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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 (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,422 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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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

235 of 244 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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155 of 163 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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10 of 10 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Koos on 25 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
History is written by the victors. So most likely the history about those who lost has been written from point of view of the victors.

The more wonderful it is that Norman Davies wrote `Vanished Kingdoms'. A book written from point of view of those countries that have lost and vanished. Long forgotten countries, areas we had not heard of, rings-a-bell stories, lots of maps, anecdotes, it is all there. Though you knew Burgundia? Think twice, and read the chapter about Burgundia. Taken from that chapter: "The discrepancies in these definitions are easily spotted. But it is distressing to see that their common characteristic lies in their immobility: they are all trying to tie the concept of Burgundy to a single locality. None grasps the key feature, namely that Burgundy was a movable feast."

The chapter or Aragon: the discover-the-world-area was in the hands of the Portuguese and Spain, right? But when the reader speaks about `Spain', the reader pictures the country as the country now is on the map of Europe. How different it was then. "Philip II was the first in history to use the title of `King of Spain.'" He was king from 1556 to 1598. Clear words. Oh, by the way, when were North and South America discovered?

One day republic Rusyn? Also from that chapter there are lessons to learn. "These attitudes about Eastern Europe have surfaced many times in the thinking of Western intellectuals. They are part of a widespread, but often unspoken assumption about Western superiority." I love it when I read lines like that. Some readers could complain about chapters about Eastern Europe. Especially people from the west should not forget that Eastern Europe is a part of Europe.
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