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God's Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present (Volume 2) Revised 2nd Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231128193
ISBN-10: 0231128193
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God's Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present (Volume 2) + God's Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 1: The Origins to 1795 (Volume 1) + Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The standard work on the subject in English.... [Davies] writes with commanding dexterity and a confident, at times almost swaggering, intelligence as he balances narrative and analysis." -- "Atlantic Monthly"

About the Author

Norman Davies is chair of the history department, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, at the University of London.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 591 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Revised 2nd edition (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231128193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231128193
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Norman Davies C. M. G., F. B. A. is Professor Emeritus of the University of London, a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and the author of several books on Polish and European history, including God's Playground, White Eagle, Red Star, The Isles, Europe, and Microcosm.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
With bracing clarity Norman Davies tells the story of non-Germanic Central Europe located between two voracious empires, Germany and Russia. The narrative is rich in detail and entertaining, yet it is impeccably scholarly. Few history books measure up to it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By ps40 on June 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Pros:
As far as I can tell this book has been written objectively and describes the history of Poland in detail. For me it filled a huge gap in my knowledge of what happened in Poland and in general in Eastern Europe in the last 1000 years. The book is filled with excerpts from poems, ancient documents and first hand accounts of events which make it a very interesting read. The maps and illustrations do an excellent job. I do not know of any other alternatives which will desribe the polish history in such detail.

Cons:
At times this book flows lucidly and at other times it becomes a rambling of very dry facts and a listing of names etc which reminded of me of school history textbooks that used to drive me crazy. My other beef with the book is that there is no structure to it which allows you to understand what is going on. Imagine a movie which is made by assembling various shots together but has not been edited to ensure a logical progression of events. Only when you have gone thru everything do you really understand the entire movie. This is true of both the volumes. It goes into extreme detail about events without first describing what the event was. To exacerbate this, the book assumes that you have a knowledge of events that happened in Europe in the last 1000 years and frequently draws upon them to explain other things in polish history.

The last problem is that this book claims to have been revised and updated in 2005. Unfortunately this is true for only a couple of chapters in the second volume of the book. The first volume still reads like it was written in 1980s. Also there are at least a hundred minor editorial errors in the volume 2 which take away from a pleasurable reading experience.

Desribe the cons I would still recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the history of Poland.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ted Kaczor on July 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Probably the best Poland's history ever written. Recomended for anyone to learn about the country of Poland history that was either twisted by soviets or ignored and hidden by western countries. It was written by ouysider Norman Davies, the man that not only understands polish history but also feels it. So far only he could do that. This book is one of most important doccuments of Polish history that helps you understand it. RECOMENDED.
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Norman Davies is the most authoritative English speaking author on Polish history in the world. Davies, more than any other author, has earned the right to tell the Polish story to the entire world. He corrects many myths and mis-truths introduced to the English speaking world by Polands 3 powerful political opponents: the Germans, Jews, and Russians.

Other interesting facts: The Polish deciphered the Enigma Code and listened to secret German communications even before the initial 1939 invasion (the popular movie Imitation Game is the sequel, so to speak, to this history).

Early Polish history is absolutely fascinating. Freedom of speech and religion in the 1500's. Two houses of congress and an elected "King". Never would have guessed!

The most common version of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 shows the Polish Cavalry getting decimated by German tanks in a humiliating defeat. How about pointing out that the Germans suffered 16,000 casualties and 75,000 wounded in the opening campaign of the war? I didn't know that the Germans took such a licking when they went into Poland, until reading Davies book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Leo on June 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
Poles read this book about their own history, which says a lot right there. My Polish relatives gave me both volumes of this work, due to their liking for it.

For English (Western) readers, it may seem very confusing. Poland's history IS confusing. The second volume describes the period of Poland's "captivity" by three powers, then the struggle to survive Hitler and Stalin, and finally the Soviet period and (in updated form) the EU. I have read another review that Davies' prose confuses because it goes into lists of names, etc. I wonder if that is a problem because Slavic names are so odd to most Western eyes? My mother is Polish, so I was not overwhelmed in that respect.

I expect some readers of these two volumes will find themselves baffled because this is NOT the Poland the West was told about by the very biased Germans and Russians/Soviets. Davies could not respect nor love the country more if he was a native, IMO.

A better, shorter intro to the political history is the Cambridge Concise History, but Adam Zamoyski's The Polish Way is also quite good. If you are up to it, Davies' "Europe" is excellent.
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Davies provides a detailed and extensive history of Poland. Definitely a must for serious "students" of Polish history. Might be a bit much for a casual interest reader. Still, would give it a try if you want to learn more about Poland.
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By S Szabados on August 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Must read if you need to research Polish history. Well written and cites a lot of research. Author's style is more readable than most history books.
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