A History of Scotland (3 stars)

Neil Oliver

Neil Oliver presents A History of Scotland

BBC1, Sun 9 Nov, 9pm

Following recent criticism about the lack of native history being taught in Scottish schools and widespread whinging about BBC Scotland spending increasingly less cash on home-grown fare, the corporation has risen to both challenges with this ambitious, hi-definition ten-part voyage through our nation's turbulent history. The project, co-produced with the Open University, will extend its tentacles well beyond the small screen, with related radio and web content, interactive games, concerts and events being unleashed over the coming year.

Presenter Neil Oliver opens the series with a caveat about the mythologising of Scottish history, hardly surprising given that most of the earliest recorded events were documented by outside observers, whether that be Tacitus describing the Roman struggle against the barbarians of North Britain or St Adomnán's second-hand account of St Columba adopting Christianity as the glue to bind together the various tribes that occupied this part of the world.

Oliver's opening gambit also serves as a warning regarding the breathless pace of his narrative. Squeezing 2000 years of history into less than ten hours is a tall order, and, at times, the leap from one significant episode to the next feels a bit abrupt.

Compensations come in the form of the breathtaking landscape, which has been ruthlessly exploited for the series, and in genuinely intriguing moments of historical revelation. Oliver's excitement at casting an eye over the The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, the only surviving document chronicling the birth of the country we now call Scotland, is particularly infectious.


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2. Fynesider10 Nov 2008, 4:02pm Report

Why is this programme NOT available via BBC iPlayer?

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