Dorothy Dunnett

Background Reading

One of the many delights of reading any Dunnett book is that it teaches you a great deal about history almost without you realising it, while if you are already familiar with the period you will come away with a much better understanding of it. Enthusiasts are often inspired to look for more details of the various places through which her characters move - particularly in Scotland. This is a list of some of the books that might be of interest. Unfortunately since it was first created many of the most useful titles have gone out of print with no obvious replacements. However I have decided to leave them here for now as some of them may be available through second-hand books dealers. To see other general and specific histories of Scotland try the Scottish History Books page of Books in Scotland.

Scots-English Wars and Borders Conflicts -- Notable Characters and Kings -- Life and Culture
Orkney and Viking interest -- Reference & General Scots Histories

Scots-English Wars and Borders Conflicts

The Rough Wooings: Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1551
Marcus Merriman
Tuckwell Press, Jan 2001
hdbk, 186232090X £12.99


The period in which both England and France sought to capture Scotland by a forced marriage of the child Queen Mary is amongst the most colourful and interesting of our history, and had repercussions that are still felt to this day. This detailed study of the intense warfare and negotiations between the three countries is a major contribution to our understanding of it.


The Steel Bonnets:
The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers

George MacDonald Fraser
Harper Collins, 1995 (first published 1971)
pbk 0002727463 £9.99

The classic book on this tempestous and complicated area. The Borders area was the scene for a long series of conflicts between the families who lived in the debateable lands between Scotland and England. It was so hard to contain that the area had it's own special laws and the constant raids for both national and local reasons made meant that the landowners needed quick-wits, flexible loyalties and a good sword-arm to survive.


Violence Custom and Law:
The Anglo-Scottish Border Lands in the Later Middle Ages

Cynthia J Neville
Polygon, July 1998
0748610731 £16.95

How the Border Lands created and refined a new system of law to deal with conflict in the 13th and 15th centuries.


Border Bloodshed
Alastair J MacDonald
Tuckwell Press, Dec 2000
pbk 186232106X £16.99

Out of Print

A study of the military offensives between Scotland, England and France between 1369 and 1403.


My Wound is Deep:
A History of the Later Anglo-Scots Wars 1380-1560

Raymond Campbell Paterson
John Donald, Sept 1997
0859764656 £11.95

Out of Print

The first full account of the later wars between England and Scotland. It also deals with the Scots soldiers in France who fought for them in the Hundred Years War.


The Border Reivers
Godfrey Watson
Sandhill Press, 1974
pbk, 0946098476 £9.95

A history of the 16th century conflicts over the debateable lands, written by a native of the area who claimed descent from reivers himself.


In Search of the Border Reivers - Map
Ordnance Survey
pbk, 0319009378 £5.70

Historical map with details of over 800 Reiver sites, a timeline of the period and details of the families involved.


Notable Characters and Kings

John Knox
Rosalind Marshall
Birlinn, Oct 2000
pbk 1841580910 UKP 9.99

Out of Print

A new analysis of one of the central characters of the Reformation by this noted biographer. A balanced picture of 16th century Scotland against the backdrop of sweeping changes all across Europe allows us to see something of the real Knox and his beliefs instead of the myths and legends which have grown up around him.


The Black Douglases:
War and Lordship in Medieval Scotland, 1300-1455

Michael Brown
Tuckwell Press July 98
pbk 186232025X £16.99
hdbk 1862320365 £30.00

Out of Print

Famous as Scotland's champions in the wars against England, the Douglases were seen by some as lawless and violent. They are an excellent example of the connections between warfare and political power in the 14th century.


Mary Queen of Scots
Rosalind K. Marshall
Mercat Press 1986, 207 pages
pbk, 1873644957 £10.99
Mary, Queen of Scots
Jenny Wormald
Tauris, 2001
pbk 1860645887 £10.95
Mary Queen of Scots
Antonia Fraser
Arrow, 1998 (orig pub 1969), 713 pages
pbk, 0749301082 £10.00

Winner of the James Tait Black Award for Biography, and still regarded as a standard work. Reprinted over 20 times.

The Queen’s Conjuror:
The Science and Magic of Dr Dee

Benjamin Woolley
Harper Collins April 2001
hdbk 0002571390 £15.99

Out of Print

A biography of one of the most remarkable figures of Elizabethan England. A highly skilled scientist who was respected all over Europe, but also a man deeply immersed in the occult, and whose reputation suffered considerably as a result.


James II
Christine McGladdery
John Donald, Nov 90
hdbk, 0859763048 £12.50

Out of Print


Unfortunately the biography of James III by Norman MacDougal is out of print


James IV
Norman MacDougal
Tuckwell Press, Nov 1997
1898410410 £16.99

Out of Print

An excellent biography of one of Scotland's most successful and popular Kings, during whose reign the country blossomed and prospered, but whose death at the Battle of Flodden plunged it once again into a period of chaotic power struggles.


James V: The Personal Rule, 1528-42
Jamie Cameron & Norman Macdougal (Ed.)
Tuckwell, Oct 98
pbk, 1862320047 £16.95

Out of Print


Darnley: Consort of Mary Queen of Scots
Caroline Bingham
Phoenix Feb 97
pbk, 1857997794 £9.99

Out of Print

Life and Culture

The Rose and the Thistle:
Essays on the Culture of Late Medieval and Renaissance Scotland

ed. Sally Mapstone and Juliette Wood
Tuckwell Press May 98
1898410577 £20.00

This period in history was one of profound ideological change in Scottish cultural history. These eight essays focus on literature, festivities, documents and letters, amd emphasise hitherto neglected sources.


The Five Euphemias:
Women in Medieval Scotland 1200-1420

Elizabeth Sutherland
Constable, March 1999
hdbk 0094782504 £20.00

Out of Print

200 years of Scottish medieval history are explored through the lives of five women - all related and all called Euphemia - whose stories prove that the common conception that history has been mainly a male dominated affair is very far from the truth.


Scottish Coins:
A history of small change in Scotland

Nicholas Holmes
NMS Publishing Sept 98
pbk 1901663027 £5.99

The intriguing story of how ordinary money was used by the people of the country. Placks, bawbees, hardheads and bodles are discussed as the author covers both the development and production of the coins and also the ways they were spent discarded and counterfeited. Has some interesting mentions of the shortage of silver and the debasement of the coinage which will be of interest to HN readers. Written by the curator of the coin collection at the National Museum.


Medieval Scotland:
Crown Lordship and Community

ed. Grant and Stringer
Edinburgh Univ Press May 1998
074861110X £17.50

An exploration of the central themes in the development of the medieval Scottish kingdom, analysing the interplay between the Celtic and feudal influences, crown-magnate relations, and the relationship between the local and national communities.


Women in Scotland c.1100-c.1750
Elizabeth Ewan and Maureen Meikle
Tuckwell Press, Nov 1999
pbk, 1862320462 £14.99

Out of Print

Utilising a large number of sources from Court of Session records to Middle Scots poetry, this book looks at how women of different social status in these times really lived and what they thought.


Scottish Royal Palaces
John G Dunbar
Tuckwell, Sept 1999
hdbk, 186232042X £20.00

The architecture and development of the royal residences during the late medieval and early renaissance periods, with particularemphasis on those of James IV and V at Linlithgow, Falkland, Stirling, Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle.


Atlas of Scottish History to 1707
(ed.) Peter McNeill and Hector MacQueen
The Scottish Medievalists/Edinburgh University Dept of Geography, 1996, 462 pages
0950390410 £30.00

Replacing the earlier Historical Atlas of Scotland this atlas took almost 15 years to produce. It contains a vast number of maps, charts, and table along with explanatory text covering every aspect of Scottish history from the earliest known times to the Union of Parliaments. There are sections on Geography, Climate, Population, Land Ownership and Law, Politics and Government amongst many more. An essential reference for anyone involved in the study of Scotland.


Orkney and Viking interest

New History of Orkney
William P L Thomson
Mercat Press, Nov 2001
Nov 2001 1841830224 £14.99

A completely new edition of a book originally published in 1987 which was the first history of Orkney for over half a century It's been completely rewritten and extended, with important new work on the Picts, Vikings, medieval Orkney, and the Reformation. The author was for 20 years the Rector of Kirkwall Grammar School and has written numerous books and papers on Orkney and Shetland.


The Islands of Orkney
Liv Kjorsvik Schei with photgraphs by Gunnie Moberg
Colin Baxter, June 2000
hdbk, 1841070645 £20.00

With its incredibly rich heritage of historic and prehistoric sites, its suberb landscape, and its warm and friendly people, Orkney is a place that everyone should visit. These two authors, originally from Norway and Sweden respectively, have been in love with Orkney since the 1970 and both have built up extensive reputations for their work there. This is a book that will be sure to delight everyone who has fallen under the islands' spell.


The Orkneyinga Saga
Joseph Anderson (ed) translated by J Hjaltalin and G Goudie From the text of the 1873 edition
Mercat Press, Oct 99
pbk 184183002X £10.99

Out of Print

The history of the Norwegian earldom established in the Northern Isles a thousand years ago.


Viking Scotland
Anna Ritchie
Batsford/Historic Scotland, 1993
pbk, 0713472251 £15.99
Part of the excellent Batsford/Historic Scotland series on Scottish history and archaeology.

Anna Ritchie
Mercat Press, 1996
pbk, 0114952884 £12.99

Out of Print

Originally published by the Stationery Office with the Royal Commision on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, and part of an excellent series. It gives an fine coverage of all the most important buildings and archaeological sites on the islands and is well illustrated with black and white photographs. The author, who is also the series editor, has lived and worked on Orkney for many years.


Vikings in Scotland:
An Archaeological Survey

James Graham-Campbell and Colleen Batey
Edinburgh University Press, Nov 1998
pbk 0748606416 £16.95

A comprehensive overview of the Viking period in Scotland, incorporating the latest results from the recent period of intense fieldwork and including a reappraisal of the whole subject of Viking settlement here.


Scar: A Viking Boat Burial on Sanday, Orkney
Olwyn Owen & Magnar Dalland
Tuckwell, Feb 2000
pbk, 1862320802 £20.00

The story of the Viking boat burial which was dramatically rescued by archaeologists in 1991 before erosion from storms claimed the site. A very rich collection of finds have since been conserved, and the authors present the results of the investigations and try to piece together the history and background of the people buried there.

St Magnus Cathedral and Orkney's 12th Century Renaissance
(ed) Barbara Crawford
Mercat Press, 1988
hdbk 0080365809 £9.99

Reference & General Scots Histories

Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland 2nd Ed
John Keay and Julia Keay
Harper Collins, 2000
hdbk 0007103530 £45.00

The ultimate Scottish reference. Combines the coverage of a gazetteer and dictionary of biography, with the readability of a companion, authority of a historical dictionary and utility of a guidebook.


Scotland: A History 8000 B.C. - A.D. 2000
Fiona Watson
Tempus, Feb 2001
pbk 0752417967 £11.99

By the presenter of the excellent new BBC TV series In Search of Scotland.


Scotland: The Story of a Nation
Magnus Magnusson
Harper Collins, 2000
hdbk, 000257148X £19.99
A timely look at Scotland's long and difficult road to nationhood, re-exploring some cherished myths and unearthing a wealth of fascinating new detail. Magnusson may be best known as the presenter of Mastermind but is a highly respected historian who has written many books on the history and archaeology of Scotland, Iceland, Ireland and the Holy Land.
A History Book for Scots: Selections from Scotichronicon
Walter Bower
ed. D.E.R. Watt
Mercat Press, 1998
pbk 1873644841 £9.99


In Search of Scotland
(ed) Gordon Menzies
Polygon, Feb 2001
pbk 1902930231 £12.99

A companion book to the new BBC In Search of Scotland TV series, consisting of articles by the leading historians in the country on their particular specialities






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