Scotland has never been what you might call a peaceful place. Throughout recorded history (and, doubtless, before it) what is now Scotland has been the subject of conflict, whether between Romans and Caledonians; between Scots and Picts; between Picts and Angles; between Scots and Vikings; between, for centuries, Scots and English; or because of differences of view about religion or dynastic succession.
"Killing Fields of Scotland: AD83 to 1746" by R. J. M. Pugh takes an encyclopedic approach to the battles that have been fought on Scottish (or, sometimes, northern English) soil, starting with the hard to pin down Battle of Mons Graupius in AD83, and concluding with the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746. The book is divided into chapters, each covering a period of Scottish history, and within each chapter an introductory section sets the wider scene before each significant battle that took place is covered. The result is a essential work of reference that should be on the shelf of anyone interested in the history, and in particular the military history, of Scotland. Many of those drawn to the book will know about many of the battles described in its pages, but the sheer number that took place will still come as a surprise to most readers. For us, the book will have a lasting value as a means of checking the background to the large number of less familiar battles that it covers.
If we have a regret, it is that a book about battles cries out for better maps. We are given three maps of Scotland showing the general location of the battles covered within each era, and fourteen of the battles covered are given their own maps. The battle maps tend to be small in size and confined to a corner of a page, however, and we feel that an opportunity was missed in not marrying the superbly researched text to a set of maps that did it justice: full page maps for each battle and more "scene setting" maps. We were also surprised to find the author describe the Glencoe Massacre, having set out the political background fairly, in terms of an atrocity committed by Campbells, rather than one committed by government troops, some of whom happened to be Campbells. Describing this event as if it were another in a long line of clan conflicts tends to let the government of the day off the hook for ordering and executing such an appalling act.