Reviews of Books

History as fantasy

Monday 12 March 2012 The New Republic, Jacob Soll
Vanished Kingdoms
In his new book, Norman Davies repackages the old story of Burgundy as a model of what he calls a "vanished kingdom" - a shadow of a chivalric world that once existed in Europe, populated by "those whom historians tend to forget." Davies's vanished kingdoms include the Visigoth realm, ancient Britannia, the Burgundian kingdoms and dukedoms, Aragon, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Byzantium, Belarus, Savoy, Napoleonic Tuscany, Thuringia, Montenegro, the one-day republic of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, Ireland, and Estonia under the Soviet Union. It is hard to understand what holds this group together aside from the map of Easy Jet flights from London. But their history, Davies conspiratorially claims, is shrouded in mystery. Like a magician about to perform a historical hat trick, he announces that "appearances" shroud "reality" and "things never are quite like they seem."  

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