Scholarly, brisk and direct

I’ve always been interested in history and had some great history teachers, and a couple who weren’t so great.  However, looking back at the syllabus of the different exams I took, they were exceedingly narrow and I am actually very ignorant of several really significant and important areas – not counting what I’ve forgotten that I was taught! For example, the English Civil War, my knowledge is really sketchy, and although I have some idea of the history of the island of Ireland, I know shamefully little of the history of Wales and shockingly less about the history of Scotland. In fact I know more about the history of Iceland than I do about some parts of the United Kingdom.

I have decided to remedy this in some way, and having heard mention of the Battle of Bannockburn on a radio programme, decided I would find out more about it. I looked for books and found  “1314: Bannockburn”  by Aryeh Nusbacher and bought it. It taught me something straight away, the date of the battle. I usually only read at bedtime in bed – otherwise I would lose whole days, carried away by books, however, the book arrived and I looked through it, at the maps and the illustrations and photos and just glanced at the introduction… about twenty minutes later I realised I had started reading, totally engaged with this first part of Nusbacher’s book. The ‘voice’ was so immediate and clear, the introduction was just that and not a load of tedious waffle, the writing was crisp and pacey but not a rushed gabble, and as well as being interesting and instructive there was humour.  In the few pages I read, I really got a sense of the author who seemed almost to be having a conversation with me, scholarly, brisk, direct – a great character.

I didn’t know anything about Nusbacher except they were American.  Actually, I realised I did know something about them; I had ‘met’ them , now known as Lynette Nusbacher, on various TV programmes, particularly ‘Abandoned Engineering’ which is a series about – well, engineering projects which have been abandoned! “Structures of steel and iron eerily stand unfinished after they were abandoned midway in construction, covered in weeds, moss and rust, the show explores what they could have been,” (IMDb) Nusbacher is one of the main presenters/narrators and experts, along with Tom Ward, Rob Bell, Dominic Selwood and many others.  The experts include historians, engineers, scientists, and their knowledge makes ‘Abandoned Engineering’ a fascinating series.

Back to Bannockburn; this is what the blurb says:

Recent scholarship has illuminated one of the most exciting battles of Scottish history, showing it to be as historically significant as it was romantic and bloody. This book carries the reader through the politics and plans of a military campaign of the Middle Ages. Using recent studies on weapons, warfare, and Scottish history, as well as sound archival sources, this book opens the files on a year’s preparation for a massive English invasion of Scotland. In addition to the heroic legends, ‘Bannockburn 1314′ examines the common soldiers summoned to war and the knights who fought near them.

I think I am going to enjoy learning about this important period of history!


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