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Vanished Kingdoms The History of Half Forgotten Europe

Rranean; the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for a time the largest country in Europe; the successive kingdoms and one duchy of Prussia much of whose history is now half remembered at best This book shows the reader how to peer through the cracks of mainstream history writing and listen to the echoes of lost realms across the centuri. Norman Davies surprised me than 20 years ago with his phenomenal Europe A History a thick peat that had the great merit of treating Eastern European history on an eual footing with that of the well known Western European Davies then continued to produce thick volumes and this Vanished Kingdoms also is a uite voluminous His focus in this book is on the kingdoms and states that have come to an end in the course of European history Some were very well known to me such as the Burgundian countries the Byzantine empire Prussia or the USSR but others were much lesser known such as the shadowy Alt Clud empire in present day Scotland the kingdom of Aragon in Northern Spain and the great Polish Lithuanian Union it was nice to learn about themOnce again the book is full of facts and adjustments of the common historiographical views for which Davies obviously draws from his enormous erudition and his acute critical sense Also his predilection for Eastern European history shows again as many as 7 of the 15 treated countries come from that region and Davies is doing his best to correct our Western European colored vision on Eastern Europe in a positive sense striking is his relativization of the militarism of Prussia and the anti semitism of the Poles All those inexhaustible stories with constantly changing fortunes certainly are very interesting But inevitably at times Davies story becomes somewhat tedious for example in the jumble of dynastic uarrels This certainly isn t a uick readThere s also some conceptual criticism you can give on this book especially about the selection Davies has made For that I refer to my History account on Goodreas But let s not diminish the value of this work too much again Davies certainly has succeeded in presenting a very filled but still reasonably readable and extremely interesting book in which especially one message is central nothing is forever no state has the eternal life This seems obvious but the historical reality clearly shows that most politicians are not really aware of that

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This actually obstructs our view of the past and blunts our sensitivity to the ever changing political landscape 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 'the Empire of Aragon' which once dominated the western Medite. Vanished Kingdoms is a bit of an uneven book On the one hand it delves into some really fascinating corners of European history and reminds the reader that there is no intrinsic reason the current borders are where they are On the other hand Davies sometimes ends up on some inconseuential tangents and has a thing for discussing a vanished kingdom s songs and poetry not my cup of tea Even as a lover of history I grew tired of some of the paths he led me down This was clearly a special project to him and I think he may have let it run a little wild Sections were also a bit unbalanced with some states getting a very deep dive while others like Byzantium barely getting much attention at all This book read like a collection of essays than a cohesive history book with the last chapter which discussed why states die not doing a very good job linking the previous parts togetherAll in all I would not recommend buying this book but if it is in your local library it is worth checking out even if you only read a few of the vanished kingdoms that most interest you

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'The past is a foreign country' has become a truism yet we often forget that the past is different from the present in many unfamiliar ways and historical memory is extraordinarily imperfect We habitually think of the European past as the history of countries which exist today France Germany Britain Russia and so on but often. Some books stay on your shelves so long they get suatters rights and you get the idea they re part of the d cor rather than something to read This was one of thoseI took a look at it this week I had a go And one of those things I like to geek out on occasionally is obscure history The Empire of Trebizond The Khanate of the Golden Horde Timbuctoo Faraway places with strange sounding names I have to recognise that to the 54450 inhabitants of Timbuctoo it s actually Nottingham England that s faraway and strange sounding so it s all relative But I digressThis Norman Davies is some giant history professor and what not but I think he had too much time on his hands with this tome it s like something he looked forward to getting round to when he retired and now here he is retired and here s his huge project And he must have coshed his editor and tied him up and stashed him in the broom cupboard unless his editor was the kind of person who kept saying put irrelevant stuff in Norman As a handy implement to batter a home intruder Vanished Kingdoms is just the thing As a good read not so much He rambles He brags about his research He throws in all kinds of crap poems lineages long descriptions of medieval cities which sound like all other medieval cities And these chapters are not what I consider histories they re essays on a particular place Sabaudia Alt Clud Tolosa and 12 So I was skipping like a young lamb in spring but without so light a heart because of many sentences like this and truly I opened this book at random The Casa Savoia was not alone in its dissatisfaction with its gains from Utrecht and during the territorial redistribution that took place during preparations for the Treaty of The Hague 1720 it proved possible to do business with the Austrians specifically to swap Sicily for Sardinia Or again at random Despite the political tensions and the social unrest Princess Duchess Grand Duchess Elisa Bacciochi thrived Separated from her husband she applied herself to the administration and adornment of her extended realms showing signs of her brother s flare and energy Her pet project was the complete refurbishment of the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens which she raised to the condition which has distinguished them ever sincePlease note Duchess is used twice don t know why and flare should be flairStill awake There is a serious point to be made also Until the English Revolution and French revolutions states in Europe were made and unmade by dynasties either by force of arms or by negotiation Poking and chipping and fiddling with the borders of the duchies of France Germany and Poland which is what most of Vanished Kingdoms is concerned with must have been a delightful pastime akin to petanue or boules but it was of no great import to the vast swathe of the people No ideology was involved It was the revolutions from below after the English and French came the American and Russian which made the making and unmaking of states meaningful and made the onrush of history into a powerful moving and essential study


About the Author: Norman Davies

Professor Ivor Norman Richard Davies FBA FRHistS is a leading English historian of Welsh descent noted for his publications on the history of Europe Poland and the United Kingdom From 1971 Davies taught Polish history at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies SSEES of the University of London where he was professor from 1985 to 1996 Currently he is Supernumary Fellow at Wolfso



10 thoughts on “Vanished Kingdoms The History of Half Forgotten Europe

  1. says:

    Some books stay on your shelves so long they get suatters’ rights and you get the idea they’re part of the décor rather than something to read This was one of thoseI took a look at it this week I had a go And one of those things

  2. says:

    So this turned out to be waaaay WTF than expected While also being really fucking boringNow i’m the escapee graduate of a Marxist cult that hasn’t incorporated a new idea since Warsaw Ghetto fell I am perfectly at home with the notion that all accounts of history are an ideological construct including the ones you yes

  3. says:

    Norman Davies says right at the beginning of this book that he has chosen to write about things that interest him and I have found it one of the most interesting histories I have read in years It both opens new doors who ev

  4. says:

    This is a book about countries that have died Many I had heard about before such as Burgundy Borussia and Byzan

  5. says:

    Vanished Kingdoms is a bit of an uneven book On the one hand it delves into some really fascinating corners of European history and reminds the reader that there is no intrinsic reason the current borders are where they are On the other hand Davies sometimes ends up on some inconseuential tangents and has a thing for discussing a vanished kingdom's songs and poetry not my cup of tea Even as a lover of history I grew tired of some

  6. says:

    The best histories are always slightly eccentric and this one certainly is eccentric Its range is great both in time and space ancient modern and trans European it deals with failed or vanished states but in reality reminds us that everything is transient Things only feel permanent and fixed when we stand in the centreI suppose what I like about this book is its serendipity the fact that you can dive in virtually anywhere and find somethi

  7. says:

    Norman Davies surprised me than 20 years ago with his phenomenal Europe A History a thick peat that had the great merit of treating Eastern European history on an eual footing with that of the well known Western European Dav

  8. says:

    It is slightly fraudulent to mark this book as read but given that there is no option to mark as skipped some chapters after persisting far longer than the material justifies this will have to doI cannot recall the last time I didn'

  9. says:

    A really interesting subject made almost unbearably boring

  10. says:

    When I was a child in the 1970's the map of the Europe seemed immutable Ongoing decolonialisation granted stateh

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