Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations

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Overview

An evocative account of fourteen European kingdoms-their rise, maturity, and eventual disappearance.

There is something profoundly romantic about lost civilizations. Europe's past is littered with states and kingdoms, large and small, that are scarcely remembered today, and while their names may be unfamiliar-Aragon, Etruria, the Kingdom of the Two Burgundies-their stories should change our mental map of the past. We come across forgotten characters and famous ones-King Arthur ...

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Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations

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Overview

An evocative account of fourteen European kingdoms-their rise, maturity, and eventual disappearance.

There is something profoundly romantic about lost civilizations. Europe's past is littered with states and kingdoms, large and small, that are scarcely remembered today, and while their names may be unfamiliar-Aragon, Etruria, the Kingdom of the Two Burgundies-their stories should change our mental map of the past. We come across forgotten characters and famous ones-King Arthur and Macbeth, Napoleon and Queen Victoria, right up to Stalin and Gorbachev-and discover how faulty memory can be, and how much we can glean from these lost empires. Davies peers through the cracks in the mainstream accounts of modern-day states to dazzle us with extraordinary stories of barely remembered pasts, and of the traces they left behind.

This is Norman Davies at his best: sweeping narrative history packed with unexpected insights. Vanished Kingdoms will appeal to all fans of unconventional and thought-provoking history, from readers of Niall Ferguson to Jared Diamond.

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Editorial Reviews

Timothy Snyder
“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.”
The Boston Globe
“An alternative history of Europe that is . . . densely packed yet commendably accessible, magisterial, and uncommonly humane.”
The Wall Street Journal
“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.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“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.”
The Economist
“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.”
Publishers Weekly
European history as an academic subject concerns itself with England, France, and Germany, or Athens, Rome, and Moscow. But the real map of Europe has always been more complicated, with countless peoples and cultures struggling for self-determination, then disappearing. Historian Davies, professor emeritus at London University (Europe: A History), sets out to rescue the voices of these lost nations, presenting brief portraits of 15 European countries that have ceased to exist, from Tolosa, the ancient kingdom of the Visigoths, to the U.S.S.R., including two, Montenegro and Ireland, which have at least partially re-emerged from the dark. Even residents of present-day Britain or France are unlikely to have heard of Alt Clud, the Welsh kingdom now in Scotland, or of the various kingdoms of Burgundia, which regularly vanished and reappeared around the map of west-central Europe. Though the prose is dry at times and reliable sources for some countries are thin on the ground, readers will find this a useful corrective to the common misperception that history’s losers represent “a squabbling mix of obscure ethnic groups; a mass of near-unpronounceable names in unfamiliar languages; a brew of ‘fanatical nationalisms’; and a tragi-comic outcome for which the alone need be blamed.” Illus., maps. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Distinguished British historian Davies (No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939–1945, etc.) delves into 15 once-great, now-fallen states, from the ancient Visigoths to the Soviet Union. The author again displays an enormous breadth of knowledge in this selective yet comprehensive historical study of thriving kingdoms that eventually gave way to internal or external forces such as implosion or conquest. Davies is inspired by the epic movement of peoples, starting with the writhing of barbarian hordes that invaded the rotting Roman Empire, namely the Visigoths, who established the Kingdom of Tolosa (modern-day Toulouse) in 418 CE. They lasted for 89 years and spread (into Iberia) a unique Gothic speech, political culture and architecture. These were only one of many interrelated linguistic sub-groups that moved into pockets of Europe, such as the Ostrogoths, Lombards and Burgundians, all now vanished, but leaving in their wake a rich "contaminating" of language, culture and gene pool. Davies delights in recounting the "Kingdom of the Rock," aka the Old North (Scotland), which was once inhabited by the Ancient Britons (as opposed to the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons), giving forth such legendary notables as St. Patrick, King Arthur and St. Mungo, before being eclipsed by myriad tribes and the Vikings. The author also examines the obscure state of Belarus and its capital Minsk, locus of a dizzying collision of migrating tribes, but he seems overwhelmed by the task of summarizing the complex civilization of Byzantion. Davies dwells instead on Borussia, where the early Prusai, the "People of the Lagoon," mingled with their invited guests, the Knights of the Teutonic Order, creating a potent socio-military machine of conquest. Other recondite searches wander into Italy, Germany and her rivaling Saxon duchies, ancestral Éire and, finally, Estonia as emblematic of the Soviet Union's pernicious cultural manipulation. A fine concluding chapter, "How States Die," offers a robust roundup for the diligent reader. As usual with Davies, an exceedingly accomplished and dauntingly thorough study.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143122951
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 11/27/2012
  • Pages: 848
  • Sales rank: 262,172
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Davies is a supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society, and Professor Emeritus at London University. His books include Europe: A History (a New York Times Notable Book), The Isles: A History, and the definitive history of Poland, God’s Playground.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations viii

List of Figures xiv

List of Maps xv

Introduction 1

1 Tolosa: Soujourn of the Visigoths (AD 418-507) 13

2 Alt Clud: Kingdom of the Rock (Fifth to Twelfth Centuries) 33

3 Burgundia: Five, Six or Seven Kingdoms (c. 411-1795) 85

4 Aragon: A Mediterranean Empire (1137-1714) 151

5 Litva: A Grand Duchy with Kings (1253-1795) 229

6 Byzantion: The Star-lit Golden Bough (330-1453) 309

7 Borussia: Watery Land of the Prusai (1230-1945) 325

8 Sabaudia: The House that Humbert Built (1033-1946) 395

9 Galicia: Kingdom of the Naked and Starving (1773-1918) 439

10 Etruria: French Snake in the Tuscan Grass (1801-1814) 491

11 Rosenau: The Loved and Unwanted Legacy (1826-1918) 539

12 Tsernagora: Kingdom of the Black Mountain (1910-1918) 575

13 Rusyn: The Republic of One Day (15 March 1939) 621

14 Éire: The Unconscionable Tempo of the Crown's Retreat since 1916 635

15 CCCP: The Ultimate Vanishing Act (1924-1991) 687

How States Die 729

Notes 740

Acknowledgements 791

Index 793

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 17, 2012

    Very readable- thorough yet not too academic, and each "van

    Very readable- thorough yet not too academic, and each "vanished kingtom" has a separate chapter, so you can focus on the long-lost countries that interest you most. If you're looking for histories of countries that you don't hear much about, this is your book! Warning, the US could end up in one of these books in a few centuries.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 27, 2012

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