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Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers
By Alan O Anderson


Scottish Annals from English Chronicler?, a.d. 500 to 1286. By Alan O. Anderson, M.A. Edinb. Pp. xiii, 403. 8vo. London : David Nutt. 1908. 10s. 6d. nett.

However we may regard the fact, it is not to be forgotten that our national history till the close of the thirteenth century would be all but a blank page but for the existence of extraneous sources. It is to Tacitus and other Roman writers that we owe such information as we possess regarding the beginnings of Scotland as a separate territory on the worldís map. It is from Adamnan and the Irish annalists that we know of the process by which the different peoples in North Britain became united under a single ruler. To these foreign sources must be added another, without which the history of Scotland from the reign of Malcolm Cranmore till the death of Alexander III. in 1286 could hardly be written. It is in the incidental references of English chroniclers to the northern kingdom that we have the fullest account of the most important Scottish events of that period; and it is only with the 'general aid of these chroniclers that a continuous narrative is possible. We have but to glance at the authorises for the period quoted by such writers as E. W. Robertson, Skene, and Lord Hailes in his Annals of Scotland to realise the extent of their debt to these English sources.

In view of these facts Mr. Andersonís book can hardly fail to be received as one of the most important contributions that have been made to Scottish history during recent years. For the first time he has brought together, in the compass of one volume, all or nearly all the materials supplied by English chroniclers for the history of Scotland from 500 a.d. till 1286. The task was not a light one. Mr. Anderson has made translations from more than forty writers, whose medieval Latin is frequently as difficult to understand as it is difficult to render in equivalent and intelligible English. Moreover, the relevant passages had to be selected, texts collated, and contradictory statements illustrated from tne different chroniclers who have recorded the same events. Of the thoroughness with which Mr. Anderson has done his work every page of his book bears evidence. The introductory Table of Reference is German in its Grundlichktit, and the same may be said of the appended notes, which are more voluminous than the text.

From the nature of Mr. Andersonís work it can hardly as a whole appeal to the general reader, but for the serious student of Scottish history its interest and instructiveness are apparent. He has here the chief materials out of which the history of the period has to be constructed, and from which he can receive his own direct impression of the events that are recorded. Many of the excerpts merely state briefly that an event occurred, but others record at considerable length all the circumstances that occasioned it. Such, for example, are certain passages from Bede, Alfred of Rievaulx, and Matthew Paris, where incidents and characters are presented with a vividness which the modem historian cannot reproduce. In view of the increasing interest in our national history, indeed, selection of such passages might form a school text-book which would possess an educational value that would go far to stimulate an interest in historical studies in Scotland. Except for a few later periods we have no such books, composed from contemporary records, as are available in other countries. If Mr. Andersonís book could be utilised for this purpose, his countrymen would owe him an added debt. And there is another work which, as we gather from his book, he has the necessary equipment to undertake. He is a Celtic scholar and a practised transcriber of Celtic MSS.; could he not do for Celtic records what he has done so admirably for the English chroniclers?

P. Hume Brown.

You can read this book here in pdf format


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