Reviews of Books

A study of Europe that suggests we can take nothing for granted

Friday 18 November 2011 The Guardian, Timothy Snyder
Vanished Kingdoms
Norman Davies is certainly a romantic, and yet his "Vanished Kingdoms" proposes a powerful solution to the problem of European history. How can this be? Romanticism, as Isaiah Berlin suggested, can also work as a matter of principled respect for variety rather than insistence on difference, a gaze through a stained-glass window rather than the grip on a bit of glass. What if, instead of parallel vertical lines plumbing darkness, we thought of history horizontally? What if we saw historical pluralism not as the attempt to respect all possible national myths, but as regard for the simultaneous existence, at any given historical point, of all states and peoples – including those that no longer exist, or have been forgotten? There were, after all, a thousand Greek city-states, and it says much about us that we can only name a couple of them.

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