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on 3 August 2015
Really really good. Found my Grandfathers relatives with it.
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on 24 August 2017
An interesting read.
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on 27 March 2008
I found this book at Melrose Abbey on a recent trip to the UK and discovered hours of fun reading. Moffat's style is like talking to a favorite uncle who shares delicious family secrets through his recollection of the period, complete with humor and a bit of honest sarcasm. He makes the history of the Anglo/Scottish Borders and the lives of the Border Reivers come alive. This is wonderful social history, presented in a way that appeals to the larger public audience. I have recommended this book to many American Romance authors who are looking for a great research source on the culture of the Borders, be it the English or Scottish Marches. This is a great companion piece to his THE BORDERS book: same style and presentation. Both should be read and savored for their honest and witty presentation without being too scholarly.
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on 10 August 2007
I've long been a fan of MacDonald Fraser's 'Steel Bonnets' so I was interested to see what Alistair Moffat's book would add.

The hardback is just over 320 pages, grouped into two main parts, four chapters in the first, and three in the second. Add to this five appendices, the bibliography and a concise and easy to use index, there's a lot here to immerse yourself in. And in the centre of the book you have the illustrations, thirty-two superb colour photographs of the landscapes of the Borders that do so much to evoke the mood of the era. They compliment the text admirably.

As you cruise through the book you often have additional box inserts that take the reader off into interesting sidelines of yet more fascinating information. There are just to many to mention, and all add to the flavour that the author provides the reader, with his view of the troubled times of the sixteenth century.

I have to say that from start to finish, I couldn't put this book down. It adds to MacDonald Fraser's work and is a 'must-have' for anyone interested in the hardy doughty folk of the Border, their lawless ways and customs, the feuds and the politics that shaped their life. An inspiring read.
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on 19 October 2009
Alaistair Moffat is here reprising ground covered by the great George MacDonald Fraser in his The Steel Bonnets: Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers.

The best tribute to Moffat is to say his work deserves to sit on the same shelf, but is very different. Moffat is unapologetic in being more journalistic: there are numerous boxed asides, definitions, comments and excursions. While these help, they are no alternative to a properly documented references. There is an index and a bibliography; but asserted facts are not footnoted and are not readily verifiable. The appendices are quirky: do we need thirty pages of reprinted ballads, all taken verbatim from Walter Scott's "Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (V. 3)"? The thirty-odd photographs, two to an octavo page, are atmospheric, if more chocolate-boxy than illustrative. One will seek in vain for all the placenames mentioned on the prefatory map.

This is a "good read", popular history that does not tax the reader. It covers a fair bit of ground (no pun intended). In-depth historiography it is not; and does not pretend to be.
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on 2 October 2007
This is a marvellous book, which deals with one of the most contentious periods in British history. For almost 300 years from the time of Edward 1st until the Union of the Crowns under James 1st in 1603, the border region between England and Scotland was little more than a bloodbath, in which it was said that on waking in the morning, the first thing people did was touch the fingers to the throat, to make sure that it had not been slit overnight.

This appalling gratuitous violence, is brought to life brilliantly in this book, in which the violence reaches such a peak in the middle of the 16 century, that it is a wonder there was any border to pacify. Witness the slaying of a fugitive in York, or the genocide carried out by the Johnston's against the Maxwell's in which some 700 Maxwell's were wiped out in a single afternoon, with the blood apparently running through the streets of Lockerbie.

The remarkable thing is that all this actually happened. It is not a figment of a writers imagination. The text is very easy to read, and the pictures are very evocative. If you only ever buy one book on the Reivers, buy this
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on 27 January 2008
While this book has its own style and brings a new angle to an old topic, it doesn't offer much new material and covers a lot of ground already covered in Moffat's other book "The Borders". I still enjoyed it but would always rate "The Steel Bonnets" higher.
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on 19 November 2012
This book is worth buying as it gets to the kernel of history by beginning with a big raid led by Scott of Buccleugh which resulted in the successful theft of livestock. It does something to dispel the romantic myth of reivers riding in moonlight like the tobacco and rum smugglers of a later period. A lot of better work has been done on the Anglo-Scottish border reivers like Macdonald Fraser's Steel Bonnets, Tough's Last Years of an Elizabethan Frontier, Watts on Northumberland and even Coulomb's thesis on The Debatable Lands. Moffat has dreadful errors like Henry VIII and the Clap. As we have known for sometime now syphilis did not originate in America among the Indians and wasn't introduced to Europe by Columbus' men it was present in Europe during the Middle Ages perhaps even in Roman Europe. Bones excavated in England have syphilitic structural damage decided by comparing them to known syphilitic damage. The box method where items of knowledge are conveyed in boxes is deplorably unnecessary and distracting from the text.
I'm glad I bought this book as it is exciting and several of the 'riding' names mentioned in the appendix were unknown to me.
The book conveys a true picture of brutal poverty. He could have added another appendix of border vocabulary like Tough did but with additions.
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on 16 May 2014
A most informative book. You do not , in my opinion, simply "read" this book start to finish - there is so so much detail to take in - many times I needed to "follow-up" the people, stories, history and the geography to fully understand things. Sometimes Alistair writes in the form of an adventure yarn (easy to read then and I did enjoy these occasions) and in addition there are many explanatory panels which were often fascinating too. Previous to reading this book I had no idea of the scale of the lawlessness that existed for centuries in this region. I never saw the TV series that also looked this lawlessness but if it came back on, I would watch it now. Personally I enjoyed the book and if I visit the (large) region of the UK (English and Scottish) involved it will be necessary to put it in the bag as no doubt there will be much to reference in the visit. These "colourful" reivers were a product of an artificial border, brutally fought over and often corruptly presided over - they died out almost as soon as The Act of Union was passed - wonder if they'll come back if Scotland votes "Yes" to independence?
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on 5 October 2008
As a borderer born and raised in Annandale I found this book disappointing. Written by somone who worked in television it bears all the hallmarks of that medium's 'drama-documentary' genre. I didn't doubt that the central thrust was valid, but would have liked to see footnoted or end-noted references. The author's assertion that this would amount to showing off is unconvincing, and merely listing a bibliography isn't good enough. There must be a better account of this turbulent period!
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