Neil Oliver’s history of Scotland

Neil Oliver‘s TV history of Scotland is well worth your time; especially if like me, you have only heard these stories told from the English point of view.


His discussion of the Scottish Reformation is a FAIL. Basically he breezes over it saying that it was relatively bloodless (on the very bloody standards of Reformation politics, that is not saying much) and that the Scottish church went over pretty fast.

I would like to know more, how did it go over? Did Protestant preachers win over key members of the Scottish nobility? What happened? Was it Elizabeth I’s subsidies? Or was Scotland Protestant by the time that Elizabeth took power? That is a story that would be worth telling and the fact that Oliver breezes over it suggests that someone else would be a better choice to tell that story.

Oliver’s discussion of James VI/I is fascinating and certainly gives new insight to those of us who only have studied his time on the English throne. I am surprised that there have not been more period drama’s devoted to James VI/I. His life was action packed even on the gripping standards of the 16th and 17th centuries. The story of his abuse as a child at the hands of his tutor, his imprisonment, escape, return to power, ultimate triumphs, first in Scotland, then in England, this is the stuff of legend and great drama. I assume that someone has made a drama of his life and it just has not found its way to the American market.

I was surprised that Oliver said nothing about the King James Bible, which may be James VI/I most lasting legacy. (It is hard to resist the conclusion that Oliver is a Catholic, mercifully in the 21st century such things are a matter of idly speculation, of no moment.) The King James Bible has had an enormous impact on both the English language and English speaking Protestantism. Only Shakespeare rivals it in influence on the English language. To have launched such a contentious project and seen it to its conclusion is a remarkable achievement.


1 Response to “Neil Oliver’s history of Scotland”

  1. 1 Roma Drysdale November 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Dear Mr. Oliver,

    I enjoy very much your History of Scotland. My paternal ancestors were “Drysdale of the Black Douglas”.

    I believe you would very much enjoy reading a classic of Australian literature, “Robbery Under Arms” by Rolf Boldrewood and hope you get to read it some day.

    Roma Drysdale
    From Australia

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