know about (and he gives their exact location, unconcerned that modern highway numbers or commercial landmar ...more
Sir Walter Scott wrote "A Grandfather's Tale" which became something of a standard Scottish history text. But Scott skipped over things that didn't fit with his views (pro union w/ England, Protestant). Magnus Magnusson starts many of his chapters w/ excerpts from "A Grandfather's Tale" but he goes beyond Scott, beginning with the earliest evidence of man in Scotland, around 7,000 B.C.

The author dispels some myths like Robert Bruce being confronted by William Wallace after the Battle of Falkirk.
Jan 20, 2010 Donald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel a great sense of accomplishment at finishing this book. From Neolithic times up to the return of the Scottish parliament, this book gives a great look at Scottish history. Having taken a British history class in college, it was nice to see Scotland's history and involvement in the Union fleshed out. The battle descriptions are very good to the point of being able to visualize what was going on. I liked how the author would start many chapters or sections with the way something (a field, a ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-scotland
While this book is thick, though not as thick as my complete works of Shakespeare, it is a good book.

Some historians write in a very dry style. I have been, for instance, trying to read a book about Irish Nationalism for six years, but the lanuage is so dry, I haven't been able to finish it yet. Magnusson, thank heavens, does not have a dry style. His style is engaging, almost a story telling style. Besides relating the bare bones of history, he also includes ancedotes, in particular a hugely f
Aug 09, 2011 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My ancestry does not include much in the way of ethnic color, but the Scots provide most of what there is. Indeed, in the past century the Scottish branch of the family, at some remove, has included a fighter pilot and war hero, a celebrated poet, and two successful movie stars. So it's with a nod to our Caledonian ancestors that we toast each other on the holidays, and I seized on the opportunity to take my bride to Scotland when I got married.

So it was with some surprise that I discovered that
Oct 12, 2008 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I'll save you the trouble of reading and give you some of the highlights: 1) Scots are bloody, dangerously aggressive people with short attention spans - loved starting wars and could win some battles but lost interest before the war was over.. 2) The Duke of Argyll is one bad mother . . . shut your mouth. 3) The movie BraveHeart did lead to the Scotland getting its own parliament for the first time since the 1700s. Seriously.

This book had some great chapters and others that were not so hot. Th
Aug 26, 2010 Dasha rated it really liked it
Shelves: scotland-my-love
I got all the way to Charles II where my interest started to wane, and then school started, blah blah.
But still an excellent primer in the history of Scottish state and monarchy. I do wish there was a little more reference to how actual people lived. One of the kings ruled for a really long time and we learned all about his wars and wives and then at the very end of the chapter Magnusson says well the plague was going on for most of his reign. What?! A 50 year plague? That killed a t
Brian Willis
Jul 29, 2015 Brian Willis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superbly through and deep history of Scotland from the Scottish perspective. Each monarch is profiled and given an even handed treatment, often given the benefit of the doubt when possible. Battles are throughly charted and illustrated and the political maneuvering is the focus. Magnusson ends after the Jacobite rebellion, and then relates the myth building of Sir Walter Scott as well as an epilogue detailing the process towards the devolution of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. A big read, bu ...more
Aug 07, 2009 Jenerictxn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a thick book!! And I really enjoyed most of the book! The last but coming into the 1940's and on were okay. My family came to America from Great Britain with the Pilgrims practically so I had no sense of their homelands history. Unlike my husbands whose family came from Glasgow to the US in 1912. It was very fascinating and will pick it up and read this book every now and again, just to re-read certain facts of historical significance. Now I just need a book about England and Ireland tha ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teens and adults
Shelves: historical, scotland
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though it was a history of a country, this author writes with imagination and wit and it is almost like reading a novel. I find it hard sometimes to read about the massacre at Glencoe and the Battle of Culloden. Mr. Magnusson shows all of the horrors that the people of this tiny country have gone through over hundreds of years, but have still managed to come out with their heads held high and their pride in their country intact. Definitely highly recommended.
Jan 30, 2011 Greg is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book, very detailed, easy to read.
Sep 24, 2014 Dewey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The history of Scotland is a story that many today marvel about, having seen the movie Braveheart and wondering why a country so associated with fighting for freedom isn't actually free (or, to put it in todays terms, politically independent). Magnus Magnusson, an intellectual Icelander with a passion for Scottish history, tells Scotlands story in this single volume that answers many questions for those wanting to look beyond the cinematic, such as who Robert the Bruce actually was, how importan ...more
Timothy McNeil
I want to address the issues I have with Magnus Magnusson's Scotland: The Story of a Nation , because it is somewhat clear that my expectations/foreknowledge are not in step with those who praise the book.

I was not expecting the story of the "Nation" of Scotland to be one wholly set-up as a counterbalance to Sir Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather (as a natural born citizen of the United States of America, I not only have not attached some level of mythos to the persona and works of Scott,
Jun 06, 2016 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Each chapter in this somewhat quirky history is preceded by a summary of the events to be discussed as they were described by Walter Scott (1771- 1832) in Tales of a Grandfather. As explained by the Walter Scott Digital Archive of Edinburgh University Library:

"While putting the finishing touches to his Life of Napoleon in May 1827, Scott had the idea of writing a History of Scotland addressed to his six-year-old grandchild . . . The project was partly inspired by the success of John Wilson Croke
Angus Mcfarlane
Aug 16, 2011 Angus Mcfarlane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, reviewed
Little did I know that the history of Scotland would be as fascinating, if not moreso, than 'English' history. Indeed, would England have been the nation it was if not for Scotland (and wales, ans Ireland, perhaps)? As might be expecte ethos stretches from the early celts through the Norse influences to the more modern history made famous by Wallace, the Stewart's and rob Roy, through to the devolution to a Scottish parliament, although the detailed story finishes at the battle of culloden in 17 ...more
Deborah Brown
For the most part, this book - especially in combination with David Starkey's "Monarchy" series on Netflix, was an entertaining overview of Scotland's Kings and Queens. Without a wider knowledge of the time periods, of course, I can't speak as to the accuracy; although I believe it to be reasonably so, given the author's reputation. He was certainly engaging.

That said, I had two minor complaints:

First, while the work covers Scotland's organized government and lowland politics, it tends to gloss
Matthew Lipson
Yes, after 14 years I finished this book.

I started this book when my eldest child was born. It lived in the bottom of her stroller, and when she was asleep I read.

The book grabbed me. Magnusson's grip on ancient to 18th century Scotland is impressive. The stories he regales you with from the Picts to the times of Bruce and Wallace to what happened afterwards still stick with me. The book could be used by someone visiting Scotland as he give directions to little seen monuments and insights of the
Jun 07, 2007 Jacob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Magnusson's "Scotland: The Story of a Nation" lacked the eloquence and detail of a Massie or Ambrose book but still gave a solid and at times inspiring account of Scottish History. I imagine it's greatest value would be as a reference for those seeking information as it was quite a challenge to read cover-to-cover and took me close to a year. Also it skips the 19th century except for a segue on Sir Walter Scott and breezes through the 20th century in about 30 pages. A more apt title would be A H ...more
To be honest, I did not read this book from start to finish. By the time I got to Queen Mary and John Knox I was dissatisfied with the lack of detail in biographical information, and the inescapable impact religious leaders and factions had on the shaping of the nation that was not expounded on. I know Scotland has a long, and rich history with many key characters to try to develop in summary, but this particular book bogged me down with information on monuments and directions to certain points ...more
Pete daPixie
Oct 25, 2011 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-scots
A thoroughly enjoyable romp through the heather, one epic journey from the megalithic to the end of the twentieth century. Magnus's 'Scotland-The Story of a Nation' is a mega biblion. Some seven hundred pages written in a warm and easy style.
I have come across many details here that I thought I knew, many more that I half knew, but by far all exceeded by historical facts that are completely new to me. I would readily recommend this journey in search of statehood, not just for those of Scotti or
Apr 17, 2016 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It should have been titled Scotland: the Story of William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots. It glossed over the Scottish Enlightenment and didn't go very much in depth in any one time period. Wallace and Mary being the exception. They both had two very long chapters devoted solely to them while ever other time period/person only got one chapter. Even the Bonnie Prince didn't get as many pages as those two. But, it's good for what it is. A shallow story but a long timeline with most of the focus o ...more
Randy Baker
Feb 02, 2017 Randy Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough history of Scotland. Based on Tales of a Grandfather by Sir Walter Scott and organized primarily into chapters for each member of the Scottish Royal Dynasty, it covers a period of mainly 1200 years of the royal lineage. Interesting reading and provides the reader with a solid framework of the succession, relations with England, and even the early inhabitants.

Can sometimes gloss over aspects that leave the reader asking questions, but presumably necessary to cover such a large period i
Mar 16, 2008 Dianna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I am on Chapter 17, a little bit less than half-way done with the book. I have to say that this book is a little hard to follow. Sometimes I will be following along just fine and other times it will be like there are two different authors and the other author took over. Those times the reading seems to be somewhat tedious. There is a lot of information in the book. It makes me want to write a historical novel about Scotland kind of like how Tolstoy wrote War and Peace.

9/23/08 I finally finished
I began reading this book before I'd heard about the Scottish independence referendum, so it was very good timing. Reading this excellent book couldn't fail to make me wish that the independence vote had won.

The late Mr Magnusson did a sterling job of breathing life into the long and fascinating history of Scotland, right back to before the Romans came knocking. Magnus Magnusson wrote a very readable book, full of the information you need but presented in an entertaining way. Clearly Mr Magnusso
Kirk Lowery
Jul 29, 2012 Kirk Lowery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Magnusson often adds "tour guide book" type of information, especially in the footnotes. (I like this.) As others have noted, the book focuses on the political history of Scotland, especially upon the royal succession. It was my first book on Scottish history, and I'd recommend it to anyone who, like me, doesn't know much about Scotland's history. Now I'm ready for a broader history, with more than just politics.
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Magnus Magnusson, KBE, was an Icelandic television presenter, journalist, translator and writer. He was born in Iceland but lived in Scotland for almost all of his life, although he never took British citizenship. He came to prominence as a BBC television journalist, and was best known as the presenter of the BBC television quiz programme Mastermind, which he hosted for 25 years.

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