The political map of Europe seemed to be shifting almost continuously from the fall of Rome to the fall of the Berlin Wall. That means a lot of names and regimes changed along the way, a lot of borders were redefined, and a lot of historians were left with serious headaches trying to make sense of it all.
In the midst of all this some European states are bound to fall through the cracks of history, or at least fade so far into the background that they’re hardly memorable to anyone but the most devoted of scholars. Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations is Norman Davies’ attempt to shed some light on this intriguing, often peculiar historical subset of European kingdoms that, for one reason or another, are lost.
But the book isn’t all some strange journey into obscure kingdoms the likes of which you’ve never dreamed. You’ll likely recognize a few names – CCCP, Etruria, Burgundia – but even if you don’t, that’s hardly the point. What’s happening here is more than just a spotlight on fallen nations.
With characteristic wit, insight and poised prose, Davies uses these pages to remind us that the nations we know now are often built on the broken backs of the nations that came before. If any one of the former kingdoms highlighted in this book still existed, something else likely would not. At the very least the world would be a different place in some fundamental way. Somewhere in the contemporary shape of Europe these cultures are still lurking. Davies knows this, and the greatest achievement of Vanished Kingdoms is his ability to show us so clearly.
This is a book that achieves the remarkable dual feat of being both remarkably entertaining historical writing and an enlightening look at pockets of history often overshadowed. You likely wouldn’t have missed these vanished kingdoms if you never knew about them, but after reading this book you’ll be all too happy that you know now.
Vanished Kingdoms is available in bookstores now.