“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)
'The past is a foreign country' has become a truism, yet the past differs from the present in many unfamiliar ways and historical memory is extraordinarily imperfect. The degree to which we think of the European past as the history of France, Germany, Britain, Russia and so on, actually obstructs our view of former reality, and blunts our sensitivity to the ever-changing political landscape. Europe's past is littered with kingdoms, empires and republics which no longer exist but which were some of the most important entities of their day - 'the Empire of Aragon', which dominated the western Mediterranean in the thirteenth century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the largest country in Europe for part of the eighteenth century. This book shows the reader how to peer through the cracks of mainstream history-writing, and to catch a glimpse of the 'Five, Six or Seven Kingdoms of Burgundy'. How long will it be before the USSR, until recently one of the world's two superpowers, is wholly or half-forgotten as most of these? The histories of the lost echo across the centuries, mixed in with more familiar sounds. One of the purposes of this book is to help us hear them again more clearly, and appreciate where they came from.
As in his earlier celebrated books Europe and The Isles, Norman Davies aims to subvert our established view what looks familiar in history and urges us to look and think again. This stimulating book, full of unexpected stories, observations and connections, gives us a fresh and original perspective on European history.