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Oxford University Press
God's Playground: A History of Poland, Volume I: The Origins to 1795 / Edition 2

God's Playground: A History of Poland, Volume I: The Origins to 1795 / Edition 2

by Norman Davies
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The most comprehensive survey of Polish history available in English, God´s Playground demonstrates Poland´s importance in European history from medieval times to the present. Abandoning the traditional nationalist approach to Polish history, Norman Davies instead stresses the country´s rich multinational heritage and places the development of the Jewish German, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian communities firmly within the Polish context.

Davies emphasizes the cultural history of Poland through a presentation of extensive poetical, literary, and documentary texts in English translation. In each volume, chronological chapters of political narrative are interspersed with essays on religious, social, economic, constitutional, philosophical, and diplomatic themes.

This new edition has been revised and fully updated with two new chapters to bring the story to the end of the twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199253395
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 01/01/2005
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 488
Product dimensions: 6.33(w) x 8.98(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

Norman Davies is chair of the history department, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, at the University of London.

Table of Contents

1. Millenium: AThousand Years of History
2. Polska: The Polish Land
3. Piast: The Polanian Dynasty
4. Anjou: The Hungarian Connection
5. Jogaila: The Lithuanian Union
6. Antemurale: The Bulwark of Christendom
7. Szlachta: The Nobleman's Paradise
8. Handel: The Baltic Grain Trade
9. Miasto: The Vicissitudes of Urban Life
10. Anarchia: The Noble Democracy
11. Serenissima: Diplomacy in Poland -- Lithuania
12. Valois: The French Experiment
13. Bathory: The Transylvanian Victor
14. Vasa: The Swedish Connection
15. Michal: The Austrian Candidate
16. Sobieski: Terror of the Turk
17. Wettin: The Saxon Era
18. Agonia: The End of the Russian Protectorate

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God's Playground: A History of Poland, Volume I: The Origins to 1795 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
thorold on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Big, sophisticated academic history, covering a thousand years in about the same number of pages. The treatment is part chronological and part thematic, and there seems to be a good mix of facts, analysis and opinion. As something of an outsider, Davies is probably in as good a position as anyone to produce a balanced view of a subject that is bound to be contentious. It's inevitable that some readers will find their particular concern under-represented, given Poland's shifting frontiers and varying ethnic and religious mix over the course of the centuries. We're all partial readers to some extent, of course: I had my own grandparents (German Protestants from ¿ód¿ and from Masuria, respectively) in the back of my mind - I'm sure someone with Jewish, Polish or Ukrainian ancestors would have read with a different emphasis. Davies makes the point that the only person who ever managed to achieve an incontrovertible definition of Poland was Stalin, who was in a position to re-arrange the world to fit his map. Historians don't have that luxury.Not being an academic historian myself, I read this book for general background and pleasure, in the knowledge that I'd forget most of the fine detail very soon. I found it something of an eye-opener to be looking at history from the Polish perspective: normally Poland is a place that appears (briefly) in the histories of other places; looking at it from the other side (or rather, in most cases, from the middle) does make you rethink some of your ideas. And make you want to plan a trip East...Davies's style is very readable: a neutral, academic tone, but with the occasional sly joke thrown in. The praise he heaps on his own achievement in the introduction and postscript of this revised edition is perhaps forgivable, given that his book has become pretty much the standard text over the past thirty years. There are some annoying production issues, though. The updating has been a bit hit and miss, so that it isn't always quite clear whether "today" means 1981 or 2004 - you can usually work it out, but it looks sloppy. Even worse are OUP's many little typographical faults. OCR errors are scattered through both volumes (slightly fewer in Volume 2, so the revision process probably helped). The accented Polish letters in Volume 1 are taken from the wrong font, and appear slightly larger than the rest of the text around them, disturbing the flow. That is really irritating and unprofessional, and shouldn't happen in an expensive book from a major academic publisher. Poor reproduction also affects some of the maps and tables in the text, and all the photographic plates (although the latter seem to be an afterthought, not discussed in the text, so it doesn't really matter much).
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not a book for the casual history fan. But if you have a true interest in Poland, Davies' book will reward your effort. At several points in the book, I almost gave up because of the intricate details (particularly about money) that pepper the book. Ultimately, I stayed with it, and I'm glad I did. In fact, I'm looking forward to Volume 2. (One sad note on Vol. 2 is that it was published in 1984 and therefore doesn't cover the dramatic changes in Poland and Eastern Europe of the last 15 years.) Some tips. Skim the first chapter of the book where Davies does a 'history of the history of Poland.' For most of us, it is not important to know that various writers throughout history have brought their personal or political biases to their portrayal of Poland (although the particular bias of the communist era is mind-boggling). Second tip. Skim the sections on money. Davies has a economist's passion for economics, markets and currencies; but for me it was rough going. Third tip. Have a general atlas of Europe (or history atlas) handy. Some of the maps in Davies' book (paperbound edition) are literally illegible. In summary, I recommend this book to anyone with a keen interest in the history of Eastern Europe. Davies has an entertaining style of writing and has a knack for bringing historical figures and events to life.