Illustrated History of Scotland
Text by Chris Tabraham, photos
by Colin Baxter
A beautiful 'coffee table' type book, but with excellent
factual content to read as well.
In combination, this
is the rarest of all history books - it is not just fact
filled, but also interesting, readable,
There's much more to Scotland
than whisky, tartan, and kilts. This book looks at
Scotland's history - from early pre-history and mysterious stone
circles similar to Stonehenge, up to the present day and the new
parliament building, still under construction.
Baxter's book does double duty both as a 'coffee table' book and as a
useful historical text. If you're interested in Scotland,
or considering visiting the country, this will be very helpful
and will enable you to make sense of the various phases of
Scotland's history and its leading figures.
About the Book
The large hard-covered book
measures 9½" x 12", and with 224 pages, is an inch
thick. The book is heavy - it weighs just over 3½ lbs.
The book is printed onto
good quality white paper and has 190 photos (almost one on every
page), either historical photos in black and white or more recent
photos in color. However, although liberally illustrated
with high quality images, there is still plenty of text - perhaps two thirds of the pages contain well written
The Illustrated History
of Scotland was published in March
The book sells for $35, and can be obtained through
(currently for only $23.80, making it a great bargain) as well
as most other regular outlets.
The book is in ten chapters,
covering major sections of Scottish history, ranging from its
early years to the chapter titled 'Scotland.com' which covers
the present and immediate future.
In the first chapter, we
are introduced to the village of Skara Brae, Northern Europe's
best preserved stone-age village, and dating back 5000+ years.
From that early starting point, Scotland's history is then
covered all the way through to the present day.
A map showing many of the
featured locations is provided at the front. At the back
is an interesting summary chronology, plus a complete index and
General Comments and
The Illustrated History
of Scotland can be
enjoyed on different levels. At the most simplistic level,
you can simply flip through it, stopping at interesting
pictures, reading the descriptive captions, and perhaps then
skimming through a bit of the nearby related text. As a
coffee table type book, it meets the high standards of printing
and photography you'd hope for.
For a slightly more indepth
appreciation, the book has many highlighted one and two page
articles that cover interesting elements of Scottish history and
culture. These can be read in any order, without needing
to be carefully reading through the entire text from page 1 to
The true Scottish enthusiast
will, however, choose to do exactly this - read the complete
text from start to finish.
The writing style is clean
and crisp, rather than dry and scholarly. It does a lot
more than just recite historical facts. It adds some
interesting personal observation and commentary, and puts the
historical facts into context, commenting on their implications
to ordinary Scottish people, and making the historical events
seem much more meaningful and relevant.
Author Chris Tabraham has
impeccable credentials to write such a book. He has a
degree in ancient and medieval history and archeology, and is
the Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland.
His erudition flows effortlessly through the book.
Photographer Colin Baxter is
widely published and his work makes a notable contribution to
the look and feel of this book
Perhaps you saw the Mel
Gibson film of Braveheart. I looked in the index for
Braveheart and it was not listed, but if you knew the actual
name of Mel's character was William Wallace, then you'd find
plenty of interesting information about those troubled times and
the men who featured in them, and indeed the archetypically
Victorian National Wallace Monument
features prominently on the book's cover - just as, in
real life, it dominates the countryside for many miles around
(located just outside Stirling, and not far from Glasgow).
Or maybe you want to know
something about Scotland's national drink, the 'water of life' -
whisky. There is a helpful two page featurette that
provides an excellent exposition of the history and evolution of
whisky in Scotland.
But if you wanted to
understand something of the evolution and meaning of Scottish
tartans (which were even banned for a while so as to suppress
Scottish nationalism), or if you wanted
to know what Scottish men wear underneath their kilts, you'll
not be so fortunate. Neither tartan nor kilt is listed in
the index, and the oft speculated upon answer to the second question will
hopefully remain a mystery to you!
(Note that a companion
volume - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Scotland, due to be
published in October 04, may address these issues.)
The book could certainly
contain more content, but its objective is to provide you with a
fair and interesting overview of Scottish history rather than a
complete recitation of every fact, no matter how minor. The book
gives an excellent, readable, and comprehensive introduction to
Scotland and its history. And doubtless some of the
omissions from this book (which are generally more social than
historical) will be included in the companion book.
If you're wanting to better
understand the country before visiting, or want a memento of a
visit previously enjoyed, this would be an excellent choice.
The Illustrated History
of Scotland is an interesting,
appealing, and enjoyable book. Whether you're seriously
interested in Scotland or just a casual reader, you'll find
plenty to enjoy in this beautifully presented book.
Its list price of $35 is in line with other high quality books, and with the current
low price of only $23.80 through
it is very good value.
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14 May 2004, last update
30 May 2021
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.