Friday, 7 March 2014

Vanished kingdoms, Norman Davies

Did you know there were more than ten kingdoms with the name Burgundy and all of them were in different places? Did you ever hear about the Kingdom Galicia, that existed in the 18th century and formed part of the Austrian Hungarian empire? Or do you know about Alt Clud, the Kingdom of the Rock that existed in Scotland from the 5th to the 12th century? What about Tolosa, Borussia, Etruria, Sabaudia and Tsernagora? If all of these names are not familiar to you, you ought to read Vanished kingdoms by Norman Davies, because then you will know all about it.

Norman Davies describes in his book Vanished kingdoms, decline and fall of all of these kingdoms and a few more. In chronological order he begins with Tolosa, the Visigoth kingdom that existed in the 5th century and he ends with the fall of the Sovjet Union in 1991.

Some of the states he describes were huge empires like Burgundy or Byzanthium, but he also pays attention to small states like the the Saxon state Rosenau, where prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria was born.

In this book we travel from Spain to Russia, to Italy and Ireland and visit all the places in between. Some kingdoms fell because they were conquered by other countries, sometimes the political changes got them into trouble.

What remains are only a few words of the language once spoken there, sometimes only a history people are ashamed of, a history they try to forget. Changing political situations make sure nothing much is left of the old kingdoms, cultures and languages change in time, despite attempts to hold on to the past. We can say that the countries we have in Europe today will also change and some will disappear while new ones will emerge.

Norman Davies is a great historian who is capable of making sense of complicated political history like in the chapters about Aragon or Burgundy.
Each chapter begins with a situation in the present, then the history of the kingdom follows and finally there is a conclusion in which Norman Davies tells what is left of the kingdom.

It is not a book to read fast or to read in one go, there is too much information on each page for that. It took me a very long time to read, because I would read a bit, put it away again and read more some time later.

Vanished kingdoms is a book for everyone who enjoys books about European history, packed with crazy details by a erudite author who knows how to write.

Published in 2011
Pages 797 (in Dutch translation)

2 comments:

  1. He picked a great title for his book. Vanished Kingdoms. Who wouldn't want to read a book about those? I like the interesting bits of history that usually get left out of the history books in school. Thanks for posting about this book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! It is really good and I loved every bit of it. And I agree, the title is amazing,

      kind regards,

      Delete

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