The best books about Jacobitism

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Jacobitism and why they recommend each book.

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Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

By David Forsyth (editor),

Book cover of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

This is a collection of essays for a major exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in 2017. It features essays on aspects of the endurance of the Jacobite cause, and objects associated with Jacobitism (like Bonnie Prince Charlie’s silver picnic set). It also has over 200 pictures. This myth has endured through the writings of Sir Walter Scott through Outlander, and this book presents the much, much larger, and more complex story.


Who am I?

I dropped out of law school to pursue a PhD in music at the University of Glasgow and to write the history of the flute in Scotland. Essentially, I wanted to know that if Scotland was a leader in Enlightenment thought, and if there were hundreds of publications with flute on the title page, and since the flute was the most popular amateur instrument in the eighteenth century, why was nothing written about the flute. I obsessively read Scottish mythology as a child, and was always drawn to the stereotypical wild misty landscapes of Scotland without knowing much about it. 


I wrote...

The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

By Elizabeth Ford,

Book cover of The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

What is my book about?

This is the first (and only) book devoted to the flute in Scottish music history. It explores the rich history of the flute in Scottish musical life through people who played it, made it, and offers in depth analysis of surviving flute manuscripts.

This might sound dry, but it has pictures, and has been called “required reading” and “groundbreaking.” I suspect this is because the common misconception is that no one in Scotland played flute, that flute in traditional music is an Irish thing. I debunk that, along with the other myth about ladies not playing flute. The flute’s use in Scottish music gets moved much earlier than previously thought along the way. 


The Winter Sea

By Susanna Kearsley,

Book cover of The Winter Sea

This is a book that completely grabbed hold of me and held me tight to the last word. In 1708, the Jacobites came closest to succeeding in their goal of restoring the Stewart king to the Scottish throne, but they failed. Present-day writer Carrie is researching the events for her novel and finds an ancestral connection of her own to those involved. That connection, more an ancestral memory, leads her to uncovering truths long-forgotten and that nearly destroys her.

This book brings Scottish history to such vivid life, I felt after reading that I had lived the events. Many of the characters in the story really lived, too, which makes it all that much juicier. And, if you end up loving this book as much as I do, Kearsley has written two others that connect to this one (The Firebird – somewhat of a sequel, and The Vanished Days…


Who am I?

I’ve always loved history, but there’s something extra-special about a novel that shows history and how that history is still relevant today. Dual timeline novels tell an historical event through the eyes of a character living it and through the story of a present-day character connected to that history. I'm the author of two published dual timeline novels. One of my greatest passions is to learn about the history of a place I'm visiting so that I can practically see the history all around me. I currently live near Seattle with my husband and two sons and, when I’m not writing, can be found outside walking or boating the Salish Sea.


I wrote...

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

By Kelli Estes,

Book cover of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

What is my book about?

Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt’s island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara’s life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lien, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. Through the stories Mei Lien tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core – and force her to make an impossible choice.

Inspired by true events, this dual timeline novel serves as a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, and the power of our own stories.

Waverley

By Sir Walter Scott,

Book cover of Waverley

To understand the trauma caused by the Napoleonic Wars, and the craving of people in France, Europe and elsewhere to return to the ‘normal pace of times’ as the Austrian Statesman Clemens von Metternich had it, Walter Scott’s ‘Waverley’ is the best vehicle to convey ourselves into the mindset of the contemporary Europeans. Europe had to curb the ‘evil passions’ and had to ‘come to its senses’. Just as Waverley’s young hero Edward does by letting go of his romantic love for the rebellious Flora and returning in the arms of his very English, quiet and harmonious fiancée, Rose. Scott’s Waverley came out in 1814, was a bestselling success in Britain and on the European continent. The protagonists of my book, Fighting terror, read it. And it still is a great read for us today, for rainy days.


Who am I?

I was struck by the memoirs of Louisa Adams who travelled through Europe during the last Napoleonic battles. She was a young mother, and had to take her 7-year old son with her. Having children myself, I started wondering: how did people "on the ground" experience the last stages of the Napoleonic wars and the transition towards peace? I am a professor in the History of International Relations at Utrecht University. I write about terrorism and security in the 20th and 21st centuries. Yet, over the past decade, I felt the need to go further back in time, to that seminal period of the Age of Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, because that period truly saw the birth of a new security culture in Europe and beyond.


I wrote...

Fighting Terror After Napoleon: How Europe Became Secure After 1815

By Beatrice de Graaf,

Book cover of Fighting Terror After Napoleon: How Europe Became Secure After 1815

What is my book about?

I wrote my monograph Fighting Terror After Napoleon as an attempt to reconstruct that unique and strange experiment that the countries of the Seventh Coalition undertook to ‘bring back the world to more peaceful habits’.  In 1815, as the allied leaders and generals had it. They did not ‘bring the boys back home’, but remain put as an Allied Army of Occupation in France. Lots of books have been written on the Congress of Vienna and the Balance of Power. But how did they – the men and women on the spot – rolled out this experiment of collective security on the ground, in detail and practice?

I surmised that they – the ministers, generals, ambassadors, and other officers – worked together in Paris via some sort of ‘deliberative platform’ – because, organizing reparation payments, return of looted artwork, running a 1.2 million army of occupation, building a string of fortresses around France, etc., does require some hands-on management. I reconstructed and narrated this story as the imperialist, repressive, and authoritarian undertaking it mostly was. But I also highlighted the fact that it truly was an attempt to repair the trauma of the terror years, and bring back ‘balance’ and ‘moderation’ to the continent and beyond. In my book, you can read whether I thought this nascent European security culture to be a success - or not.

Witch Light

By Susan Fletcher,

Book cover of Witch Light

While this book isn’t necessarily a horror, this slow, poetic, and tragic story about a young girl born in the wrong time hits me right in the heart. Corrag is a wild young girl from the mountains of Scotland who has been imprisoned as a witch. It’s 1692, and in a cold, filthy cell, she awaits her fate of death by burning—until she is visited by a young Irishman, hungry to question her. Corrag’s story flows from the beautiful poetic descriptions of wild Scottish life to the brutal Massacre of Glencoe in a style that’s absolutely unforgettable.


Who am I?

Caroline Hardaker is an author, poet, and librettist who writes dark and twisty tales about anything speculative, from folklore to the future. She’s a sporadic puppet-maker and house plant collector, and lives in the northeast of England with her husband, son, and giant cat. Caroline’s debut poetry collection, Bone Ovation, was published by Valley Press in 2017, and her first full-length collection, Little Quakes Every Day, was published by Valley Press in November 2020. Caroline’s debut novel, Composite Creatures, was published by Angry Robot in April 2021.


I wrote...

Composite Creatures

By Caroline Hardaker,

Book cover of Composite Creatures

What is my book about?

Set in a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Composite Creatures follows Norah and Arthur, who are learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly—from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it—or her—close.

Flemington And Tales From Angus

By Violet Jacob,

Book cover of Flemington And Tales From Angus

A bracing tonic for anyone slogging through the Outlanderor Waverleyversion of the Jacobite rebellions, Jacob's 1911 novel is beautiful, painful, and utterly unromantic (even though the deep attraction felt between the two main male characters is the driving force of much of the plot). It throws into sharp relief the ambiguities of civil war and the ways in which personal background, inclination, and affection play more of a role than principle ever could in determining an individual's place in such a conflict. Each year, my students are continually surprised by how much they enjoy it.


Who am I?

Every country suffers from stereotypes, few more than Scotland. Since the nineteenth century, if not earlier, we—and the rest of the worldhave built a fantasy history of romantic kilted highlanders, misty glens, and Celtic romance which bears very little relationship to the much richer, much more complex reality of Scotland's past. As a writer and scholar one of my goals has been to explore that past and to dispelor at least explainthe myths which still obscure it. I live in a small fishing village on the east coast of the country. There are very few kilts and no misty glens.


I wrote...

The First Scottish Enlightenment: Rebels, Priests, and History

By Kelsey Jackson Williams,

Book cover of The First Scottish Enlightenment: Rebels, Priests, and History

What is my book about?

Most people have a vague idea that there was something called "the Scottish Enlightenment," some sort of period towards the end of the eighteenth century when Edinburgh became one of the intellectual centres of Europe and everything from modern economics to history to philosophy was forged within its walls. This book is about what came before that, about the rebels, priests, andyesrebel priests who transformed Scottish culture between the 1680s and the 1740s, rewriting both the nation's past and its present despite coming from religious and political minorities which saw increasing persecution by the establishment. It offers a dramatically different reading of Scottish history and challenges many of the narratives about that history which are still current today.

Flemington

By Violet Jacob,

Book cover of Flemington

D.K. Broster dedicated The Flight of the Heron ‘To Violet Jacob in homage’. Violet Jacob’s Flemington (published in 1909) must be the most underrated novel about the Jacobite rising written in the 20th century. Jacob (probably best known these days as a vernacular poet) was born and bred in Angus on the east coast of Scotland, and her tale is set there; unusually it is mostly told from the Whig point of view. Again it is one of agonisingly divided loyalties. The descriptions of the landscape are pure poetry, but there is humour, nerve-jangling tension, and apt characterisation as well.


Who am I?

I am an award-winning author and journalist, specialising in social history and gardening. I have an M.A. in Modern History from Cambridge University and a Diploma of Horticulture from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I have written for many British newspapers and magazines, most notably The Spectator, The Observer, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraphand The Garden.


I wrote...

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan

By Ursula Buchan,

Book cover of Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan

What is my book about?

My latest book is a critically-acclaimed biography of my grandfather, entitled Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan. This explores his extraordinary and multifarious life, his public prominence - including his years as Governor-General of Canada - and the more than 100 books that he wrote: historical fiction, biography, short stories, poems, essays, and, of course, spy thrillers and adventure stories.

Most famous of these are the Richard Hannay stories, such as The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was turned into a memorable film by Alfred Hitchcock, and has never been out of print in over a hundred years. Since I am a historian and have Scots forbears, my choices are five fine historical novels about Scotland, written in the 20th century.

The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange

By Sue Lawrence,

Book cover of The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange

This historical novel is based on quite horrifying fact. In Edinburgh in 1732, Lord Grange was apparently mourning the death of his estranged wife Rachel. Except he’d actually had her kidnapped and marooned on the remote and desolate island of St Kilda. Lawrence isn’t only a historical novelist: she’s a respected cookery and food writer, and former winner of the BBC’s MasterChef. She first heard of Lady Grange when she was researching her cookbook on Scottish islands. And she discovered that Rachel’s life had been recorded by male writers in the 18th and 19th centuries, all of whom blackened her reputation. So this book, for the first time, gives Rachel a voice. 


Who am I?

Proud to drop the F-bomb—I’m an unrepentant feminist. I grew up during the heady days of the Sixties and Seventies when books played a major part in raising our consciousness. I’m remembering the wonderful Virago Press championing women’s voices, and writers such as Marilyn French, Angela Carter, Maya Angelou, and Maxine Hong Kingston. I’m not keen on books where women are helpless victims or ciphers while men get to do all the exciting stuff. And since real life can be quite grim enough (I was a journalist for over thirty years and remain a news junkie), I’m increasingly attracted by writing that includes a dollop of humour. 


I wrote...

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

By Olga Wojtas,

Book cover of Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

What is my book about?

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. 

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist, and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France. But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat in the isolated castle really suffering from toothache?

My Ladie Dundie

By Katherine Parker,

Book cover of My Ladie Dundie

A forgotten gem of a book. Katherine Parker hasn't (yet) enjoyed the same revival of interest as Violet Jacob, but this volume alone should make us reconsider. Sitting somewhere between biography and novel, it teases us and makes us a little uncomfortable as it veers between fragments of dialogueclearly invented, albeit very much in keeping with period languageand more obviously historical passages, telling the eventful life of Jean Cochrane, Viscountess Dundee (1662-1695) from her birth in the west of Scotland, through her marriage with the famous Jacobite general Viscount Dundee"Bloody Clavers" or "Bonnie Dundee" depending on your political preferencesto her strange death, killed by a collapsing inn roof in Utrecht, and her stranger exhumation a hundred years later.


Who am I?

Every country suffers from stereotypes, few more than Scotland. Since the nineteenth century, if not earlier, we—and the rest of the worldhave built a fantasy history of romantic kilted highlanders, misty glens, and Celtic romance which bears very little relationship to the much richer, much more complex reality of Scotland's past. As a writer and scholar one of my goals has been to explore that past and to dispelor at least explainthe myths which still obscure it. I live in a small fishing village on the east coast of the country. There are very few kilts and no misty glens.


I wrote...

The First Scottish Enlightenment: Rebels, Priests, and History

By Kelsey Jackson Williams,

Book cover of The First Scottish Enlightenment: Rebels, Priests, and History

What is my book about?

Most people have a vague idea that there was something called "the Scottish Enlightenment," some sort of period towards the end of the eighteenth century when Edinburgh became one of the intellectual centres of Europe and everything from modern economics to history to philosophy was forged within its walls. This book is about what came before that, about the rebels, priests, andyesrebel priests who transformed Scottish culture between the 1680s and the 1740s, rewriting both the nation's past and its present despite coming from religious and political minorities which saw increasing persecution by the establishment. It offers a dramatically different reading of Scottish history and challenges many of the narratives about that history which are still current today.

Scotland

By Murray Pittock,

Book cover of Scotland: The Global History: 1603 to the Present

In terms of Scottish political and cultural history, this is a hugely important book that will astonish and delight everyone engaged in the matter of Scotland. What impresses is the range and scope of Murray Pittock’s global vision for Scotland, but what engages is the minute human detail of the people in the diaspora that he reveals to us, positive and negative. This is the polar opposite of dry history, it is a magisterial work that Scots will actively return to again and again, as we redefine our role in Europe and the world in the 21st Century. I have interviewed Murray for several BBC programmes and he has always come across as a brilliant communicator, who like me, is passionate about Scotland.


Who am I?

Very little Scottish history or culture was taught in school when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. When I began to read books on the subject from the local library and then studied Scottish literature at Edinburgh University, I realised what my brother and sister Scots had missed out on, and was determined to rectify that by writing accessible books which would both inform and entertain as well as enrich their lives and change the way they perceived their culture. I love their reaction to my work and the influence my books have had. 


I wrote...

The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora

By Billy Kay,

Book cover of The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora

What is my book about?

A celebration of the huge contribution the Scots have made in every far-flung corner of the world and the legacy they have created in areas that will surprise and delight—from freemasonry to football and from intellectual enlightenment to the appreciation of fine wine! I made documentaries on the Scottish diaspora over several decades for the BBC, so this is the fruit of that labour combined with a personal account of my own world travels where just being a Scot helped me tremendously in places as far apart as Hawaii, Malawi, Thailand, Poland, the United States, and Canada.

The New Road

By Neil Munro,

Book cover of The New Road

Neil Munro’s Scottish tales, especially the Para Handy stories, were very popular in his lifetime, but I prefer his historical novels. In my opinion, the best is The New Road. The title refers to the military road into the Highlands, made in the 1730s by General Wade, which was a major reason why the Highlanders were defeated, since it enabled the army to bring artillery to bear at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. But the road also brought the possibility of greater prosperity, through trade, to the benighted Highlands. Munro came from Inverary in Argyll, and so does the hero in this thriller, who sets out to find the killer of his Jacobite father years before, during the uprising in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father, James. It is an exciting story but with underlying serious themes, for example about progress and change in traditional societies.


Who am I?

I am an award-winning author and journalist, specialising in social history and gardening. I have an M.A. in Modern History from Cambridge University and a Diploma of Horticulture from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I have written for many British newspapers and magazines, most notably The Spectator, The Observer, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraphand The Garden.


I wrote...

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan

By Ursula Buchan,

Book cover of Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan

What is my book about?

My latest book is a critically-acclaimed biography of my grandfather, entitled Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan. This explores his extraordinary and multifarious life, his public prominence - including his years as Governor-General of Canada - and the more than 100 books that he wrote: historical fiction, biography, short stories, poems, essays, and, of course, spy thrillers and adventure stories.

Most famous of these are the Richard Hannay stories, such as The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was turned into a memorable film by Alfred Hitchcock, and has never been out of print in over a hundred years. Since I am a historian and have Scots forbears, my choices are five fine historical novels about Scotland, written in the 20th century.

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