Five essential books about William Wallace

A portrait of William Wallace
A portrait of William Wallace
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SIR William Walllace is one of Scotland’s most famous historical figures, but how much do we really know about him? If you want to get to the heart of the man behind the legend, then these five books are must-reads

William Wallace by Andrew Fisher (2007)

A statue of William Wallace in Bemersyde, Melrose. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A statue of William Wallace in Bemersyde, Melrose. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Andrew Fisher’s biography of William Wallace is often credited as the first book to present a fully-rounded picture of a brutal warrior in a particularly brutal era, whose charges in 1305 were not entirely without weight. The book’s credit lies in its depth of research. As with all historical biographies there is some speculation on Wallace’s motives for key decisions – such as his invasion of Northumberland - but Fisher presents his theories with care

William Wallace - Brave Heart by James Mackay (1997)

Separating the historical enigma from the man himself, biographer James Mackay examines Wallace’s unlikely rise from poverty to a position as a guardian of the realm for John Balliol, King of Scots. One of the book’s most interesting talking points is Wallace’s ability as a war tactician, transforming Scotland from an underdog to a credible threat to English forces despite their vast resources and experience.

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William Wallace: Man and Myth by Graeme Morton (2001)

Professor Graeme Morton puts distance between Wallace the man from Wallace and Wallace the myth while also addressing the source of these stories. As he debunks the more fanciful stories ascribed to Wallace, Morton puts forward the idea that many of these myths were crucial to Scotland’s social and cultural development and have taken on an important life of their own.

The Wallace by Blind Harry (1488)

The Wallace is an epic poem which shaped the modern view of one of Scotland’s iconic heroes, only second to the Bible in sales for centuries after. It was written more than 150 years after Wallace’s death, yet Blind Harry’s tale became the definitive account of his life. Many incidents featured within the epic poem have been proven to inaccurate, but The Wallace remains important to our understanding of the man’s legend.

READ MORE: William Wallace hung, drawn and quartered after ‘misunderstanding’

On the Trail of William Wallace by David R Ross (1998)

A bestseller which captured the imagination of tourists and local alike, David R Ross’s On The Trail of William Wallace aspires not to be an academic account but a book for “everyday Scots and others interested in our history.” It’s a handy guide for those looking to match the stories associated with Wallace to real-life locations. Ross’ skills as a storyteller provides a sense of urgency and energy to events dating back over 700 years ago, giving the reader an informative Boy’s Own-style adventure to follow.

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