Pulling hair and calling names, historians disagree about Scotland





BBC Scotland has been castigated by one of the nation’s distinguished academic historians over its showpiece documentary series about the country’s past, which he characterised as “a mediocre B-movie”.

According to Professor Tom Devine the scripts of A History of Scotland are “lame, boring and flaccid” and its “hapless, long-haired presenter”, Neil Oliver, suffers from “a sad lack of personal authority or presence”.

The series, Professor Devine claimed, is fatally imbalanced, with only three of its ten programmes devoted to the making of modern Scotland, while some of the most important issues — the Enlightenment and the Scottish diaspora — are, he said, almost entirely ignored.

Aside from these shortcomings — and with the proviso that the series has a predictable narrative style — the documentaries “could not have been more timely”, said Professor Devine, who is head of the school of history, classics and archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Devine based his remarks, made in a television review, on episodes from the documentary’s first five-part series, and the opening episode of series two, which he had been sent on DVD by the BBC, along with production notes for forthcoming episodes.

The result, he concluded, was “a profound disappointment and a missed opportunity”.

Oliver, who has a 2:1 in archaeology from the University of Glasgow, did not pull his punches as he hit back at his august critic, characterising Professor Devine as “a silly old fool”, though he denied he had been upset by the personal tone of the attack...

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