‘The story of a “crucible of nations” is not of any single people, much less a modern nation-state. It’s about shared heritage and interaction, without ignoring these different voices.’
On one of Edinburgh’s many, many dreich days, there is nowhere better to be than rambling through the extensive collections on display at the National Museum of Scotland.
Luckily, for those who don’t have such ease of access to the museum, Maldonado, in collaboration with The Glenmorangie Company Research Project, has pieced together the 8th to 12th centuries in this thoroughly engaging book, immersing you in the history of the land we now call Scotland.
Many of us know that the story Braveheart sold to the world was packed full of historic inaccuracies and used what we will politely term as creative liberties.
Scotland, the place so many are proud to call home, was not a place with a unifi ed people, but rather a setting with multiple co-existing peoples.
Both visitors and denizens left behind pieces of themselves that give historians a peek into their individual traditions and how they lived, worked, celebrated, and even died.
Through the material culture unearthed by archaeologists from the soil, seas, and even people’s attics and storage, a rich tapestry is weaved that includes notable pieces from the usual suspects – Picts, Vikings, Romans, Britons, Irish and Anglo-Saxons.
But also, more specifically, these finds provide insight into the various individual kingdoms and regions that made up this land, and how they interacted with, and were influenced by, those further abroad.
Despite the density of this book, it doesn’t read like a textbook. My eyes rarely glazed over (the tell-tale sign that my mind has found something much further away to be more interesting than what’s in front of me).
Instead, the content works in tandem with the collection photos to create a compelling narrative that would be an ideal addition to any history lover’s collection or to stand out amongst the stacks piled high on the coff ee table.
Crucible of Nations, by Adrian Maldonado, published by National Museums Scotland, £25.