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.