One wonderful aspect about historical fiction is that it entertains while educating and often inspires readers to learn more about a certain era or historical figure. Remember when the miniseries based on Alex Haley's Roots was on TV and people suddenly started researching their geneology? Okay, maybe some of you aren't as ancient as me, being somewhere past my 39th year, but fictionalized history, whether books or film, can get people excited about HISTORY.
In the many years I spent researching Robert the Bruce, James Douglas and Edward II of England for my Bruce Trilogy, beginning with The Crown in the Heather, I sifted through a lot of non-fiction. Mind you, when I began this project the internet wasn't as ginormous as it is now and we had this wonder of technology called 'dial-up'. Seeing as how I live in backwoods Ohio and scrape by on a perpetual budget, trucking off to panoramic Scotland or merry old England to rifle through dusty primary resources really wasn't an option. I once kept G.W.S. (Geoffrey) Barrow's Robert the Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland checked out of my local library for close to three years. I had a system for returning the overdue book in the evening and going back the next day to check it out again. Imagine my panic when somebody else in Sprinfield wanted to read the book, too, and put it on reserve, thereby depriving me of one of my resources for a month. Over time I've collected a small library of my own, most of them by now pitifully dog-eared, highlighted and falling apart at the spine.
I maintain a Listmania list at Amazon.com called "Best non-fiction about Robert the Bruce" and have also included it on the About Robert the Bruce page of my web site. Although fairly comprehensive, it is by no means all-inclusive. If you have recommendations, please send them to me. What I've included are history books that anyone can read. You won't need a PhD in medieval studies to find them enjoyably informative and easy to read.
So, if you'd like to learn more facts about Robert the Bruce, the times he lived in and the events that shaped his life, here's a list worth looking into:
- Robert the Bruce, King of Scots by Robert McNair Scott - This account of Robert the Bruce's life and times is an indispensable resource. If you only ever get one book on the Bruce, get this one.
Robert Bruce: And the Community of the Realm of Scotland by G. W. S. Barrow - Details Robert the Bruce's rise to the throne and his forging of a kingdom. (I managed to keep this book checked out of my local library for close to three years by returning it and then going back the next day to check it out again.)
Robert the Bruce: A Life Chronicled by Chris Brown - Fantastic for its compilation of primary sources. There's even a section devoted to John Barbour's 'The Bruce', written in Scots.
On the Trail of Robert the Bruce by David R. Ross - As with Ross's other books, this one is highly readable and worth having, especially if you're ever in Scotland and really want to see where history happened.
Bannockburn by Peter Reese - This book focuses on what is perhaps the most pivotal event in Scottish history with great clarity.
James the Good: The Black Douglas by David R. Ross - Ross's 'James the Good' pays due homage to the Bruce's most valuable right hand man, James Douglas.
King Edward II: Edward of Caernarfon His Life, His Reign, and Its Aftermath 1284-1330 by Roy Martin Haines - Not a light read by any means, but highly detailed and thoroughly researched. If you want the specifics of Edward II's life, this is a valuable resource.
The Three Edwards (A History of the Plantagenets) by Thomas B. Costain - Although much of the information in the book is dated, Costain writes non-fiction in an easy to read, succinct manner.