6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The story - not just the history - of the Border Reivers,
This review is from: The Steel Bonnets: Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers (Paperback)
As an history loving antipodean from family both Scottish and English - and a Nixon on one side, to boot! - this is a pure joy to read. The Border Marches - the bit where Scotland and England used to meet, before the Act of Union - were rough, if beautiful, country populated by rougher and vicious men. The book is pretty quiet on what the Border women were like, but one imagines that they were no shrinking violets either. Perhaps they were the beautiful ones.
There were 6 Marches, each run by a Warden, 3 on each side of the Border. It appears that the main local industry was horse-theft, with cattle-theft, sheep-theft, arson, and robbery not far behind. Tradition holds that the borderers were not fond of unnecessary killing, but as GMF puts it: well, they seemed to find killing necessary with troubling frequency. These were the "reivers", and GMF - a Scotsman raised in England is telling their story, and that of the Wardens who policied them (when the Wardens were not in fact reiving themselves).
GMF is best known for the fictional Flashman, but he was also the author of a lot of other stuff, including the semi-autobiograhpical McAuslan and the actually-biographical Quartered Safe Out Here. That was a good enough memoir of the Burma campaign in WWII for Max Hastings to see fit to quote it at length in his history of the Pacific War. The Steel Bonnets is both an accurate history of sixteenth century Border country, their long kiss goodnight, and also a rip-roaring tale: history told like it is fiction, with "hot trods", blood feuds and international politics all mixed together, and topped off with a reprint of the incredible "Monition of Cursing" which is best read out loud, if you can get through it without laughing in admiration. There are some incredible characters here, all told in GMF's dry voice which never fails to amuse, entertain and inform.
This is a little piece of history which should never be forgotten, wherever the Anglo-Scottish reivers have settled themselves in the 400 years since their story ended.
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Initial post: 5 Dec 2011 00:45:22 GMT
Joe Keenan says:
Best review I have ever read!
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