Reviews of Books

In the country of the past

Friday 28 October 2011 The Independent, Ian Thomas
Vanished Kingdoms

According to Davies, all nation states and empires, however great, flourish for a season and are replaced. "The paths of glory lead but to the grave": he quotes Gray's "Elegy" on the subject. Rather than offer yet another history of a great power, Davies has chosen to concentrate on half-remembered but no less great nations and the manner of their demise.

As well as a fascinating record, Vanished Kingdoms is intended as a riposte to British deprecations of "Ruritanian" outposts and the perceived inferior cultures of Eastern Europe. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, far from being a pimple on the edge of the Slav world, was once the largest country in Europe. In 1918 Byelorussia (the birthplace of, among others, Kirk Douglas and Irving Berlin) had been a national republic larger than all three Baltic States put together.

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Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe

Friday 28 October 2011 The Telegraph, Ben Wilson

‘All the nations that have ever lived have left their footsteps in the sand” - writes Norman Davies.