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The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia [Paperback]

4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2000
Twice in this century, Germany initiated wars of unimagined terror and destruction. In both cases, defense of the "Prussian" realm, the German homeland, was the perceived and vilified perpetrator. Few today understand with any precision what "Prussia" means, either geographically or nationalistically, but neither would they deny the psychic resonance of the single word. To most, it means unbridled aggression, the image of the goose-stepping Junker.But what was once Prussia is now a significant portion of Eastern Europe, a contested homeland first won by Christian knights of the Teutonic Order. For centuries thereafter its terrain has been crisscrossed by war and partitioned by barbed wire. In its final catastrophe of 1945, nearly two million German refugees fled the region as Russian armies broke the eastern front, perhaps the greatest dislocation of a civilian population at any time during World War II. With the Berlin Wall now a memory and the Soviet Union in a state of collapse, this remains a geography in shambles. Modern travelers can now, for the first time in decades, see and ponder for themselves what Prussia really was and now is.James Charles Roy and Amos Elon, two writers noted for their inquisitive natures, have gone to search through the rubble themselves. They intermingle present-day observations with moving vignettes from the German and Prussian past, sketching a portrait of the Europe we know today. The story is spiced with interviews and reminiscences, unforgettable in their sadness, of people looking back at a life now gone, a life full of turmoil and heartache, memories both fond and tragic. The final result: a far deeper understanding of the tattered lands of today's Eastern Europe.

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The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia + Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 + Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New Ed edition (5 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813337933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813337937
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 475,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

James Charles Roy has been a peripatetic "independent scholar" since 1970, when he left Time Inc. He has written innumerable articles on Irish history and five distinguished books, including The Fields of Athenry and Islands of Storm, a Book-of-the-Month and History Book Club selection. He divides his time between Moyode Castle in County Galway and his home in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

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EARLY SPRING ON THE RHINE, I have taken a room in the wine village of Rudesheim, over an hour's drive from the Frankfurt airport. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting 6 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read the more recent book by Max Egremont (Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia), I found that these two books work well together - there is of course some element of similarity and a travelogue approach, but each book has something to offer in itself. Vanished Kingdom goes into more detail regarding the history of the area, but the writing style is not off-putting at all. Moreover this book does ask some pertinent questions about the future of this area and where Germany fits in here. My one caveat is that the two maps in the book are frankly inadequate, with some important places mentioned in the book not even featuring.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolutely Great Book 17 Dec 2010
By J. Coy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have to say that I really loved this book - the style is perfect for me - travel laced with history and many personal stories from people met en route and stories researched. James Charles Roy brings complete depth to his journey through the many wonderful personal anecdotes.
It was a complete delight for me to find this book - a fantastic introduction to the history of Prussia and the Teutonic Knights - a wonderful background to the German history that emerges.
For me James Charles Roy is the only writer I have found to come close to Colin Thubron in his truly captivating style.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining history of Prussia 28 Feb 2012
For the first time I begin to understand the complex changes of boundary which have taken place in East Germany/Poland thanks to this book. It is an entertaining read as the history unfolds as the author travels through Prussia. Although I don't agree with the views expressed I found this book thought-provoking.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and Excellent Book 9 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is part travel diary part history, its excellent at both. Funny, poignant, fascinating. A sadly rather ignored piece of history, probably because its not an easy story to tell as there are, for some, sides to take. Highly recommended.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally Someone Presents a Living History! 28 Dec 2000
By Andrew Freborg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just wanted to personally thank James Roy for writing such a totally compelling account of Prussian history, with the inclusion of personal stories of the human tragedies endured as Prussia ceased to exist after 1945. My mother and grandparents were among those expelled by Russia and Poland. Asside from their personal accounts of these events, this is one of the only English publications I've seen which discusses the human drama in the German east at the end of the war (asside from some occasional token mention in a History Channel documentary).
Yes, parts of the history are portrayed as "romantic", esp. the Teutonic Knights, the landed aristocracy (Junkers), Frederick the Great et.al. , but so what ---- show me a history that doesn't describe the war mongering Napoleon in a similar light. The book is well tempered with the author's experience traveling through now Polish and Russian Prussia, describing the decay and ignorance of the local population with respect to relevance of historic sights (the use of the Hindenburg family cemetary as a garbage dump, with the former estate a collective farm is a case-in-point --> the locals claimed never to have heard of Hindenburg -----> the leveling of historic Koenigsberg and removal of 800 years of German history from East Prussia - including bulldozing cemetaries - is another). Both proud and disgracful history (witness Stutthof concentration camp) - its all here both inspiring and painful. And someone finally wrote it. Should be required reading in any Modern European history course - and would make a wonderful History Channel documentary.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars East Prussian American Looks Back and Forward 3 Mar 2000
By John V. Proesch - Published on Amazon.com
My great grandmother came from near Danzig. Her name was Tarnowski, and obviously had Slavic origins. Her husband, a Proesch from Mecklenburg, was a descendant of the Slavic Abotrite tribes (ca. 800). They both considered themselves German. This book explained to me the ethic confusion of areas like Poland/Prussia. It also highlighted a fact that history has witnessed with Poland: You can wipe it off the map politically, but a Polish/Prussian sensibility will remain. What can this mean for the future? I believe Prussia is, indeed, not dead. Also, that WWIII is not neccesarily the inevitible result of such a conflict. Is the extinction of Prussia another Versailles-like offense to the German people, or can accommodation be made to deflate this "ethnic" horror? I welcome response.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "All the worst Nazi's came from Prussia" 21 Dec 2005
By Jeffrey W. Wehner - Published on Amazon.com
That was what one coworker told me on the first day of my new job. Yea, awkward. (my ancestors left in the 1880s) Anyway, there is a lot more history to Prussia than Nazism and these days books about Prussia don't exactly pop out of the book shelves; those that do typically refer to places remote in time and place. However, the author has done a tremendous job of joining the past and how they touch and concern lands and locations today. Well researched and organized, it is a great introduction into a history your teacher might have forgotten to cover.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than history 19 Sep 2005
By D. Sekac - Published on Amazon.com
This book is a bonanza for anyone interested in the history of Central and Eastern Europe. Unlike most historical nonfiction, which presents as dry, detached and even stuffy, this work brings its subjects to life, bridging the gap of the centuries and relating history to current events. As an avid student of the complex interrelationship of Germany, Poland and the Baltic countries and its influence on Europe and even the world at large, reading this, for me, was pure joy. However, I think even the most uninitiated into the makeup of this least understood, in the West, part of Europe would derive benefit and interest from delving into Roy's gem of a book!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What of Prussia Today? 17 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is the first time I've read this author, and was impressed at the handling of the topic. Far from a dull citing of historical fact, he has brought a perspective on Prussia into the relevance by his "travels through the history of Prussia". As a modern Germany attempts to define itself in Europe, the look back at Prussian history may provide foundation or a map for the certain aspects of a new German future. Topics including the importance to Germany of Konigsberg, and the "ethnic cleansing" of the German territories after the war I've heard mentioned, but never in the first person as dramatically in the book's interviews. The photos further add to his "travels" quite well.
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