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A New History of the Picts Paperback – 1 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Luath Press Ltd (1 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906817707
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906817701
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Written and arranged in a way that is both accessible and scholarly, this is an excellent addition to the growing body of work on the Picts.' --Craig Horne, The Courier

'McHardy is punchy and uncompromising when apportioning blame for the facile labelling that he feels has compromised our understanding of the Picts up to now.' --Scottish Review of Books

About the Author

Stuart McHardy - writer, musician, storyteller, folklorist, historian, poet, past president of the Pictish Arts Society and ex-Director Scots Language Resource Centre - has lectured on many aspects of Scottish history and culture both in Scotland and abroad, and has made regular appearances on television and radio.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By TR on 7 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting but rather frustrating book. The author makes much of the possibility of reading backwards from modern times to understand society in his period. I would have been more convinced if he had presented some evidence from intervening years to back up his thesis, but he asks us to take on trust the idea that north of the Highland Line nothing much changed in well over a thousand years. As regards the more orthodox passages, it is not the author's fault that he along with others has had to rely on fragmentary annals and king lists which exist only in versions produced hundreds of years after the events he describes; he presents some credible interpretations, though a few of his paper tigers, like the disappearance of the Picts, were surely discounted some time ago. However, there is a growing body of archaeological information, and there are of course the carved crosses and stones. He has made little effort to weave such material into his narrative, so while the book is an enjoyable and fairly easy read, in this and other ways, it is too narrow to live up fully to its title.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jurgen Diethe on 6 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
McHardy's book is certainly readable, I entirely agree there with your previous correspondent, and he is also right to stress the certainly underestimated tribal nature of early Scottish society - but repeating this ad nauseam makes it often very tedious. Of course, the Picts originated from (or were) the indigenous Scottish population; but what does indigenous mean in this context? The Broch builders, certainly, but the builders of megalithic monuments? Surely, McHardy does not assume that they spoke Celtic. So did Celtic drift into the British Isles on the wind?
It also seem spurious to assert a cultural equivalent between illiterate tribal societies and antique culture, however cruel Roman warfare was. What about Plato, Socrates, Homer, Cicero, Virgil, etc. etc., what about Roman engineering like the aqueducts? It almost sounds like "what have the Romans ever done for us?" ...
I agree with McHardy's assertion that there was no Scottish takeover leading to the end of the Picts (this is almost orthodoxy by now) and on the crucial role of the Vikings. It also appears likely that Fortriu was in the Moray area, although it does not entirely tally with the importance of Forteviot in the later period (and Scone, which he does not mention). I also find it unlikely that Pictish as a language disappeared very quickly, but the geographic evidence (place-names etc.) points to Gaelic becoming more or less the exclusive language - for a time. But it is hard to believe that the Picts (or some of them) spoke an early version of Scots. After all, the Angles spoke nothing like English but Old English, which was almost identical to Old High German - see Beowulf, Battle of Malden etc. for reference.
The most curious aspect of this book lies in the bibliography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cruixer on 19 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
I swithered a bit on whether this was worth the full 5 stars as it is not perfect but it's certainly at least a 4. A couple of the other reviewers are a little unfair in particular the one who calls himself a classisist, and would probably be better classified as a British nationalist or unionist trying to deride this work as snp propaganda because it doesn't suit his Roman and Britain centric point of view.

The author is right to challenge the Roman version of early Scottish history as well the importance of the Romans in Scottish history as well as the obsession that some such as the above mentioned reviewer have with inflating the small impact of the Romans at the expense of the people that actually lived here.

Not all of the theories seem completely credible, but the author admits this, and let's face it how much of what we know about this period can really be much more than a theory.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dignitas on 2 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
As a Classicist by trade [Romanist] I picked up this book hoping to find a deeper understanding of the peoples and culture north of the frontiers. Instead I found a treatise worthy of the SNP.

My first degree was in Scottish Literature, and agree with the author that Scotland's history cannot be viewed without viewing through the lens of the union of 1707. But, dear author, does not mean we hijack pre-Union history and mould it to fit our nationalistic politics.

The author is a folklorist and storyteller, and it seems that this is what this book amounts to: folklore. The level of Classical scholarship is abysmal.

On pg 11: "The idea that Scotland was anything other than outside the frontier is risible."
Wrong: tribes such as the Votadini and Damnonii quite enjoyed trading with the Romans, and forged many alliances. Even defending Roman borders when the Empire was in decline.

On pg 14: "Scotland is to a greater extent the lands north of Hadrian's Wall which the Romans never did manage to conquer."
Is the author now claiming Northumberland and Cumbria as Scotland? Also, should he read up on the subject he would learn that the 150/60's withdrawal had more to do with politics and an overstretched army than an unconquerable nation.

On pg 15: "They have no cities or towns, according to the Romans.
Incorrect again. The Romans name plenty of towns [duns] and Royal strong-holds.

On pg 13: " The name [Caledonians] seems to be virtually synomymous with Picts.
Wrong again. The first known use of Picts comes in the 4th century. And the Caledonii tribes are located north of the Maeatae. Pictish society stretched further than this.

He then goes on to dispute the Roman victory at Mons Grapus. What next? An Antonine Wall denier?

If your looking for historical accuracy I suggest: From Caledonia to Pictland.
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