"Edinburgh History Tour" by Liz Hanson does exactly what it says on the cover. This pocket-sized book provides its readers with a tour of the modern city that illuminates its fascinating, turbulent and often unpleasant history. As the author says in her introduction: "The history of Edinburgh is not for the faint-hearted. Between the foundation of the royal burgh in 1130 and the cosmopolitan city of today, there are nearly nine centuries packed with drama, battles, uprisings and religious convolutions interlaced with innovation, discovery, achievement and creativity. Much of the history is stitched together with a jagged thread - that of the struggle against domination of England."
Thus starts an introduction that covers the time period between the volcanic eruptions that helped create the city's topography to the award of UNESCO world heritage site status to both Old and New Towns. As a very quick primer to the city's history, it does a pretty good job. The rest of the book is made up of 44 double-page spreads and a single: one about each of 45 points of interest across Edinburgh and Leith, preceded by a full colour map that locates the points of interest. Each spread has one, or sometimes two, old images depicting its subject, with one covering the entire available space. Set into each large image is a paragraph or two of text about the subject of the spread.
You can get a sense of the intended market for a book such as this from the selection of subjects covered. The intended market for "Edinburgh History Tour" seems to be those visiting (in our view) the best city on Earth for the first time. That's not a criticism: and given the huge number of first time visitors coming to the city every year, neither is it much of a constraint on sales. The 45 subjects covered include all those you'd hope would be covered. Those who already know the city well are unlikely to find much here that will be novel or surprising (though we hadn't been aware that remains of the old steamer piers in Leith are still there), but the presentation and sheer usability of the book means it is likely to be of quite wide interest. I've certainly been thinking of using it as a checklist of interesting things to form the basis for a walk around Edinburgh with an eight year old grandson, to show him rather more than he's seen already of his local city.