Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel originally published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886.
Set in Scotland during the 18th century, it tells the story of the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising using characters who are real historical figures. The narrator of the story is recently orphaned David Balfour, who is kidnapped by Captain Hoseason of the brig Covenant whilst staying with his aunt and uncle. On board he meets Alan Breck, a Jacobite who has also been taken captive by the crew. They embark on an adventure together across Scotland, encountering Highlanders, redcoats and a host of other characters.
The full title of Kidnapped is 71 words long and reveals most of the plot, as well as giving the impression that the novel is autobiographical. However, many reviewers believe that the plot is not of much importance, and it is Stevenson’s power of description that has made the story so popular.
At the time, almost all of Stevenson’s readers would have been familiar with the Jacobite conflicts of the late 17th and early 18th century and the book is very much a tale about Scotland’s struggles at that time. A large theme in the book is the historical struggle between the Catholic clans of Highland Scotland and the Protestant British rulers who sought to suppress them and their religion.
The book was relatively successful while Stevenson was still alive, but was often discredited as it was a book intended for boys. By the mid-20th century it had gained critical support and drew the attention of writers like Jorge Luis Borges and Seamus Heaney.
In 2007, the book was used as part of the Edinburgh City of Literature celebrations of becoming the first UNESCO City of Literature. Three editions of the book were made freely available and left around the city. A new edition was printed, as well as a retelling of the story for children and a graphic novel version by Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy. Translations of the graphic novel in Lowland Scots and Scots Gaelic were also published to mark the event.