Vanished Kingdoms

Vanished Kingdoms

The Rise and Fall of States and Nations

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101545348
  • 848 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


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.


“An alternative history of Europe that is . . . densely packed yet commendably accessible, magisterial, and uncommonly humane.” — The Boston Globe

“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.” — The Wall Street Journal

“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.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“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.”

The Economist

“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.”

Timothy Snyder, The Guardian (London)
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