Friday, March 27, 2015

A history of war in 100 battles

Richard Overy has chosen 100 battles across the centuries showing how the nature of armed combat has changed over time. The battles are not arranged chronologically but under broad themes - leadership (including Battle of Hastings, Battle of Bannockburn and Battle of Trafalgar), against the odds (including Battle of Agincourt), innovation (including Battle of Crecy and Battle of Britain), deception (including Fall of Troy and Normandy invasion),courage in the face of fire (including Battle of Poitiers-Tours) and in the nick of time (including Battle of Waterloo). An introduction to each section is provided. The stories are usually one or two pages and the book is well illustrated (usually paintings) and has a detailed bibliography and index. An interesting book to dip into.

Scottish history

With many branches of my family tree having Scottish connections I often look out for books recounting the history of that country. Three titles recently found in the library are listed below:

Collins little book of Scottish history: from Bannockburn to Holyrood by John Abernethy was published in 2014. This small publication aims to provide a broad coverage of the history of Scotland concentrating on the events that have made Scotland an individual country. Each page briefly covers a topic - a person or place or event or institution - providing a brief summary that can be investigated further in other publications. The book is arranged chronologically but the index also helps the reader locate specific topics.

The fourth edition of Scotland: a concise history by Fitzroy Maclean was published in 2012. This book, in text and pictures, provides an overview of the history of the country in nine broad chapters.  The sections of the book are easy to navigate allowing you to locate specific topics. The detailed index and the list of the many illustrations are also useful.

Scottish archaeologist, Neil Oliver, has written A history of Scotland, published, in 2009, in conjunction with his television series with the same title produced for the BBC. This is an exploration of the things that make Scotland unique. Not just its chronological history but also the development and divisions of language, religion, the economy, relationships with England over time. When reading this book, those who have watched Neil Oliver on television will imagine him there recounting the story of the country that he loves. Once again there is a detailed index as well as a list for further reading.

Each of these books has a different approach to telling the story of Scotland's history but they can all be useful. For example when looking for information on the Battle of Bannockburn, page 33 in Abernethy's book provides a brief outline of the battle, some information about Robert the Bruce on page 32 and information about Stirling on page 34. The first section (8 pages) of chapter two in Maclean's book covers the battle of Bannockburn, the lead up to the battle and the aftermath. Oliver provides his interpretation of this period of Scottish history in the first 35 pages of chapter 4 in his book.