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on 30 October 2017
good
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on 21 December 2000
Davies really hits the nail on the head as far as Polish history is concerned. His synopsis of the past of a troubled country, often blurred by interpretation and political overshadowing cuts through the fog and sits the reader right back into context. He takes us through the ages of Polish in his familiar yet subtle language of metonymistic jollity, dodges the traps of cynicism or patrotism so many writers have blundered into on the subject. Definitely to be recommended to any amateurs of Polish history text.
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on 25 November 2013
This book is, for the most part, fairly easy to read and provides a good introduction to the history of Poland. For the periods I knew nothing about (up to 1918) or not much about (after 1945) I found it useful. For the intervening period where I knew a little already, I found the book a disappointment.

For a start, 1918-39 was the one period under consideration when Poland was actually an independent country and hence had an impact on the wider world, and I felt this period deserved more than the one chapter it got in the book. It also struck me that the book often seemed to assume the reader had prior knowledge. Do you know what the BBWR was? OzON? These concepts are introduced well before they are explained. Do you know where Zaolzie is, and that when Davies refers in passing to its occupation, he is referring to the Polish invasion of Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Munich agreement in 1938? If the sins of Józef Beck have been "especially exaggerated", it would be useful to know by whom, and roughly what arguments they advanced, before being presented with Davies' counterarguments.

It feels in several places like Davies has an excessively pro-Polish perspective. This is perhaps natural given that he is married to a Pole and apparently lives there at least partly, but is worth keeping in mind. The book seems to have developed a semi-official status in Poland also, which he is proud to tell the reader about from within its own pages.

While he doesn't shy away from criticising individual Poles and Polish society when he feels it appropriate, in foreign affairs he seems to consistently take Poland's side, sometimes on what seem to me rather flimsy grounds. For example, the wars with the short-lived West Ukrainian republic and Lithuania, where in both cases there was a predominantly Polish city (Lwów and Wilno respectively) surrounded by predominantly non-Polish countryside. Rather than take the opportunity to point out the impossibility of drawing a neat border that respected "the self-determination of peoples", and regret the violent means by which these issues were "solved", he criticises the Ukrainians for "demanding their national rights in full and at once" and the Lithuanians for their "sorry obsession with the city of Wilno, in which hardly any Lithuanians were then living", without reflecting that similar criticisms could easily be levelled at Poland also.

He seems very keen to excuse Józef Beck, who largely determined Poland's foreign policy in the run-up to the Second World War. While it may be true that nothing he did would have made any difference, was invading Czechoslovakia and bullying Lithuania really the best thing to spend Poland's energies on in 1938-9? Davies assures us that this was done to "prevent encirclement by the Germans". I have thought for a while about what this could possibly mean, but am still at a loss. It seems to me that it gravely weakened Poland's international reputation, while making no military difference when the Nazi invasion did arrive a few months later.

As a final point, he has special ire reserved for British liberals, such as David Lloyd George, John Maynard Keynes and E.H. Carr, who had a mostly critical stance towards Poland and its deeds in this period. Rather than offering suggestions of why they might have developed such views, he instead chooses to place their statements about Poland alongside those of Hitler and Stalin, and suggests they should have considered "the company they were keeping". It seems you could do the same e.g. with statements by Churchill and Hitler about Bolshevism, and arrive at similar conclusions. I may consider myself thoroughly opposed to someone, but that doesn't mean I have a moral obligation to disagree with them on every single subject!
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on 3 June 2001
A very sober, wonderfully written book. What's more, it's a book written by a well-wisher who knows the country better than most of its inhabitants. An honest book, totally stripped of the Polish megalomania which accounts for the fact that the Poles today nurture an unrealistic and plainly untrue idea of their homeland, its past greatness, its costly uprisals, its consequence-ripe failures and its mediocre present. If you want to better understand the lands which for so many centuries have served as the divide between Europe's mental and cultural East and West - and their history, of course - then this is a book for you. Without the noisy pomp you'll almost inevitably find in the Polish history accounts of the type "always condemn the German Order", it's perfect if you look for the simple historical truth; if this truth exists at all, then certainly in Norman Davies' "God's Playground".
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on 26 March 2008
A very good read; very informative, I have volumnes 1 & 2 the reason I have not given 5 stars is my volumnes have lousy type setting problems with the Polish letters ¹æê³ñóaeY¿ every method of not using them then the same word or name on the same page uses them. As you will note Amazon.co.uk can not cope with the extra letters of the polish alphabet either.
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on 18 September 2007
Norman davies gives a great account starting with the origins of poland in the ninth centry to the millenium.
Not knowing much of poland prior to reading god's playground i found this book to be informative to the highest degree.
With great heros,wars,artists,poets and crazy nobles.
To the horrific brutality of the nazi occupation and holocaust visited on poland.
With a very complex social and idealogical difference to its neighbours poland led the way to a now considerd western libral democracy,stating in one instance europes first commission of national education.
For a country that has been missunderstood for too many years i found this book to be a great account of a complex and sometimes heartbreaking history of poland.

A great history by a great historian.

Rising '44: The Battle for WarsawAnother great book by davies.
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on 6 July 2013
As a Brit living in Poland I consider this the definitive history anyone with the slightest connection to Poland should read, but you must buy both Volume 1 and volume 2 for the complete 1000 year story of a stoic and valiant people who country in the middle of Europe that has been overrun by Swedes, Mongols, Tartars, Russians, Austrians, Germans and more, and in fact disappeared for 150 years.
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on 24 October 2013
Unfortunately, this book reads as if the author's take on Poland's history is more important than actually relaying what happened. I frequently came across passages like 'the battle of A between B and C proved that people at the time were eating a lot of turnips'. No information regarding why there was a battle or even who won the battle, but just Davies' own perspective of what is worth covering.
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on 23 November 2006
As the CEO of a branding consultancy operating across the globe, we need to get swift understanding of the historical context that underpins many of the current cultural trends in countries speedily but without that costing us thoroughness. This looks like a tome,and is somewhat - but it is readable, entertaining and leaves nothing important out. The chapters on recent socio-political history are invaluable for anyone who wants to do business in or make a contribution to companies in the region. Totally invaluable as a reference volume on your bookshelf.
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on 10 September 2015
Its lovely book....thank you for very fast delivery.
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