Book review: Vanished Kingdoms


Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies is a collection of historic accounts of several of the former kingdoms of Europe. It is based on the theory that it is the winner of a conflict who get to write the history, so Davies has decided to write the history of the losing part.

He accounts for Tolosa, Alt Clud, Burgundia, Aragon, Litva, Byzantium, Borussia, Sabaudia, Galicia, Etruria, Rosenau, Tsernagoar, Rusyn, Éire and CCCP.

Considering that the under title of the Rusyn chapter is “Republic for one day,” and the CCCP chapter is about the death of the Soviet Union without any royalty included as reigning in that demise… The title of the book could well be simply Vanishing countries, in my opinion.

That bit of criticism being said, this is a well-researched and thorough book. I found it particularly interesting when it came to geographic areas where I haven’t much knowledge of the history, such as the history of the Grand Duchy of Litva – an area of Belarus long before it became Belarus. Or Galicia, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. (I suppose I will be showing my ignorance here when I say I thought Galicia was a part of Spain…)

The final chapter on how states die has a bit of a resonance with the European Union in these days, and the topic of a realm imploding rather than external causes seems apt.  Given Davies’ introduction where he rants and raves about the United Kingdom and England’s misbegotten dominance and the Scottish and Welsh struggle, I suspect that he’s much rather hoping for an implosion there than in the European Union.

It is a well written book, but despite the length (700+ pages), I kept wishing he would flesh some of the parts of it out more (and then maybe cut a chapter or two of the more well-known historic realms).

2 comments

  1. Galicia, actually, is an autonomous region in the northwest of Spain, and it was one of the first kingdoms in Europe, a suebic kingdom founded in the year 409. In 1128, the county of Portugal became independent fron Galicia, thats why portuguesse language and galician language (the official language) are very similar. Spanish nationalism and the Kingdom of Castile historically oppressed the people and the nobility of Galicia to erase its memory. So, you are not wrong, but there is another Galicia, actually in Polland.
    One Galicia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Galicia
    Two Galicia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Galicia_and_Lodomeria

  2. Yes, I’ve definitely heard of Galicia in Spain, but that there also was a Galicia in Poland was new to me. You learn new things every day 🙂

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