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Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations by Norman Davies

Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations
Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations
Norman Davies
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Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 27, 2012)
848 pages
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1374 kb
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1506 kb
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1901 kb
From the bestselling author of Europe: A History comes a uniquely ambitious masterpiece that will thrill fans of lost civilizationsWhile Germany, Italy, France, and England dominate our conceptions of Europe, these modern states are relatively recent constructs. In this brilliant work of historical reconstruction, Norman Davies brings back to life the long-forgotten empire of Aragon, which once controlled the Western Mediterranean; the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, once the largest country in Europe, and the Kingdom of the Rock, founded by ancient Britons when neither England nor Scotland existed. In the tradition of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, Davies subverts our established view of the past and urges us to reconsider the impetus for the rise and fall of nations.

  • Purebinder
History is big, messy, layered, and complicated as you might expect if you think about how big and complicated the human race can be. You may have thought those history texts you used at school were big and complicated, but historian Norman Davies’ Vanished Kingdoms will amaze you at some of the stories they skipped over. Author Davies proves just how complicated and messy with In 739 pages and 15 chapters. “Vanished Kingdoms” offers a grand tour of ancient Scotland, Burgundia, Aragon, Litva, Byzantion, Borussia, Sabauda (Italy), Galicia, Etruria (Bonaparte’s Italy), Rosenau (Saxe-Coburg), Tsernagora (aka Montenegro), Rusyn (Ruthenia), Eire, and the USSR. The list of vanished states, kingdoms included several new to me or simply not covered in my own studies. I found myself wishing more than once that he had written this book when I was at university as I would have been better informed about several modern countries and regions for which I was responsible as an American diplomat and bureaucrat! A few of his stories also crossed paths with those of my ancestors uncovered via DNA testing and genealogical research, which made those chapters especially interesting.
Written with a scholarly mindset, this is not a text of dry prose as the author enlivens even the most dust laden elements of his narrative. Norman Davies supports and illustrates his well-written narrations with 14 dynastic family trees, 74 maps, and 82 illustrations. There is no separate bibliography but he includes bibliographic information in the text and 49 pages of end notes also fulfill that role. This was actually my first book of the author’s but I enjoyed it so much and learned so much from it that I’ve already picked up another of his books looking to continue the journey. I highly recommend it to everyone interested in knowing more about what contributed to modern Europe.
  • Gerceytone
I am a European history buff and once again Norman Davies has delivered. I love the sections about Burgundy, Rosenau and Etruria. My problem is with the Litva section when he writes about the Union of Brest in 1595. Eastern Orthodox Christians respect their bishops just as much as any other hierarch so his writings shows his pro Polish bias. The reality is that the Polish rulers pressured the Ruthenian bishops to accept Papal supremacy and persecuted the dioceses which refused. In fact the persecution and interference was so severe by the Polish Catholic rulers that many Eastern Orthodox Christians preferred to be ruled by Muslims rather than their fellow Christians. Professor Davies' pro Polish and Russophobic writings in the Litva section is the reason why I gave the book four stars.
  • Kulwes
I wanted a history, but what I got was a travelogue. There's nothing wrong with travelogues, but I was expecting the book to give me some insights into the more obscure corners of European history.
  • Loni
I wasn't as blown away by this as I hoped to be. I think I expected a more cohesive story of how European kingdoms, important in their day, were lost to history, because they have no successor nations today. Instead this is episodic, each chapter a disjunct story. Some of these "kingdoms" are little more than chieftains. Much is unknown and only surmised, or imagined. Far too much "what if" or "maybe it could be that" for me.
  • Ndav
This is the history of Europe that I was not taught at school. I am an Australian and was brought up on British History and a British interpretation of Europe which was incorrect, and leaves us today with a complete lack of understanding of the forces that are shaping modern Europe. I found this book a revelation on understanding Europe and I sincerely regret that I had not read it before travelling to Europe many times over the past 15 years. It is a must for anyone of Anglo Saxon heritage travelling to Europe to really appreciate the nuances of different cultures within modern European countries.

Roger Grace
  • Survivors
The concept of Vanished Kingdoms is interesting and Normal Davies is steeped in knowledge and research. The problem is execution to a degree as the book is not a particularly engaging read and dry at several points that really kill the flow. If I could give 3.5 stars I would and it is worth reading for die hard history oriented people. For the casual reader the different take is not enough to likely engage you.
  • Meri
As a history buff, I was fascinated by this book and its descriptions of "vanished kingdoms." However, as the book approached the present day (for example in discussing the USSR), I felt the author was trying too hard to make his theories fit. Nonetheless, the peek at some practically mythical kingdoms was entertaining and well-written.