Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Book review: In the Footsteps of Robert the Bruce

In the footsteps of Robert the Bruce in Scotland, Northern England and Ireland

By Alan Young and Michael J. Stead

We’ll set the record straight at the start. This isn’t a new book it’s a re-issue but this edition has been updated with dozens of new photographs.

First published in 1999 this lavishly illustrated book will be of great interest to anyone with an interest in Robert the Bruce and the Scottish Wars of Independence.

It does what it says on the cover. If you want to retrace Bruce’s steps in these three countries then this is definitely the book for you. You’ll cover a lot of ground though because Bruce’s life took him through most of the length and breadth of the British isles.

I’m familiar with the period but I’m no expert so I can’t comment on the facts in the text however the author Alan Young has obviously consulted many sources in his research. Don’t be fooled by the sheer number of Michael J. Stead’s photographs. This is an illustrated reference book, not a coffee table book with accompanying text.

It isn’t just a history of his campaigns either. It follows Bruce’s life from his youth and the days of peace in late thirteenth century Scotland and England. It also traces his lineage and like me you’ll probably be surprised at just how ‘English’ Bruce’s Norman family was.

Then there are the bitter war years in Scotland and northern England and the uneasy period after Bannockburn including his expedition to Ireland in support of his brother Edward. I’d like to have seen a bit more detail on these campaigns but I guess there aren’t that many sources for early fourteenth century Irish campaigns to go on so we have to make do with only a couple of pages.

As a book for those who have only a primary school knowledge of this period (like me) and would like to know a lot more then it’s a very good book to start with. The text is detailed and informative and full of interesting and well researched facts about Bruce and his contemporaries.

It’s not just a history book, it delivers in its aim to be a guide book too, and at the back there are notes on the primary locations associated with Bruce.

The team behind this book Alan Young and Michael J Stead have also produced a similar volume about William Wallace. I can guarantee that it’s now on my reading list.

now available in paperback from The History Press.

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