Scotland has an ancient history. The land has been steeped in varied events throughout its history. No matter what part of Scotland you are interested in, you will always find castles, remains, monuments and battlefields. Some events in particular have helped shaping its current history. Here are some of the best Scottish history books to understand more about this land.

The Makers of Scotland, by Tim Clarkson

This book covers about 1,000 years of Scottish history. It brings in classic news from ancient times, as well as modern research studies – not to mention a few controversies as well. Find out more about local tribes inhabiting Scotland, as well as the Roman invasion.

Learn more about the vikings and their influence over Scotland. Whether it comes to the Isle of Skye, Lothian or Orkney, every part of Scotland has been through harsh battles – some of them more successful than others.

Things changed when the Scots and Picts decided to come up with a nation. They got their forces together and pushed through all sorts of invasions. Apart from the actual stories, the book brings in some old school maps as well.

The Romans in Scotland and The Battle of Mons Graupius, by Simon Forder

The action takes place in the first century. Roman forces invaded Scotland in order to pacify local tribes. It took seven years for Romans to fight in the area. The last battle – 83AD – killed over 10,000 tribesmen, while Romans lost 360 soldiers only.

This book digs deeper to find out the real truth. It is based on ancient writings from Roman libraries. A sudden withdrawal of the Romans simply does not make sense, so historians believe all these writings are a bit exaggerated.

Recent archaeological research keeps historians skeptical. The author tries to identify the exact location of the final battle. Plus, this was the beginning of the fall for Romans, so there is definitely something intriguing about this battle.

For Freedom Alone, by Edward J. Cowan

The Declaration of Arbroath was signed on the 6th of April, 1320. It is one of the most significant and detailed documents dating back to medieval Europe. Its significance is critical because that is when the Scots started working for their independent status.

However, the declaration has many more meanings. It is deeply analyzed in this book, which also shows its influence over American history. In fact, the American Declaration of Independence is actually based on it.

The day is still celebrated today and not just in Scotland, but also in the USA. This book analyzes the principles behind it, as well as the ideas upon which it was drawn.

The Origins of the Scottish Reformation, by Alec Ryrie

This is one of the best Scottish history books if you truly want to learn more about the country. It is a controversial event that has affected both Britain and Europe. Its origins are covered in mystery, so no one knows how it actually came up.

This book brings in some fresh research and is based on Mary, Queen of Scots – especially her childhood years. There were more reformation ideas hanging around, but one in particular made it through.

The book analyzes more principles, such as the idea of reformation, the violence, terrorist activism and open warfare – ideas that defied Scotland’s history.

Union of Crowns, by Crawford Little

Did Scots actually fade in the shadow of their powerful neighbor? This book adopts a different approach to such historical events. The truth is Scots invaded their more powerful neighbors – England – consistently, defying numerous generations of powerful kings.

The fluid border was established after hundreds of years of constant fights and invasions. The author is focused on the elements that led to the Scottish independence – all the way through from Roman invasions to English battles.

Now, how did the English lords accept the Scottish incorporation? Did Scots actually approve it? Based on modern research and ancient manuscripts, the book reveals some theories that no one has thought about before – from religious ideas to wars and unexpected alliances.

Glencoe, by John Prebble

Glencoe was a turning point in the Scottish history, and this book describes the events of that time in a clear, concise and direct manner. The action was terrible, but the results contributed to the Scottish growth – moreover, it represents a major event that changed the way Scotland grew.

There are more references regarding this battle. This book makes it clear. Everyone was ordered to fall upon the rebels. Who were the rebels? Simple – the MacDonalds of Glencoe. Everyone who fought them was ordered to put all swords away and bow to the new rulers.

The order came out on the 13th of February, 1692. It was a ruthless order that came along with a massacre. The Campbells massacred their hosts – the MacDonalds – at Glencoe. It was an incident covered in blood and terror, but it was also an event that led to the fall of the Highlanders.

The Union, by Michael Fry

This release is among the best Scottish history books if you want to find out more about how Great Britain came to life. It is a fresh release, but it also has some challenging aspects that may not always be mentioned in history books.

The author has mostly focused on the years prior to the big union, which took place in 1707. The book analyzes the political aspects of Scotland, as well as the collaboration with England – mostly as imperialism was becoming a big thing back then.

Most history books claim that Scots joined because of their poor economy, but the author rejects this theory. In fact, it shows how Scotland has actually managed to take advantage of the English ignorance – only to ensure the union goes in their own favor.

Culloden, by Murray Pittock

The battle of Culloden is one of the shortest in the history. It lasted less than an hour – both forces involved were tiny. It took place in 1745 and it underlines the fate of the Jacobite uprising. Now, what makes this battle so important in the Scottish history?

The battle was the last one in British Isles with regular troops on each side. It was the battle that ruined the idea of the Jacobite cause. It was also the last time the Act of Union from 1707 was contested. The battle seems insignificant, but the aftermath was quite harsh.

From many points of view, this book is seen as a clash between Highlanders and Lowlanders. It is also a clash between Catholics and Protestants, as well as a battle between Saxons and Celts. It has multiple meanings, hence its importance for history in Britain.

The Highland Clearances, by John Prebble

The battle of Culloden had some serious consequences over the Scottish history. The Highlanders were massacred and it was only their clan chiefs’ fault. As Culloden was rebuilt, the Highlanders were deserted and then pushed into poverty – famine kicked in as well.

The chiefs kept gaining wealth through wool and meat. Meanwhile, the people were affected by starvation and various diseases. Some of them were also evicted from their homes, only to make some space for fields – needed for the sheep.

The author tells a bad and horrible story in an excellent way. The emptiness of the Highlands today was mostly caused by those sad events. The book carries extensive research and explains everything in small details.

How the Scots Invented the Modern World, by Arthur Herman

This book brings in some ideas that most of the world has overlooked so far. Think about it for a minute – who came up with the first literate society? Who came up with the first general ideas of democracy? How about the free market? How about capitalism?

The author reveals how Scotland made some serious contributions to medicine, politics, literature, science and philosophy, among many other fields. Most of this growth occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries.

All these contributions were later implemented by other countries in the west, showing how Scotland has managed to set the basics for modern civilization. This book is not all about Scotland, but it also shows its influences over other parts of the world.

The Scottish Independence Referendum, by Aileen McHarg, Tom Mullen, Alan Page and Neil Walker

This book discusses the Scottish independence referendum from 2014 – an event that was extremely important for Scotland, but also for the whole United Kingdom. One country was about to split from the kingdom back then.

Most voters chose to remain in the United Kingdom though, but the vote results were pretty close. Later on, the Scottish National Party gained more notoriety at the elections from 2015, showing that independence has never been closer.

This book does not analyze the referendum only, but its aftermath as well. Find out more about what led to this political event, as well as what happened later on.


Bottom line, these are some of the best Scottish history books. They are aimed at particular events that helped redefine Scotland as an actual country, as well as events that changed the course of the local history forever.​

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