About author
A historian, a writer, an authority on Central and Eastern Europe, a music buff, a collector, a true Renaissance Man - Prof. Norman Davies is an outstanding academic respected worldwide for his many books about history. He is also an organiser and a participant of many initiatives and debates, often addressing the most critical questions affecting today’s world. At the same time he is a very warm and approachable person. Want to know more? Watch this space!

Prof. Norman Davies has received many prestigious honours for his academic work, including honorary doctorates and honorary citizenships. In particular, he has received state honours from Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Poland. However he is also much respected for his active and long-standing involvement in diverse projects or initiatives which extend considerably beyond the confines of formal academia.

Books are not everything - there are now many different ways in which knowledge can and should be imparted, thereby creating a rich collection of complementary sources. We therefore invite you to visit our ever expanding multimedia library of highly interesting films, pictures, and articles.

Pictures have become an integral part of the way we document our history - for ourselves, for others, for posterity, or simply out of pure enjoyment. This website shows the book covers of Norman Davies’s published works, but also some of the most interesting photographs from his private albums. 

History is, of course, Norman Davies’s foremost passion, but he has always pursued other interests with equal energy, particularly artistic and musical ones. He is a true Renaissance Man: in his free time he enjoys collecting  old postcards, reads poetry (especially that of Dante Alighieri), likes to relax by playing the accordion, avidly watches snooker games (his father, Richard Davies, was a particularly gifted amateur player who won numerous prizes), and he is an ardent, lifelong supporter of Bolton Wanderers football team. His frequent travels around the world, as an author and an academic, provide him with the opportunity to discover more for himself about the people and places he visits. 

Very often we ourselves are the best biographers, and our most honest critics – are those closest to us. Prof. Davies’s family and friends are an important part of his life. So we let them speak freely and candidly about him in the book  "70. A Birthday Book for Norman Davies".



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Biography of Norman Davies

"All my life, I have been intrigued by the gap between appearances and reality. Things are never quite as they seem."

Norman Davies, born in 1939 in Bolton (Lancashire) was educated at Bolton School, Magdalen College, Oxford, the University of Sussex and at several continental universities including Grenoble, Perugia and Kraków. His formative years created a lifelong European outlook.

His special interest in Central and Eastern Europe was unusual among contemporaries. It started in 1958 when four school-leavers drove from Lancashire to Istanbul and back in an ex-US Army Jeep. It was consolidated by further adventurous travels: by intensive Russian courses and by post-doctoral study at the Jagiellonian University, where he obtained a Ph.D.

Unlike most academics, Norman Davies began his career as a school teacher. During a four-year spell, he worked at every level from primary to Sixth Form, at a girls' school and then at St. Paul's. These experiences honed his skills as a lecturer and educator, and primed the arts of simple narrative and clear analysis.


As a pupil of AJP Taylor and the nephew of a well-known Lancastrian sportsman and broadcaster, Davies was always familiar with the worlds of publishing and the media. He emerged as a historical author with "White Eagle, Red Star" (1972) which was written during a research fellowship at St. Antony's College. He found his way into radio and later TV via the BBC World Service to which he made contributions relative to current affairs in the Soviet Bloc.

Davies' academic career centred on the School of Slavonic Studies, University of London, where he was successively Lecturer, Reader and Professor. A quarter of a century in London was supplemented by regular assignments abroad at Columbia, Mc Gill, Hokkaido, Stanford, Harvard, Adelaide and the ANU in Canberra. He was elected Fell of the British Academy in 1997.

The stay at Stanford was particularly eventful. It started with the prospective offer of an endowed chair and ended when the offer was mysteriously cancelled before it could be formalised by Board of Trustees. Stanford's decision, which contradicted the unanimous recommendation of it's own Search Committee, remained unsubstantiated for months, and since all grievance procedures were refused, became the subject of a lengthy but inconclusive law suit. It eventually emerged that an unnamed group of critics had taken offense at one chapter in Davies' prize-winning history of Poland, "God's Playground" (1981). Davies remembers the episode stoically - as evidence of academic small-mindedness and of fate awaiting anyone who confronts entrenched opinions and prejudices.


Nonetheless, the budding author surged ahead. After the collapse of Communism, "God's Playground" (OUP, 1981) was adopted by Poland's Ministry of Education as compulsory reading for all history students in state schools and universities. "Europe: A History" (OUP, 1996) became a Number 1 best-seller in Britain and "The Isles: A History" (Macmillan,1999) confirmed Davies' reputation as an iconoclast. "Microcosm: A Portrait of a Central European City" (Jonathan Cape, 2002) written with Roger Moorhouse, presents the little known history of a Central European city, Wroclaw / Breslau; whilst "Rising '44" (2004) has eclipsed all previous studies of the Warsaw Rising. According to the the author, "Europe at War"  (2006) was  bound to encounter turbulence, as it did. "Vanished Kingdoms" (Penguin, 2011) was long in gestation and editing, but repaid the meticulous attentions of its editor with a long series of scintillating reviews.

Over the years, Norman Davies has received many prizes and honours. He was awarded the CMG by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 for 'services to history', and has collected several Polish distinctions including the Orders of Polonia Restituta, of Merit, and of the White Eagle. He is an honorary citizen of several cities, including Wroclaw: and the holder of numerous honorary degrees, most recently a D Litt from Sussex.


Though formally retired from his academic post, Norman Davies continues to write, publish and teach. When not travelling, he lives in Oxford and Cracow with his wife Maria, and has two sons, Daniel and Christian. From 2000 - 2006 he was a Supernumerary Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford: and In 2006 to 2008 a Visiting Fellow In Cambridge at Clare Hall and Peterhouse. In Cracow, he holds the position in the UNESCO Chair of Translation Studies and a part-time lectureship in the Oriental Institute. In Warsaw, he presents periodic lectures at the European College in Natolin.  In 2011, he returned to St.Antony’s College, Oxford, where is an Honorary Fellow. In the first part of 2012, for the purposes of stimulation and relaxation, he travelled round the World on a lecture tour that took him to a dozen countries including UAE, Malaysia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Tahiti.