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Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe Hardcover – 27 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (27 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846143381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143380
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 5.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`An original and stimulating masterpiece' --Roger Morgan, The Times Higher Education

`Davies is certainly one of the best British historical writers of the past half century, and every gauntlet he throws down is bejewelled' --Timothy Snyder, Guardian

`Vanished Kingdoms gives full rein to [Davies'] historical imagination and enthusiasms, imparting a powerful sense of places lost in time' --Economist

`Vanished Kingdoms is great history and also great art. It is written with verve, passion and profound empathy. --David Marquand, New Statesman

`There are few better ways of coming to an understanding of the multilayered splendours and horrors of Europe's past'
--John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Norman Davies was for many years Professor of History at the School of Slavonic Studies, University of London, and has also taught at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, McGill, Cracow, Adelaide, Australian National and Hokkaido universities. He is the author of God's Playground: a History of Poland (1981), the No 1 best-seller Europe: a History (1996), Microcosm: Portrait of a European City (with Roger Moorhouse) and Rising '44: the Battle for Warsaw (date). From 1997-2006 he was Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford; he is now Professor at the Jagiellonian University at Cracow, an Honorary Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford and a life member of Clare Hall and Peterhouse, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and lives in Oxford and Cracow.

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228 of 237 people found the following review helpful By James Honeychuck on 28 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is really 15 detailed European history books in one. I doubt if there's anyone on the planet qualified to critique such a diverse collection of histories, some of them rather obscure. Certainly not me. So I'll just do my part by describing what's in the book (at the moment there's no "look inside" feature above).

The chapters describe the history of: the Visigoths in France and Spain; southwestern Scotland in the 5th-12th centuries, but really addressing British history in general at that time; Burgundy in France; Aragon in northern Spain; the area that is now Belarus and Lithuania; Byzantium; Prussia; northern Italy; Galicia (the one that was in what is now southern Poland and Ukraine); Italy around Florence in the 19th century; Saxe-Coburg in Germany; Montenegro, which used to be part of Yugoslavia; the short-lived (one day!) Rusyn republic in what is now Ukraine, 1939; Ireland since 1916; and the Soviet Union.

Each chapter has three parts: a description of the area today; the history which Prof. Davies wants to cover; and an assessment of how well the "vanished kingdom" is remembered.

To include Ireland in a book on "vanished kingdoms" is a bit of a stretch, and part 3 of that chapter ranges far beyond what is remembered about Ireland. Part 3 is actually an essay on the future of the United Kingdom which I hope the author will extract and get published in one of the quality newspapers for wider appreciation.

Lots of end notes, many of them website URLs for instant gratification. The notes at the back of the book are listed by the page number of the text, rather than just the chapter number, which makes the notes much easier to find.

This book will probably never be listed anywhere under the rubric of "genealogy," but if your ancestry is from any of those places, I think your will definitely learn things you didn't know. I'm sending a copy to my brother-in-law, whose ancestry is Prussian.
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152 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on 18 Nov 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Although he was the first critic of `Whig history', the late Herbert Butterfield thought it was more or less inevitable that modern historians should write some version of it. By this he meant history which was written from a modern point of view and showed the growth of some institution or idea which we approve of now (for example, Parliamentary sovereignty, or modern science, or religious toleration). Norman Davies shows that it is possible to write about countries which no longer exist in a way that is entirely lacking in Whiggery.

Davies made his name with a history of Poland, where he is currently professor. He is used to seeing things from a European, and specifically an Eastern European, point of view. He was always going to be less sanguine about the idea of progress than most traditional historians of England and the British Isles. We have been much more fortunate. The tragedies which have afflicted the countries which we now think of as Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Germany make it difficult to be Whiggish, or even optimistic about Mankind as a whole.

Davies has no grand theory as to why states vanish. He is not Marx or Toynbee, nor a determinist of any kind, though he believes that all states have the seeds of decay within them. History is infinitely unpredictable. He does, however, have some prejudices. For example, he thinks that it is almost inevitable that Scotland will vote for independence and that the United Kingdom will vanish as a state; and he is a great fan of the European Union.

Davies has pointed out that there have been as many as 250 `vanished kingdoms'. This book deals with fifteen, drawing examples from various periods and different parts of Europe.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Pensato on 4 Jun 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A good collection of writing by Norman Davies. I say collection as it does not have quite the flow and cohesion of 'Europe' and 'The Isles'. The title is also somewhat a misnomer - I don't recall the Soviet Union being a kingdom!

It is fascinating - particularly the accounts of Tolosa, Burgundy, Aragon and Poland-Lithuania. A slight disappointment with a (very)short chapter on Byzantium ...... maybe something on the current impasse in Belgium? Surely the state in Europe closest to splitting at present as the Flemish and Walloon parts seem so reluctant to cooperate?

It still sparkles with Davies' customary erudition and was a pleasure (for the most part) to read.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. J. Norman on 26 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
On the whole, this is fascinating. But the introductory sections of each chapter (on the modern areas which were formerly part of the "vanished kingdoms") often read like the sort of thing anyone could cobble together given a couple of tourist guides and access to Wikipedia: "The journey [Paris to Perpignan] takes 4 hours 45 minutes. Passengers arriving in the daytime are usually greeted by the strong southern sun, which bathes the city on average for 300 days each year." He goes on to list a random selection of European cities with direct flights to the regional airport (in another chapter, he even lists a defunct airline in case the reader wants to travel to Bornholm before 2010). There are pages and pages of that sort of stuff, and some of the historical writing is rather like reading those lists of people who begat each other in the Bible - lists of which dukes reigned over which areas, for how long, with no further information given about what they did or why the reader should care what their names were. As someone else wrote in a review, the book could have done with a heavy-handed editor. It's a shame, because the central theme - that current nations and borders are contingent, and that rich cultures have risen and fallen and may well rise again in Europe outside and within the nation-states we know today - is tremendously interesting, and when Davies sticks to that the book is tremendously interesting too. Should have been about half the current length, though.
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