Charles Sinclair, A Wee Guide to St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore (Goblinshead and Dufour Editions, 2004)

The Wee Guides are a series of introductions to aspects of Scottish history, whether an era or a person. (Some examples: Scottish History, Robert the Bruce, The Jacobites.)

The first section of A Wee Guide to St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore is pure history and puts Margaret and Malcolm in political, religious and social context. The second section is tourist information about sites in Scotland that are connected to the royal couple or their family in some way. It includes locations (with map references), hours of operation, entry fees, accessibility details, and so on.

The historical information is fascinating and enlightening, but A Wee Guide to St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore is very repetitive. The same events are retold from more than one point of view in the first section, and then sometimes repeated in the second-section entry about the place where they happened. The style is simple and it's hard to know to whom the book is addressed. Children? Tourists? At any rate, it's an overview, not a detailed biography or travel guide. That makes it perfect if an overview is what you want, vaguely unsatisfactory if you were hoping for a detailed biography or travel guide. It is a Wee Guide, after all.

I especially appreciated one point that the author repeats several times — that Malcolm and Margaret need to be judged by the standards of their time, not ours. Neither would have fit into the 21st century very well.

There are many interesting illustrations, including portraits of the couple and photos of significant places. Most are in black and white, but the covers are in colour. I needed my bifocals to read the maps and the cramped genealogical charts. There is a detailed index and a timeline of significant events in Scottish history from 1005 to 1603.

What is the significance of this book to readers of the Green Man Review? St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore had pivotal roles in the history of the British Isles. Their marriage united the Celtic and the Saxon royalty of the time. Their daughter Edith (Matilda) married Henry I of England, adding these same Celtic and Saxon bloodlines to those of the Norman conquerors. Malcolm and his descendants managed to prolong Scottish independence, giving Scottish culture more time to develop and flourish. Those of us who enjoy that culture owe them a certain gratitude.

The Wee Guides are published by Goblinshead and distributed in North America by Dufour Editions. Goblinshead doesn't have its own Web site, but there is information on the series on the Scotland 2000 site. Dufour Editions does have a site.

Charles Sinclair also wrote A Wee Guide to Rob Roy MacGregor.

[Faith Cormier]