From Caledonia to Pictland : Scotland to 795, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


From Caledonia to Pictland examines the transformation of Iron Age northern Britain into a land of Christian kingdoms, long before 'Scotland' came into existence.

Perched at the edge of the western Roman Empire, northern Britain was not unaffected by the experience, and became swept up in the great tide of processes which gave rise to the early medieval West.

Like other places, the country experienced social and ethnic metamorphoses, Christianisation, and colonization by dislocated outsiders, but northern Britain also has its own unique story to tell in the first eight centuries AD.

This book is the first detailed political history to treat these centuries as a single period, with due regard for Scotland's position in the bigger story of late Antique transition.

From Caledonia to Pictland charts the complex and shadowy processes which saw the familiar Picts, Northumbrians, North Britons and Gaels of early Scottish history become established in the country, the achievements of their foremost political figures, and their ongoing links with the world around them. It is a story that has become much revised through changing trends in scholarly approaches to the challenging evidence, and that transformation too is explained for the benefit of students and general readers.

Key Features: *The only detailed political history to treat the first eight centuries AD as a single period of Scottish history. *Redresses the imbalance created by an existing literature dominated by archaeologists.

From Caledonia to Pictland provides a narrative history of the period. *Bridges a traditional disciplinary divide between the Roman and early medieval periods. *Locates this phase of Scotland's history within a European context, emphasising what is unique and what is not.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages, 11 maps, 11 maps
  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General & world history
  • ISBN: 9780748612321



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The chronologically first episode in the New Edinburgh History of Scotland is an impressive exposition of early Medieval northern Britain that paints a picture of the key players and power groups. The work reasserts the position of the Picts in early Scottish history and establishes the rivalries and pressures facing that ethnic group as well as the Gaels and Northumbrians.The ebb and flow of power between various factions is painstakingly put together over the centuries with the role of key individuals such as Adomnan or Onuist being laid out extensively. This work is an excellent source for collated information on the Picts in particular who have traditionally been on the short end of historical analysis. The implications of who the Picts are and were to become are there for the reader to take on board if never truly espoused because it requires a logical step that strict historical analysis might not allow.For a fair amount of the work I was under the impression that Fraser's narrative would suffer from the restrictions that most analysis of history falls under - that the sources available just do not document enough of the life and times of a culture to leave anything more than Kinglists. I found it quite difficult to follow the various familial trees as generations passed by in a flash and new kinglists emerged. Still, Fraser came through with a decent chapter near the end in discussing the warrior society and the requirements for ordinary folk to follow a leader into battle.I did though have a quibble with the work and that is that there is some context missing around the role of religion in society. Fraser assumes an understanding of the importance of the Church in medieval society when discussing various power struggles between religious authorities. It is understandable that religious people are over-represented as the original sources were typically written by men of the cloth but it was difficult to get a feel for why it mattered when one centre of religious fervour was favoured over another.Overall though as the first step in the New Edinburgh series it is a terrific scene setter that establishes some of the peoples around at the time of the Romans and populating the northern reaches of the British isles prior to the arrival of the Vikings.

Also by Brother James E. Fraser

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