Scottish Clans and Tartans: Book Guide
Clans and Family Names
Clans (from the Gaelic clann "children") can be thought of as extended family who share allegiance to a single leader, or chief. Smaller families often became part of the clan as a sept, for both protection and influence.
Clan chiefs were often the major landowners across Scotland, and their homes and strongholds have been documented in Martin Coventry's extensive The Castles of Clans. It features more than 750 clans, families and septs.
Feuds, Forays and Rebellions by clan historian John L Roberts, covers the 15th and 16th centuries, and particularly charts the disintegration of the Clan Donald from 1475. Clan, King and Covenant, also by Roberts, charts the history of the Highland clans during the 17th century, particularly the civil war and the wars been the MacDonalds and the Campbells. Roberts is also the author of Lost Kingdoms, on the early Celtic Scottish clans; all of these books are substantial historical studies.
The Jacobite Clans of the Great Glen, 1650-1784 by Bruce Lenman attempts to explain the Scottish clan system and its demise under Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.
For those interested in the "look and feel" of Highland clans should start with Stuart Reid's Highland Clansman 1689-1746, an Osprey military history title full of illustrations, and an analysis of the 1745 rebellion and the battle of Culloden.
Lighter reading can be found in Dane Love's Tales of the Clan Chiefs, a collection of forty stories all associated with leading Scottish clans. Tom Johnston's Our Scots Noble Families was first published in 1909, and was once banned by Scottish newsagents and booksellers John Menzies because it was too "political". Finally, Scottish Clans and Tartans is a simple 32-page souvenir guide to the major Scottish clans.
The Surnames of Scotland by George F Black is a huge reference guide to the origin, meaning and history of Scottish family names, and is an essential research tool for genealogists and historians. Scots Kith and Kin is another handy guide to clans and family names.
For those who are serious about Scottish Heraldry, there's no other title than Bruce A McAndrew's £90 tome Scotland's Historic Heraldry. It is lavishly illustrated and contains the coats-of-arms of all of Scotland's major families. If £90 is a stretch, Scots Armorials is a more frugal £12.
Although today we often think of tartans and clans being inexorably linked, this was not always the case. It wasn't really until the 19th century did clans start formally adopting specific tartans. Scottish family names and chiefs are regulated by the Court of the Lord Lyon, but tartans have no official governing body.
There are plenty of general guides to tartans out there:
- Tartan: The Highland Habit by Hugh Cheape is a great introduction, and this best-selling book was revised and updated a couple of years ago
- Tartans of Scotland: An Alphabetical Guide to the History and Traditional Dress of the Scottish Clans by Blair Urquhart has a long title but is really a handy pocket book
- Tartans by Brian Wilton
- The pocket sized Tartans of Scotland by James Scarlett
- Tartan by American publisher Berg is a more fashion-orientated title
It's all to easy to go overboard with the tartan, but if that's your thing and your getting hitched soon, then Eric Merrill Budd's Scottish Tartan Weddings promises to be a practical guidebook for all things plaid. Kilts & Tartan Made Easy by Nick Fiddes is a much more modern book on the subject.
- Add to BasketCastles Of The Clans: The Strongholds And Seats Of 750 Scottish Families And Clans - - Paperback
This work investigates the strongholds and seats of Scotland families and clans. Organized by clan name, there follows information on the history and origins of the family, and any castles, towers, and historic houses which they owned.
- Add to BasketClan, King And Covenant: History Of The Highland Clans From The Civil War To The Glencoe Massacre - - Paperback
Clan, King and Covenant explores the turbulent history of the Highlands during the 17th century, a fascinating and brutal period that included the cold-blooded Glencoe Massacre.
- Add to BasketScots Kith & Kin: A Guide To The Clans & Surnames Of Scotland - Paperback
Listing Scottish family names and their clan affiliations, this guide gives information on where and when particular surnames originated, the clan to which they belong and its history, other related surnames and the correct tartan to wear.
- Add to BasketFeuds, Forays And Rebellions: History Of The Highland Clans, 1475-1625 - - Paperback
This history of the Highland clans describes the fragmentation of Clan Donald and its vassal kinsmen as they resisted the impact of central authority. It charts the fortunes of the major clans, their conflicts and the persecution of Clan Gregor.
An informative yet light book covering all aspects of wearing and purchasing a kilt for the first time, from how to find your family tartan and its origins to guidelines on how best to wear it on formal occasions such as weddings.
- Add to BasketLost Kingdoms: Celtic Scotland And The Middle Ages - - Paperback
Lost Kingdoms traces the history of Celtic Scotland from the ancient Picts and Scots to the downfall of Clan Donald at the end of 15th century. Accuracy added to storytelling skill make this an accessible history of Scotland in the Middle Ages.
- Add to BasketScottish Clans And Tartans: Souvenir Guide - - Paperback
This is an illustrated guide to the Scottish clans and the tartans. Alastair Cunningham describes the origins of the clans, clan customs and much more.
- Add to BasketScottish Tartan Weddings: A Practical Guidebook - - Hardback
Pulling together various traditions and practical advice, this convenient volume is a must-have for any bride or groom wishing to plan a Scottish-themed tartan wedding.
- Add to BasketTartan - - Hardback
Tartan has spread out from its Scottish origins and covered the globe. Weaving together history, art, music, film and fashion, this book tells the story of tartan. The book contains some 150 colour illustrations.
- Add to BasketTartans - - Hardback
Tartan is an internationally recognised fabric and symbol of Scottishness. This book traces tartan back to its roots, looking at how and where the various clan tartans began and showing how the material has spread to such an extent that 30 American states have their own tartan, and no major corporation can be without one.
- Add to BasketTartan: The Highland Habit - - Paperback
Hugh Cheape, curator of modern Scottish history at the National Museums of Scotland, takes the story of tartan from the medieval love of display to the Victorian invention of exclusive clan identity.
Some books about the histories of specific clans.
- A History of Clan Campbell - Alastair Campbell
- The Campbells, 1250-1513 - Stephen I Boardman
- No Tragic Story: The Fall Of The House Of Campbell - Raymond Campbell Paterson
- Clan Donald - Donald J Macdonald
- Clan Donald's Greatest Defeat - John Sadler
- The Lords of the Isles: A History of Clan Donald - Raymond Campbell Peterson
- From The Bloody Heart: The Stewarts and the Douglases - Oliver Thomson
- The Frasers of Castle Fraser: A Scottish Family in the Nineteenth Century - Lavinia Smiley
- The Long Horizon - Iain R Thomson
- History Of Clan MacFarlane - Angus MacFarlane
- The Clan Mackay: A Celtic Resistance to Feudal Superiority - Margaret O MacDougall
- People of the Wild Cat Country: Tales from Badenoch and Strathspey - Lady Sandra Macpherson of Glentruim
- From The Bloody Heart: The Stewarts and the Douglases - Oliver Thomson
- Add to BasketThe Campbells, 1250-1513 - - Paperback
The Campbell earls of Argyll have traditionally had an unsavoury historical reputation. This book reassesses these negative images and interpretations, tracing the growth of Campbell authority and the opening of the Wars of Independence, through to the death of Archibald, 2nd Earl of Argyll, at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.
One of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history and a devastating defeat for Clan Donald, the battle of 'Red' Harlaw was fought on 24 July 1411. It is one of the most famous fought on Scottish soil and infamous for the ferocity and duration of the fighting.
- Add to BasketThe Clan Mackay: A Celtic Resistance To Feudal Superiority - - Paperback
This text traces the history of the clan Mackay, from their establishment of a clan stronghold in Sutherland in the 13th century, through their role in the Jacobite rebellion, to the modern day members of the clan.
- Add to BasketFrom The Bloody Heart: The Stewarts And The Douglases - - Hardback
This is the story of the saga between the Stewart and the Douglas families in early medieval Scotland, who grew in power and influence but remained locked in a bitter feud.
- Add to BasketThe Long Horizon - - Paperback
More than a chronicle of a life spent farming in the Scottish Highlands and a family portrait of the clan Fraser of Lovat, this work is also a collection of stories which reflect the changes of both attitude and affluence which have revolutionized Highland life.
- Add to BasketThe Lords Of The Isles - - Paperback
This is the first modern account of one of the epic stories of Scottish history, the rise and fall of Clan Donald. Tracing its origins back to the great Somerled, this book charts the steady ascent of Clan Donald.
- Add to BasketNo Tragic Story: The Fall Of The House Of Campbell - - Paperback
From exile, the ninth Earl of Argyll joined the unstable and mrecurial Duke of Monmouth in a plot against the new king, James I. The Earl was captured and executed and the fate of the clan removed a force for stability in the Highlands.
- Add to BasketPeople Of The Wild Cat Country: Tales From Badenoch And Strathspey - - Paperback
In addition to stories featuring members of the author's own MacPherson clan, this work also includes tales of love, battle, adventure, intrigue, danger and dark secrets, as well as accounts of witchcraft, the supernatural and the unexplained.