Series: A History Of Scotland

"I want to look beyond the legends, to find the real story of Scotland. And it's every bit as thrilling."
Neil Oliver (Series One, Episode One)

Running from November 2008 to November 2009, A History Of Scotland was an ambitious documentary made by The BBC exploring the history of Scotland. Presented and narrated by author, broadcaster and archaeologist Neil Oliver, the series was first broadcast on BBC One Scotland and consisted of ten sixty-minute episodes spread over two series.

Consisting of shots of the presenter strolling dramatically across Scotland's beautiful natural landscape, historical reconstructions to accompany Neil Oliver's narration and a kick-ass original musical score by James Newton-Howard, the series aspired to add a sense of drama and romance to the show rather than create another dry, matter-of-fact history lecture. Whether this adds to the experience or detracts from the show's capacity to educate the viewer is a matter for the viewer.

Series One:
  • Episode One: The Last of the Free
    At the dawn of the first millennia, there was no Scotland or England. In the first episode Oliver reveals the mystery of how the Gaelic Scottish Kingdom - Alba - was born, and why its role in one of the greatest battles ever fought on British soil defined the shape of Britain in the modern era.
  • Episode Two: Hammers of the Scots
    Oliver charts the 13th century story of the two men who helped transform the Gaelic kingdom of Alba into the Scotland of today. While Alexander II forged Scotland in blood and violence, William Wallace's resistance to King Edward I of England hammered national consciousness into the Scots.
  • Episode Three: Bishop Makes King
    Robert The Bruce's 22-year struggle to secure the Scots' independence is one of the most important chapters in Scotland's story. Oliver explores the role the Scottish church played in promoting Robert Bruce, the propaganda campaigns, both at home and abroad, and how the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath persuaded The Pope to finally recognise Scotland as an independent nation.
  • Episode Four: Language Is Power
    At one time, Gaelic Scotland - the people and the language - was central to the identity of Scots. But as Oliver reveals, Scotland's infamous Highland/Lowland divide was the result of a family struggle that divided the kingdom. This is the story of how the policies of the [[Useful Notes/fTheHouseOfStuart Stewart royal family]] in the 15th century led to the Gaels being perceived as rebels and outsiders.
  • Episode Five: Project Britain
    Oliver describes how the ambitions of two of Scotland's Stuart monarchs were the driving force that united two ancient enemies, and set them on the road to the Great Britain we know today. While Mary Queen of Scots plotted to usurp Elizabeth I and seize the throne of England, her son James dreamt of a more radical future: a Protestant Great Britain.

Series Two:
  • Episode One: God's Chosen People
    Neil Oliver continues his journey through Scotland's past with the story of the Covenanters, whose profound religious beliefs were declared in the National Covenant of 1638. This document licensed revolution, started the Civil War that cost King Charles I his head, cost tens of thousands of Scots their lives and led to Britain's first war on terror.
  • Episode Two: Let's Pretend
    Bitterly divided by politics and religion for centuries, this is the infamous story of how Scotland and England came together in 1707 to form Great Britain. Over time the Union matured into one of the longest in European history, but it very nearly ended in divorce. Exploiting the Union's unpopularity, the exiled Stuarts staged several comebacks, selling themselves as a credible and liberal alternative to the Hanoverian regime. Neil Oliver reveals just how close they came to succeeding.
  • Episode Three: The Price of Progress
    Through the winning and losing of an American empire and the impact of the Scottish Enlightenment, Neil Oliver reveals how in the second half of the 18th century Scotland was transformed from a poor northern backwater with a serious image problem into one of the richest nations on Earth. This was the dawn of the modern age when Scotland made its mark on the world by exporting its most valuable commodities - its people and ideas.
  • Episode Four: This Land is our Land
    At the start of the 19th century, everything familiar was swept away. People fled from the countryside into the industrial towns of Scotland's Central Belt. Rural workers became factory workers - in some of the worst conditions in Europe. This new Scotland became a seedbed of revolution. But it wasn't just force that kept the Scottish people in their place, it was fantasy. Neil Oliver reveals how Sir Walter Scott created so powerful a myth, it haunts the Scots collective imagination to this day.
  • Episode Five: Project Scotland
    As a partner in The British Empire, Scotland began the 20th century with an advanced economy and a world-beating heavy industry. But in the closing decades its sense of Britishness was in doubt and a Scottish Parliament sat in Edinburgh for the first time since 1707. Charting Scotland's darkest century, Neil Oliver discovers a country driven to self-determination through a series of economic crises so deep that her most striking export became her own disillusioned population.

Examples of Tropes found in this series: