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Edinburgh: A History of the City Hardcover – Unabridged, 17 Jul 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1st Edition edition (17 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230703860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230703865
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 522,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Fry's range is impressive. His account of Edinburgh is in the style of Peter Ackroyd's history of London - digging into its dark corners rather than maintaining a historian's narrative'
-- Spectator

'This comprehensive look at his home city paints a vivid picture of the Scottish capital through the ages.'
-- Big Issue in Scotland

'intelligent and sensitive...a very good book indeed, one that no one who knows Edinburgh will want to be without, one that also reveals the character of this dramatic, admirable and often infuriating city to those unfortunate enough not to be acquainted with it.'
-- Literary Review

`He clearly loves Edinburgh and conveys that affection eloquently...Edinburgh is a delightful, erudite book and Fry a perceptive and provocative guide.'
-- Scotland on Sunday

`His account of the city's architectural history is as intelligent and sensitive as it is full.'
-- The Literary Review

Review

'Fry's range is impressive. His account of Edinburgh is in the style of Peter Ackroyd's history of London - digging into its dark corners rather than maintaining a historian's narrative'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A thorough and wide-ranging survey of the city, that avoids the usual urban history traps. Fry does not focus on the city's architecture, for instance, though he discusses it in its context; nor is this a municipal history, although the City Council's development and influence get their due throughout. The book is well written and generally pacy, and does not shy away from the more difficult, undocumented early history of the city, although this era is, inevitably perhaps, more a Scottish than a city history. The role of the city as a backdrop for the later Stuart history and the Jacobite era is particularly well written, covering the ground without retelling the well-worn and hackneyed tales, and providing new, and distinctively Edinburgh, dimensions to these upheavals. This is a good, well-structured and non-pedestrian history, make no mistake. Whilst retaining a broad chronological structure, the discussion is not rigidly linear and Fry moves backwards as well as forwards in his chapters, to good effect, if at times keeping the reader on edge wondering when this or that topic will ever be raised!

Any city history has to be selective, though, especially as municipality develops and record keeping becomes more through and more reliable, and it may be churlish to criticise Fry for doing what any historian has to do. Yet there are some significant omissions from this discussion. The focus is very much on the city centre, and although suburban development is mentioned en passant the suburban geography is not discussed at all.
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Format: Paperback
Two stars feels harsh. This history of Scotland's capital isn't terrible. But we're asked here to judge a book by how much we "like" it. And while Michael Fry's vast knowledge of Edinburgh is certainly impressive, I can't claim to have enjoyed the way he shares it with us.

There's just too much going on. We're bombarded by facts. All Scotland's big hitters feature: Robert the Bruce, John Knox, Mary Queen of Scots, King James VI. Key figures like David Hume, the philosopher, and James Hutton, the "father of geology", make an appearance. But while quotes and anecdotes from every possible era of Edinburgh's history abound, too much of it is dealt with briskly, and too little of it comes to life. The result is a slog. I found it all a bit hard going; at times, very hard going.

"A very fine book and a considerable achievement," runs a quote on the back of my copy. I guess that's fair, up to a point. "Edinburgh" is thorough, wide-ranging and well-researched. But it's not particularly well written. It's not particularly memorable. And for this newcomer to Scottish history, at least, reading it wasn't much fun.
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Format: Paperback
I could forgive the leaden prose and back and forth through time effect of this book if an overall impression of Edinburgh had been achieved. Sadly, it was not. The author makes the assumption that his status as an outsider confers a special remove from which he can impartially relate a history of the city, and perhaps more ambitiously, of Scotland. Instead, it left this reader with the impression that he forgot to visit Edinburgh while studying other people's accounts of it. This author also relied on some very tired racial stereotypes of the Scots which is not at all endearing. Edinburgh is a deeply impressive place visually and historically. Its story is stuffed full of fascinating characters, not all of them world famous. In summary: the well-known characters he describes utterly fail to come to life and the city he places them in is no more than a backdrop.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well-written book with very interesting facts about my favourite place. There is a lot of history, which I love; the places and sights are described in historical context. I have never read a better book about this city. There are no maps and also not many pictures, but you do not buy this book to see pictures, do you?
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By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second history of Edinburgh I have recently read, and both exhibit a certain focus that I have not come across in the numerous general histories of other cities, domestic and foreign, that I have read over the years. I can only assume that this focus is somewhat unique to Edinburgh, namely the concentration given to the city's history of the mind. They are histories as much of culture as of bricks and mortar; tales of a city of essences and feelings as much as municipal powers and regulations.

Michael Fry's contribution to the biographies of Edinburgh comprises an introduction and seven chronological chapters followed by an envoi. The chapters, whilst split into segments, are nevertheless of some length: the first deals with geological time, the city's prehistory, and takes us up to the creation of the borough c.1130. All this in the space of fifty well-written and never-sluggish pages. Chapter two takes us to the Reformation; three, to the National Covenant; four, to the Forty-Five; five, to the city's bankruptcy and municipal reform in 1833; and six, the "stupendous broil of religion, philosophy, education and politics" through Victoria's reign. The last chapter brings Edinburgh's story up to date in style, both fascinating and controversial.

Fry's erudition is made manifest by the twenty pages of endnotes quoting many primary sources. And yet there is the rare statement of apparent ignorance that dumbfounded this reader, such as Fry wondering why, "For reasons not too clear, this trade [with America across the Atlantic] went into Glasgow rather than Edinburgh." The index is good but not brilliant - there is no reference to the painter Alexander Nasmyth, who appears in the text.
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