Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe Hardcover – 27 Oct 2011
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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
From the Inside Flap
From Norman Davies, the acclaimed author of Europe: A History, comes the magical history of Europe's lost realms, selected as a Book of the Year by the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, Independent, Guardian and Financial Times. Europe's history is littered with kingdoms, duchies, empires and republics which have now disappeared but which were once fixtures on the map of their age. What happened to the once-great Mediterranean 'Empire of Aragon'? Where did the half-forgotten kingdoms of Burgundy go? Which current nations will one day become a distant memory too? This original and enthralling book peers through the cracks of history to discover the stories of lost realms across the centuries. 'Dazzling, provocative and brilliant' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, Books of the Year 'A luminous account ... there are few better ways of understanding the multilayered splendours and horrors of Europe's past than through the pages of this wise, humane and unfailingly engaging book' John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph 'Vanished Kingdoms is great history and also great art. It is written with verve, passion and profound empathy' David Marquand, New Statesman, Books of the Year 'A magnificent achievement. Brocaded with scholarship, the book is unlikely ever to be equalled' Ian Thomson, Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
Norman Davies' purpose, though, is to try to switch our view of European history from this over-worked angle. He points out that "Things are never quite as they seem". Historians, he claims, tend to write history from the perspective of countries still in existence who, by definition, tend to be the winners.
He attributes this in part to his Welsh ancestry and I have to declare my interest here (as if my pen name above is not enough!) as I too get excited by the stories of the forgotten nations, including my own. (We Welsh were never a nation I know but we still have our own history). In fact, the second chapter is about the ancient Welsh/Celtic/British kingdom of Alt Clud which once straddled south-west Scotland and north-west England and, thus, from this close to the beginning, I was hooked.
The author is immmensely knowledgeable and the forty five pages of references at the end are testament to the depth of his research. Don't argue with this guy unless you, too, are a professor in this field! The main criticism from one who does most of his reading at bedtime is that concentration levels have to be maintained at a high level in order to absorb this fascinating but complex group of "lost" histories. There are fifteen chapters which cover European history from the fall of the Roman empire to the fall of the Soviet one. All areas are covered with the lost nations of central and eastern Europe being particularly well represented as the book moves on, allowing the author to comment liberally on the rise and fall of the Muscovite/Russian/Soviet empires.
So much of Europe has been divided almost arbitrarily by the powerful that it is fascinating to see maps and to read about the old nations which were based more perhaps on original ethnic movements and which, beneath the veneer, still exist; how Catalonia-Aragon (Ch.4) with its bullfights for instance, still straddles the eastern borders of France and Spain.
There is a further point to all of this for, as these nations have now disappeared so too, argues the author, will existing nations, even our own. After all, where are the "Big Nations" of Yugoslavia or the USSR now?
Where, in fact, will the United Kingdom be in hundreds of years' time? If you are English you may be perplexed and even unsettled by this prospect. You may even be a little angry; the sun may have set on most of those farflung red areas on the map but surely it will blaze forever over the coast of Pembroke or over the Western Isles? Better read this book through to the very end then. Norman Davies' epilogue, "How states Die", may well be the most intriguing section of the whole work. Read it and re-think the future as well as the past.
That said, I almost felt the author tried to be too clever for his own good on occasions. Many details are unnecessary and sometimes there is little real relevance to the modern day.
As much a reference book, after a while, than anything.
Davies must have done an unprecedented amount of research (and travel) to amass such a huge amount of information, which means there's all the more praise to be given because he subsequently managed to distill all of it into a (granted: fairly hefty) volume which never becomes heavy-going or can be savoured only be academics. There's plenty of helpful maps and family trees, but above all: a wealth of information and insights. A very exciting book!
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