Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: John Macleod, Highlanders: History of the Gaels

Too many colons in that opening!

I've just read through Macleod's book "Highlanders: History of the Gaels", and it's a fine read. My father gave it to me for Christmas, and it gave me the opportunity to sit down (mainly on the train), and read a continuous narrative historical account focused on the Highlands and Hebrides. One of the things endearing about Macleod's style is that at the start he says he will try some objectivity, as is proper, but undoubtedly his biases will slip through, and that's part of the charm.

Highlights of the book included accounts of early patterns of migration and conquest, a real positive grasp of the positive influences of Christianisation to Gaelic culture, an account of Scottish and English royal politics that gave due attention to how those events interacted with Highland history, a balanced but nonetheless moving (read, devastating) account of Culloden and its aftermath, the Highland Clearances, and the land agitation of the 20th century, and a decent amount of the Evangelical Revival in the Highlands.

At times Macleod's own interests lead him to wander on a theme a little too long, I didn't need 4 pages detailing Neil Gunn and all his notable works with some literary criticism thrown in, for example, but for the most his evident passion and investigation of some issues is warmly welcome.

A fine read from someone with some inside insight into the Highlands.

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