HISTORY is the study of what was, and it will be the focus of a festival starting this Friday in Edinburgh.

“Previously … Scotland’s History Festival” strives to emulate the success of science in making itself popular with the masses through a concentrated period of fun and interesting festivities.

As the organisers put it: “[Why] should the scientists have all the fun? There are around 15 science festivals in Scotland, which is a great thing, but history deserves its stage too.”

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Fair point, and so the stage is set for some fascinating talks and events aimed at a popular audience with some heavyweight speakers and Bob Doolally.

It all kicks off on Friday with The Flyting, which you’ll know refers to the Scottish predilection for taking carefully selected words and battering people over the heid with them.

In this event, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the words of William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy, two makars at the court of James IV, are fired back and forth on stage in what the organisers dub a “poetic pyrotechnic”. They add: “This couldn’t be more Scottish if it tried.”

Could always try crime, of course. Not that Scotland is any worse for this than anywhere else, but we do have a criminal past, and an exhibition at General Register House, Princes Street, tells the story, complete with mugshots of criminals from late Victorian and Edwardian Scotland.

The Herald published some of these recently, though I understand some readers had difficulty distinguishing them from columnists’ picture bylines. Disgraceful.

On Saturday, at the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church, Nicolson Square, Annie Gray paints a picture of Queen Victoria as a pudgy old gal, and looks at her passion for milky repasts while, at the same venue, Sarah Fraser examines the life of Henry Stuart, a lively and bright prince who might have done great things had he not died at the age of 18.

Jean Findlay, meanwhile, follows in the footsteps of CK Scott Moncrieff, war hero, spy, fervent gay Catholic convert, and translator of Proust. Further down the road, at the Canons’ Gait, Dr Aaron Edwards, of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst [CORR] asks: “War – what is it good for?”

The same question might be asked of Bob Doolally, though the answer would be: “A laugh.” Legendary – it says here; “mythical” might be better – football manager Bob the Gob appears in conversation with Phil Differ, at Monkey Barrel Comedy [CORR] on Sunday, discussing 1967, year of the summer of love but, more importantly, of the Lisbon Lions and Scotland beating England at Wembley.

More seriously, we (as it were; it’s complicated) got beat – as football folk say – at Culloden, and Trevor Royle takes a look at that while, in other highlights this week, Tommy Sheppard discusses nationalism, and elsewhere hieroglyphs, pirates, and “pixelated pagans”(Vikings in video games) come under the microscope.

A few highlights from a packed programme next week include Tom Devine in conversation with Kevin McKenna, Macbeth “without the Shakespeare bollocks” (hear-hear; good king wrongly maligned), Anne Pia on Scottish Italians, and Bearsden – The Story of a Roman Fort.

There you have it: the past, a foreign country that sometimes looks a little like Scotland.

Previously – Scotland’s History Festival takes place at various venues around Edinburgh from this Friday until Sunday, November 26.