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The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers [Paperback]

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Retail Value $ 14.95  
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Item Number 359611  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   384
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   1.08 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2008
Publisher   Skyhorse Publishing
ISBN  160239265X  
EAN  9781602392656  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
From the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, outlaws reigned supreme on the contentious frontier between England and Scotland. Feud and terror, raid and reprisal, were the ordinary stuff of life--and a way of survival. Power was held by the notorious border reivers (the "steel bonnets," named for their flashy helmets), who robbed and murdered in the name of family: the famous clans (or "grains")--like Elliot, Armstrong, Charlton, and Robson--romanticized by Sir Walter Scott. In The Steel Bonnets, George MacDonald Fraser, author of the bestselling Flashman novels, and himself a borderer, tells the fascinating and bloody story of the reivers, their rise to power as ferocious soldiers of horse, and their surprisingly sudden fall from grace.

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More About George MacDonald Fraser

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! George MacDonald Fraser was born in England and served in a Highland regiment in India, Africa, and the Middle East. In addition to the twelve Flashman novels, he wrote screenplays, most notably for the James Bond film Octopussy. He died in 2008.

Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The Washington Post and the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book, and Classics for Pleasure.

George MacDonald Fraser was born in 1925 and died in 2008.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > England > General   [11650  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > World > General   [101287  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Sometimes short reviews are best   Oct 15, 2008
As my command of the English language once again fails me in regards to communicating how good the author is let me just say that just as Black Ajax convinced us all that GMF missed his calling as a sports writer and Quartered Safe Out Here convinced us he should have been a lecturer talking about his experiences in Burma this current book also tells us something.

GMF again missed his calling in addition to being an excellent writer of fiction as is evidenced by the Flashman series "The Steel Bonnets" shows that GMF had the makings of a serious historian.

His tragic although not entirely unexpected death robbed us of one of the great authors of the 20th century.
Comments from a contemporary Armstrong  Oct 14, 2008
An excellent and exhaustive narrative of what must be one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the British Isles.
Bonnets for the historian.  Aug 3, 2008
Frasier is quite a writer - best in others of his works where he can use his talented imagination. And as a reporter of his own exploits in Burma during the war, his ability is outstanding (one should read "Quartered Safe Out Here").
However, here in "Steel Bonnets" his hands are tied by tiresome reality and a remove of 400 years. Fraser admits this book is not a primer or even a text for college study, but it is a recount of his research and written with nostalgic favor since he comes from the border area himself. Mr. Fraser has great pride in his background and home, and he repeats the stories as faithfully as anyone could. The problem with "Bonnets" is that it hasn't much of a story.
In the first six pages of the book all to be said is done; the remainder is elaboration on who, when and where. Bandits raid other people's farms and towns, burning, stealing, killing, etc.. Generations of upwards to thirty families continue this insanity until Scotland is joined to England in about 1605 or so with James VI and I.
IF you ARE related to "border riding" English/Scots - (especially if named Graham, Johnstone, Maxwell or Armstrong, Kerr, Hume, Elliot or Nixon) then the book is well worth a look.
Thorough, well-structured, and entertaining  Jun 9, 2005
Until England and Scotland were united under a single king in March 1603, the border between them was, unsurprisingly, a natural place for strife and disorder. The two countries had been at war intermittently for centuries, and many armies had passed back and forth across the border counties. Fraser's history covers the last hundred years of the border, from 1503 to 1603, a period during which the decayed (and astonishingly corrupt) administration could never cope with the local gangs -- known as "reivers" -- who terrorized the district with cattle theft, murder, and arson.

The book is very well-organized. Fraser starts with a few pages on the long historical background, then takes about half the book to cover the reivers by topic: chapters on arms and armour; on reiving technique; on the key families and their alliances; on cross-border relations; on the administrative structure. Fraser gives a lot of details, and plenty of quotes from the original sources (with the original spellings!).

This painstaking coverage sets up the second half of the book perfectly: one hundred and forty pages that cover the history of the border chronologically through the sixteenth century. With the details in hand, the second half is easy to follow and put in context; the writing is also clear and entertaining.

The last section of the book details the uncompromising way in which King James I destroyed the reivers in a few short years after 1603. It is a startlingly bloodthirsty story: Fraser includes quotes from blanket pardons that King James issued to some of his enforcers, which essentially say "whatever murders you did, I'm sure it was in a good cause, and you're absolved".

There are separate chapters on some of the most famous events, notably the raid on Carlisle Castle that freed Kinmont Willie. Fraser is at some pains to dispel the romantic ideas that cling to stories of the borderers -- as he points out, they were essentially a Mafia, with little of Robin Hood about them. It's clear, though, that he finds their adventurousness and style endearing and fascinating; and he writes about them so well that you are likely to feel the same way.
The Definitive History of the Borderers  Mar 23, 2005
This book is the definitive history of the riding families -- the Border Reviers. It is a long scholarly look into the nature of these complex and determined families that does not pass judgment or apply modern values in the assessment of their history and deeds. This is not for the casusal reader. It uses a fair amount of old English spellings and can be an effort to decifer at times. However Fraser MacDonald combines this along with his natural story telling ability to make you feel as if you are on a foray across the border and it keeps you coming back for more. If you are a student of Border history or are lucky enough to have one of the riding names, make the effort to read this book. It has no equal in its treatment of the subject.

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