Scotland: The Story of a Nation
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Scotland: The Story of a Nation

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  369 ratings  ·  53 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.
Mass Market Paperback, 734 pages
Published 2001 by HarperCollins (first published 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,041)
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Ron
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...more
Pete daPixie
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...more
Hazel West
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
Jonathan
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.
Mark
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
Samantha
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
Jim
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....more
Donald
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
Chris
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...more
Matt
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...more
Dasha
Fascinating.
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...more
Jenerictxn
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
Anne
Feb 12, 2011 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Craig
A very good read, and for those new to the learning of Scottish history, then you couldn't do better.
Greg
Jan 30, 2011 Greg is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book, very detailed, easy to read.
Angus Mcfarlane
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
Bill
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...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, b...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...more
Jacob
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
Beth
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
Arnel Thurman gonce
I picked this book up thinking I would regret it because I expected it to be boring history. While it is a history book, it's as far from boring as you can get. Scotland's history comes alive in these pages, a griping drama all the better because it's real and true. A fascinating read.
Dianna
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...more
Mandy
Jun 01, 2008 Mandy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those of Scottish descent and interest
There is a LOT of information packed into this 700 page history book about Scotland, and it would be WAY cool if I lived there or was visiting while I was reading this book because the author puts the present location of all of these historic locations and gives hints and pointers on how to get there and what you will find when you go there. I learned a lot about my history and enjoyed the way he told the story without hiding his obvious love for the country and the people of Scotland.
Rebecca
3.5

This book is a nice overview of Scottish history, and it has its high points, but it's a bit dry and difficult to get through quickly. Took me a long time, honestly, but it was particularly interesting how the author will point out where different events or battles took place with modern-day markers, so you could visit them if you wanted. Or, if you're familiar with the area, could even get an idea of where things are. Really made me want to visit Scotland.
Damian
I found this to be compelling, interesting and pretty thorough account of Scottish history.

At around 700 pages it’s a big read but you have to expect that from a book that traces Scotland’s history and evolution from 7000 BC to the 20’th century.

The writing style is accessible and Magnusson brings to life the characters and events that have formed Scottish history.

Highly recommended if you want to learn more about the history of Scotland.
Kevin
I mostly liked this book. One problem I had is my lack of knowledge of English history and this book assumes some of that knowledge. Also, it was very dense. I'm glad I read it, because I know more now that I did, but I might have retianed more if there weren't quite so many pages. Two more final minor complaints: I don't know how to pronounce a lot of Scottish place names and a couple of really detailed maps would have been useful.
Kirk Lowery
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.
Tori
This book is a very large, very dense read so proceed with caution. I read it right before I went to Scotland in the Summer of 2006. It goes from early Celtic history, and covers all the kings and queens of Scotland, with a bit of modern history. The most extensive pieces are on the kings and queens, but there is quite a bit about the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. Be patient; this book is worth it.
Sydnie Wood
This is pure history and a lot of it. My goal in reading this book was to really learn about the history of the country that I was living in. The cliff notes version is that it is a miracle that there are any Scots left in Scotland! Between religious wars, wars for land, wars for titles, wars for honor - it is no wonder that there are more Scots outside of Scotland than in it.
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67393
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.

Under Icelandic na...more
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The Vikings The Icelandic Sagas The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder Iceland Saga The Laxdaela Saga

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