Saints & Sea Kings by Ewan Campbell is part of the Historic Scotland “The Making of Scotland” series. Like all books in the series it’s short & good for a simple introduction/overview, with further reading recommendations at the end.
This book mentions early Christianity in Scotland & Columba in particular. It describes the small numbers of monks involved as well as how evidence points to both Christianity & the older Religion existing side-by-side for quite some time, such as the syncretic nature of beliefs in Scotland. It also goes into the power & prestige of writing after it was introduced by Christian monks, which had a massive impact on wider society & culture. Lastly, on a non-religious note, it covers how the idea that Scottish Gaelic culture & language came to Scotland through invasion from Ireland is a myth – these books were written a wee while ago so it was a newer argument at the time, but now it’s well established that Scottish Gaels had always been in certain areas of Scotland, connected with Ireland by the sea.
➕I feel understanding this transitional time period is very important as misconceptions about the Christianity in places like Scotland & Ireland are still quite prevalent today. For example, because of violence & forced conversions elsewhere, it’s often assumed that it must have been the same everywhere, so every St Patrick’s Day you get the modern myths about St Patrick somehow single-handedly murdering thousands of pagans. Another example is that because some people are unaware of just how long Christianity has been in Scotland, they believe false claims that the Witch Trials in Scotland involved executing pagans.
📚Another book in series that covers this transition in Southern Scotland is Angels, Fools & Tyrants by Chris Lowe (I’d recommend the whole series if you can get it – they were part of the reading from my Archaeology course at Uni & cover Scottish history from pre-history to the decline of the clans)
(📸 Featured Photo credit: Me – Pictish Cross Slab at Loch Kinord, Canmore Site Record)