Book Reviews

“The Anvil of Scottish History: Stories of Stirling” by Murray Cook

Reviewed by Dr Stephen M. Millett FSAScot

The Anvil of Scottish History: Stories of Stirling by Murray Cook, Extremis Publishing Ltd., 2020. Paperback, 129 pages, Illustrated. ISBN: 978-1-9996962-5-2, RRP £10.99, Reviewed by Stephen M. Millett, Ph.D. FSAScot, January 2021

Cover image of Anvil of Scottish History bookDr Cook FSAScot has presented us a little book on Big History – a sweeping overview of the history of Scotland as seen from the crossroads of the Stirling area from the geological formation of the landforms millions of years ago through to the Second World War. You might say that this is a bird’s eye view of the Scottish past, but given the author’s career in archaeology (“the testimony of the spade”), you might say it’s a worm’s eye perspective. Dr Cook has fortunately offered a narrative in plain, even charming, language aimed at the readers of the Stirling Observer newspaper, which originally serialized these non-fiction stories. The author takes not only a broad view of history, but of archaeology as well. Particularly interesting are his accounts of Stirling’s Old Town Cemetery, both the stones and disturbed remains (charnel). Creatively, he has provided a bridge between arcane academic archaeology to practical genealogy that will appeal to many Scottish-Americans as well as Scots. Will DNA testing supplement Carbon-14? Dr Cook has further extended his reach to the material culture of more recent times. He makes me wonder what the archaeologists of the future will find and say about us living today. I fear that our descendants of distant eras yet to come will look back on us and shake their heads at our incredible consumer-product wastes and abuses of the natural environment. I encourage Dr Cook to think further out of the academic box in research scope, methods, and explanations.

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