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The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  451 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
From the 13th century to the middle of the 16th, outlaws and border lords reigned supreme on the contentious frontier between England and Scotland. Feud and terror, raid and reprisal, were the ordinary stuff of life, and power was held by the notorious border reivers: raiders and freebooters, plunderers and rustlers who robbed, murdered, and wreaked havoc. George MacDonald ...more
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Published October 1st 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing (first published January 28th 1972)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dave/Maggie Bean
Had it not been for fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, I’d never have discovered Fraser. During the dreary winter of 1981, I found myself imprisoned in the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters in Patrick Henry Village (Oftersheim, Federal Republic of Germany), with no friends and f**k-all to do. Fortunately, there was a Stars and Stripes bookstore ten minutes’ walk from the glorified tenement we called "home."

I suppose my parents felt sorry for me (and reckoned that if I had spending money, I’d go somewhere
...more
Tim Pendry

This nearly fifty year old account of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands in the sixteenth century is still frequently reprinted for good reason and deserves re-reading today by anyone with an interest in organised crime and what we now call 'homeland security'.

The author, a journalist, creator of the 'Flashman' series of popular novels, film script writer, former soldier and part-Anglo-Scot borderer himself, writes well and has an eye for a story so the book is generally a good read - although Frase
...more
J.M. Hushour
Oct 27, 2015 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a lot of books. I can't remember where most of them came from or what drove me to bring them home. They sit around for years and then, every so often, my eye drawn to one in particular that I've always meant to "get around to", I'll snag it up and read the damn thing.
I don't remember why I picked up "The Steel Bonnets". Maybe it was the awesome phrase "border reivers" right there on the cover. Maybe it was its lawless color scheme? Whatever the case, it's a damn fine read. It is exactly w
...more
Stevie
Sep 13, 2012 Stevie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always had an interest in the Border Reivers as my family, the Trotters, were a reiving clan in the Eastern March. The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser is now in my top five history books of all time. A fascinating read which really dissects the subject at hand. Fraser was a Scottish Borderer who lived in Carlisle and it really comes across he has a real sense of the people, place and culture on both sides of the Border. I am from Dumfries and was totally engrossed in the Maxwell- ...more
Mysti Berry
Feb 15, 2016 Mysti Berry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-writers
Fraser's writing is a treat. He helps even a daft American like me feel like I understand the Border Wars and the terrible events that created modern-day Scotland.
David
Jul 29, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: "A Common Reader" catalog 2002
Shelves: read-history
To: kindle-feedback@amazon.com

Subject: digitization of The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers by George MacDonald Fraser

I'd like to suggest some improvements to the Kindle edition of this excellent but obscure book, which I was pleasantly surprised to see available in this format.

I believe that this is this book was digitized from a paper version. Converting a book in this manner is probably a time-consuming labor of love, and those converting can be excused if they m
...more
Karen Floyd
Nov 01, 2013 Karen Floyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written and well researched as well as entertaining. In spite of my background in British history this was not a time or place I knew much about. For at least 200 years there was constant raiding back and forth across the English-Scottish border, involving widescale burning of towns, homes and fields, theft of livestock,grain and goods, murder, hostage-taking and blackmail,and blood feuds that went on for decades. It was rarely nationalistic, as families on both sides of the border allied w ...more
Duffy
Oct 16, 2011 Duffy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am mainly familiar with Fraser's Flashman series, so I wasn't really sure what to expect out of this.
If you're like me, and you enjoy the footnotes in the Flash Papers as much as I do, you will probably also enjoy this book.
Spanning basically a century of history in the very specific area of the England/Scotland border, it covers a unique time in which robbing, blackmail and murder became a way of life for many of the families living in the area, and in which the authorities on both sides of
...more
Tim
Jan 02, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The borderlands were chaotic and Fraser's attempts to organize his information are only partially successful. In the first part of the book he attempts to give his readers an overview of what the lives and times of the borderers were like. He taps many anecdotes to make his points, but the reader has a difficult time following the chronology. Later in the book, when Fraser attempts to tell a more chronological story, he refers frequently to his earlier tales. This is unfortunate. It takes a devo ...more
Will
Sep 11, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's rare that I find an historical book that combines great scholarship with genuine, entertaining readability. This classic from the author of the "Flashman" series is that rare bird, great history and great fun in one package. While he presents an unapologetic and sometimes harsh portrait of the free-wheeling, law unto themselves "riding families" of the Anglo-Scottish border, Fraser manages to be honest without getting shrilly judgmental. While hardly "loveable rogues", one can't help but ge ...more
Louise Musgrave
Jan 13, 2017 Louise Musgrave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With a name like mine I had to read this book about the Scottish English Border. Finding out about the utter cynicism of the English kings and their attitude toward Scotland, I am not surprised that so many Scots choose to vote for independence. We attacked them without cause or justification and pillaged, slaughtered and destroyed as much of their country as we could. It is not surprising that the result was an area where riding families tended to look after their own in defiance of any central ...more
Sherwood Smith
Reread: On this read, it struck me how many times Fraser sees fit to remind the reader that the Borderers were not romantic at all--that in fact they caused more mayhem than the mafia or like groups. I wonder if the impetus behind this book was the proliferation of romantic border stories inspired by Dorothy Dunnett.

Whatever the impetus, it's a fascinating study of a small group of people whose descendants have had a proportionally enormous impact on the English-speaking world. Not English, not
...more
Carole-Ann
Oct 11, 2015 Carole-Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not in my database (where I list all my books) so therefore I've read/bought this BEFORE computerisation :)

Actually, it would have been in the mid 80's; and I would have been led there by my increasing (and now, never ending) love of Dorothy Dunnett and her Lymond Chronicles.

So this book filled in ALL those historical gaps regarding the Borders; the Reivers; and the history thereof :) It is a quintissentially erudite book, so you need to absorb all the details and information George Mac
...more
Mike
Jan 27, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Did you know that the border between England and Scotland in the 16th century was so lawless that at least one Elizabethan official seriously proposed rebuilding Hadrian's Wall?

Frasier is a very engaging writer, and does a great job with this history. Much of the wit and humor of the Flashman series is evident here, as well as his good-natured despair about human nature and the prevalence of injustice. (The border reivers are exposed as base predators, and their treatment by the authorities was
...more
Robert Musgrove
Mar 06, 2013 Robert Musgrove rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TSB is a history of the borderlands between England and Scotland, told by George McDonald Fraser, who authored the Flashman series of some eyars ago. It is a fascinating read to be, as that is the original home land of the Musgroves and because it is a fascinating story of a people's response to almost unrelenting hardship and warfare. The borderlande was contiually overrun by either the English or the Scottish armies for serveral hundred years. What evolved was a culture of feud, violence aned ...more
Bill
Feb 21, 2012 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I devoured Fraser's Flashman series a few years ago, and found them to be amongst the great reading adventures I've ever had. Since then, I decided to conquer the rest of his canon. The Steel Bonnets is a history of the border troubles between England and Scotland in the late 1500's. At times too in depth for the casual reader, it was still worth the trouble, if only to understand better understand not only the history between these peoples.
John
Jun 02, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fraser was a novelist (Flashman series), a Hollywood screenwriter (Three and Four Musketeers and others), and a respected semi-pro historian. This book is an eccentric and readable report of extensive research he did on the semi-outlaw culture along the English-Scottish border in the 13th-15th centuries. The "Marches."I'd say it would help to have a serious interest in this subject... Great Britain's wild west.
Gena
Apr 08, 2012 Gena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very well written book about a particular part of Scottish history. If you have Scottish border-clan ancestry, or are particularly interested in that region, I would highly reccommend this book. Fraser does a great job of making the factual stuff interesting and telling the story of the people involved. Having said that, it is a book of non-fiction and I would not recommend it to people who are looking for a light read.
Ronald
Jun 02, 2011 Ronald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who believes that the Scots are basically Englishmen in kilts should read this book, thereby growing in wisdom. George MacDonald Fraser is the author of the sort-of historical Flashman novels. The wit and humor of Flashy is evident in this story of the almost perpetual conflict along the border between these two proud and touchy nations fated to occupy the same small island.
Drew Binnie
I enjoyed the Flashman series immensely, but at times I found this book dry and quite difficult. It was an eye opener discovering how violent and treacherous my ancestors had once been. I will now be more tolerant of some of the behaviour I see in the streets of Edinburgh! The tactics of hot troding and the of setting fire to your own property made for interesting talk when I went to the pub.
Carol
Apr 11, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good reference book for something studying the Border Reviers or trying to find out more about their family history. A but tedious. My book mark is still at page 1999. Not a book to curl up with! Well documented.
Tom
Mar 06, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-history
I owned this for awhile and then lost my copy. Luckily, while in England I found a copy and snached it up(even though the Pound was worth at least $2. A great readable history of this region of England and Scotland by a great wtiter!
Trish
Jan 18, 2009 Trish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Written by the author of the Flashman series, The Steel Bonnets is actual a straight history book - although he later wrote at least one fiction book in the same period and geographical area. Well written and very interesting.
Sally
Oct 19, 2010 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good history of the Scottish border region and the Border Reivers who lived there. It's well narrated and very thorough in detailing the reality of the feudal, violent, bloody, retributional culture with no hint of romance to confuse the issues at stake to the people involved.
Sally
A very good history of the Scottish border region and the Border Reivers who lived there. It's well narrated and very thorough in detailing the reality of the feudal, violent, bloody, retributional culture with no hint of romance to confuse the issues at stake to the people involved.
Tammy Andrew
Very good read, but very much a historical accounting. I prefer history in the form of historical novels and do not recommend this as an escape or evening reading book, but would work very well as part of a college course since I felt I should be taking notes and creating charts as I progressed
Stephen
Jan 14, 2015 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I like Scottish and English history, respected this book for telling a story I knew nothing of which does not cast glory on Scotland -- but those were terrible times for all. The Barbary Pirates or the Vikings had nothing on the Border Reivers.
Peter
Mar 10, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great read
Roger
That my family was the "Marshall in Dodge" in a very savage era (the Scottish/English Border) in a very savage time (15th & 16th centuries).
Helen
Jan 13, 2017 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant picture of these wild men who terrorised the Borders for centuries. It was an insight into their world that should be required reading.
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He is best known for his Flashman series of historical novels, purportedly written by Harry Flashman, a fictional coward and bully originally created by Thomas Hughes in Tom Brown's School Days. The novels are presented as "packets" of memoirs written by the nonagenarian Flashman, who looks back on his days as a hero of the British Army during the 19th century. The series begins with Flashman, and ...more
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“On occasion they were cut down in cold blood or hanged on the spot; in the saying of the Border, which has passed into the language, they had been taken “red-hand”, which was “in the deede doinge”, and the law was not likely to call a trod-follower to account if his rage got the better of him and he despatched a reiver out of” 2 likes
“And both were more fortunate than Hecky Noble who, within a few nights of Mrs Hetherington’s widowhood, was a victim of that gay desperado, Dickie Armstrong of Dryhope,49 and his 100 jolly followers. Apart from reiving a herd of 200 head, and destroying nine houses, the raiders also burned alive Hecky’s son John, and his daughter-in-law, who was pregnant.” 2 likes
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