Monday, April 10, 2017

Steel Bonnets

Steel Bonnets by Flashman author, George MacDonald Fraser, is a non-fiction account of the English/Scottish border troubles that plagued the area from Elizabethan to Georgian times.

I confess that I didn't finish the book as it got too ponderous for me, but the first half was quite interesting.  The border lands during this time period make the American Wild West look positively tame.  Cattle raids, family feuds, lynchings, lawlessness, pillage, revenge, spite, and sheer dastardliness were the norm.  It was absolutely crazy, and neither the English nor the Scottish governments were at all effective in curtailing the violence.

The opening of the pages of the book was absolutely priceless -- go to Amazon and "Look Inside" and read pages 1 and 2. Basically, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Billy Graham are archetypical Border Reivers.  My imagination has been having fun putting Richard Nixon in a steel bonnet.

And the rest of the introduction, including the bit about Hadrian's Wall and Roman Britain, were terrific and definitely germane to my current interest in Reading Northumberland, but after awhile I felt I just didn't need to read any more anecdotes about the uniformly rotten people who made life hell for those who were simply trying to stay alive and keep their families fed and safe.

As I walk the Hadrian's Wall Path this July, I will be on the lookout for Peel towers as well as traces of Roman Britain, thanks to Steel Bonnets.

From Wikipedia: Arnside Tower, a late-medieval Pele tower in Cumbria

Now, that I have a better understanding of the history of the area and the social and political dynamics, I may revisit Dorothy Dunnett's Game of Kings, which I abandoned a few weeks ago.

I'm glad I read as much of Steel Bonnets as I did, but also glad I didn't feel compelled to soldier on.


  1. I'm glad you found some of this book interesting - I thought that bit about Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Billy Graham was fascinating! I agree about the anecdotes - far too many and too repetitive. I did read it to the end - but only by scan reading large sections. I thought parts were confusing and disjointed, and with far too many footnotes.

    Margaret at BooksPlease

    1. I completely ignored the footnotes as I was finding it too dense without them! The book would have been stellar at half the length.

  2. I think that I would like this. I love this kind of history. Dense and ponderous usually does not bother me.

    This is such an interesting region. Your reading about it will probably really enhance your travel experience.

  3. The photo of the Steel Bonnet / helmet is great; so sturdy! I agree the Hadrian's Wall part of the book would be the most interesting to me.