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Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations Paperback – November 27, 2012
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“Hugely ambitious . . . From the mists, Mr. Davies summons the kingdoms; he records their emergence, their flowering and their demise—whether by ‘internall diseases’ or ‘forraign warre’ in Thomas Hobbes’s words. And he examines the traces that the kingdoms have left behind, in works of art or a piece of rock or perhaps just a place name.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Davies resurrects the lands and peoples that were lost in the brutal tide of history. . . . It takes a tremendous feat of empathy to write about countries and peoples that no longer exist. And the amount of information in Vanished Kingdoms that will be new to all but the most expert students of European history is staggering. . . . Fascinating facts and insights flutter on its many pages.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Davies is well known as an iconoclast who punctures the comforting myths of countries that history has blessed. . . . Vanished Kingdoms gives full rein to his historical imagination and enthusiasms, imparting a powerful sense of places lost in time. All across Europe ghosts will bless him for telling their long-forgotten stories.”
“Davies is certainly one of the best British historical writers of the past half century, and every gauntlet he throws down is bejeweled. His literary gifts and his capacity for what he nicely calls ‘imaginative sympathy’ are stretched to their limits by this challenging project. . . . Yet Davies succeeds, and it is quite a success.”— Timothy Snyder, The Guardian (London)
Top Customer Reviews
One of Prof Davies' main themes is the uncertainty of nations. It is easy to think of today's European states as the natural sub-units of the continent. But many other forgotten states might have seemed just as natural, if they had only been a little luckier. Another pattern that struck me is the multi-ethnic nature of many of Davies' states. They were often welded together from a mix of peoples, overlapping in the same physical terrain, but willing to live together in some varying degree of harmony.
The states covered are Visigothic Tolosa, ancient British Strathclyde, the many Kingdoms of Burgundy, Aragon, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Byzantium (very briefly), Prussia, the lands of the House of Savoy, Galicia, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Etruria, Saxe-Coburg (birthplace of Prince Albert), Montenegro (lost and reborn), Carpatho-Ukraine (a Republic for but a day), Eire (a newborn state), and last but not least the USSR (freshly and mysteriously vanished). By winding up on the USSR, Davies takes the opportunity to reflect on the inevitability of change. "Nothing lasts forever" and Davies argues that while today's major states may seem permanent, they too will eventually fade, or change into very different forms.
The book has both strengths and weaknesses. Among the strengths are thorough histories of various forgotten states, including many fascinating nuggets of history, greed, intrigue and folly.Read more ›
He is passionate about Poland-Lithuania, and the sections that involve this are superb. I would have greatly enjoyed an expanded section on Byzantium, but as he points out, that could take many volumes, and to a certain extent, has been covered, if in a fashion that while amusing is somewhat out of fashion today.
This is a great book.
The book is organized into 15 essays covering such little known nations and kingdoms as Alt Clud, Tolosa and Etruria. Each chapter is further organized into three sections covering, in order: a sketch of some geographical area as it exists now within the onetime borders of a particular kingdom, a narrative of the particular nation and lastly, the current state of historiography of the kingdom/nation.Read more ›
I think that if it were better written, the third part could be great. But half the time Davies comes across as curmudgeonly, acting as if he knows better than all the other historians. For example, at the end of the chapter on Burgundy, he goes on. And on. And on about how his description of the history of Burgundy is the only complete one while everyone else is not. And then we are subjected to descriptions of encyclopedias and entries in search engines.
The other main problem is that the descriptions of history read like a medieval history. There is precious little analysis - basically it reads like an encyclopedia entry itself. And that's a problem for me because the idea behind the book is really interesting. Perhaps Davies would have better availed himself of the material if he had written about half the places but with double the information. Then a chapter like the one on Byzantion (The Byzantine Empire) would not be the biggest joke of the book due to its extreme shortness. He should have just left it out.
I would say to those considering reading this book to treat it as Lonely Planet: Lost Kingdoms rather than a serious scholarly history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In classic Norman Davies style, this book inundates the reader with detail to the point of boredom, then touches on some interesting point often enough to keep the reader going.Published 3 months ago by ED
i see here so many English speaking people giving one star review and reffer that history of Lithuania is spoken not right and fake,
Guys first of all proffesor is very... Read more
What a fascinating travelogue through space and time! Extremely entertaining couldn't put it down. Great non fiction readPublished 7 months ago by James Miller
Each chapter in the book looks at one former state in Europe. The opening to each is set in the modern day, before going into details on the specific state, and finishing with an... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Matthew Lerner
Vanished is exhaustively long and exquisitely thorough, representing what is probably a vanishing tradition in writing. Read morePublished 11 months ago by A Forest Fan
The concept of Vanished Kingdoms is interesting and Normal Davies is steeped in knowledge and research. Read morePublished 12 months ago by GFX
The real answers to that fuzzy 'huh?' that come up when reading historical fiction and a character refers to a country or locale that you can't quite place. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Gold Canyon Gal
I bought this book largely for Davies' chapter on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which he belittling entitles Litva: A Grand Duchy with Kings. Read morePublished 13 months ago by James Ferguson