The Makers of Scotland

Full Title: The Makers of Scotland: Picts, Romans, Gaels and Vikings
Author: Tim Clarkson
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
Published: 2011, This edition 2013
ISBN: 978-1-78027-1736
Pages: 255 pages including Further Reading, Appendices and Index



Covering a thousand years of Scottish history, this account incorporates both historical and contemporary research into old theories and controversies. During the first millennium AD, the most northerly part of Britain evolved into the country known today as Scotland. The transition was a long process of social and political change driven by the ambitions of powerful warlords; tribal chiefs and Roman generals, at first, followed by dynamic warrior-kings who campaigned far beyond their own borders. From Lothian to Orkney and from Fife to the Isle of Skye, fierce battles were won and lost, but, by AD 1000, a dynasty of Gaelic-speaking kings, the Picts, and Scots began to forge a single, unified nation which transcended enmities. With maps to illustrate the history, this chronicle brings to life the great warrior-kings of early Scotland.


The Makers of Scotland has 11 chapters that begin in Scotland in the time before common era and end in medieval Scotland. The book also has a “Further Reading” section, maps, some black and white pictures two appendices that provide genealogies and a time-line and finally, an index. The objective of the text, which the author shares in the Introduction, is to give a history of Scotland from the beginning of the Roman invasion to the last phase of the Viking Age. The author tries to accomplish his objective by providing a linear history of the time as opposed to talking about themes like economy or warfare though those too are mentioned when appropriate. The Introduction also has a section that provides the sources that the author draws on and another section on terminology.

I’m not sure what to say about this book, on the one hand I enjoyed reading it, on the other I found myself wondering where all the information came from and which of the sources discussed in the introduction were used for what information. There is a veil over the history of Scotland which is pretty impenetrable. And while Clarkson makes his own guesses I’m not always sure where they came from. This is more of a layman’s history than an academic one but it also has some ideas that could be hard to justify or prove. I’m not sure I would recommend this to a beginner or someone who wants a deeper understanding of Scottish history.


2 thoughts on “The Makers of Scotland

  1. […] Synopsis: Continue reading… […]

  2. Dafydd says:

    This sounds like a fascinating read. I’ve been thinking of getting Clarkson’s other book on the subject – ‘The Men of the North: The Britons of Southern Scotland’ for a while now, and this book sounds like it could be an interesting addition. The origins of Scotland, and how it was forged from a land of Celtic Britons and Picts into one of Gaels and Anglo-Saxons is one of the most interesting stories in history. A shame that so many of the early sources are difficult to understand or are too sparse.

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