WILLIAM WALLACE: Man and Myth

Graeme Morton, Author
Graeme Morton, Author . Sutton $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7509-2379-8
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-7509-3523-4
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-7486-8563-9
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"The Wallace story is part of Scotland's imagined community.... We can't break the story because there is no story." In this densely written scholarly study, the author, a professor at Edinburgh University, examines the legends that have surrounded the exploits of William Wallace (1274–1305). Wallace is credited with liberating Scotland by defeating the English at Stirling Bridge (1297); his stature as the savior of Scotland has been reinforced by the recent film Braveheart. Later Wallace was vanquished by Edward I of England at Falkirk (1298). He lived as an outlaw and guerilla fighter until he was betrayed to the English, tried and bloodily executed in 1305. The author researched the very slim historical sources available and found problems with corroborating evidence. Much of Wallace's early reputation, for example, rested on the verse of "blind Harry," who wrote in the late 15th century. According to Morton, Harry's poetry has been romanticized and is almost certainly filled with errors. Ballads, songs and biographies of later centuries extolling Wallace's heroism are based on patriotism rather than truth. Morton also investigates how the myth of Wallace served both Scottish nationalism and socialism. In recent years the Wallace cult has grown, due to video games and Web sites. Although the author does not argue for completely abandoning national myths that cannot be proven, his hope for the Wallace mystique is that it is time to "lay his ghost to rest." (June)

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