For a small country, Scotland has no shortage of history; and you only have to visit a bookshop - now we can once more - to see that there is certainly no shortage of books about that history. When another one appears, there is, inevitably, a question to be asked about what it adds to what has gone before. It's nice to be able to report that while "Scotland's History" by Fiona Watson may not stand out on the bookshelf - it is not physically large - it is a superb book that seems destined actually to be read by a much higher proportion of those who buy it than we suspect is the norm for history books.
We've commented on the book's convenient size. It's too big for most pockets but will certainly find its way into your suitcase or handbag without much difficulty. Add to its portability its high production values and extensive, attractive and relevant illustrations and you have a book that is approachable, informative and enjoyable to read. All the more so because the author, Fiona Watson, has long since mastered the art of writing in a way that is accessible without being simplistic.
You get a sense of the author's approach from her introduction: "Scotland's vibrant and bloody past captures the imagination, inspiring books and films. Its many picturesque ruins making wonderful photographs. But there is far more to Scottish history than murder and mayhem, tragedy and betrayal. In the following pages we will fly through thousands of years of impressive achievement and painful change, a journey that will take us all over the country and into the homes and lives of kings and queens, nobles and churchmen, peasants and townsfolk.
The book is divided into ten chapters, beginning with "Settling In 9500 BC-AD 89" via "Tribes, Romans, Saints and Kings 79-900" and, later, "Union, Enlightenment and Empire 1700-1800", right through to "A Very Modern Scotland 1900-2000s". The divisions feel natural and the story flows well between them. This is a book we'd recommend as a starting point for anyone, whether adult or younger, interested in Scotland and its history. Our review copy will find its way to our 10-year-old grandson who, I am sure, will devour it voraciously.