• Vanished Kingdoms

  • The Rise and Fall of States and Nations
  • By: Norman Davies
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 30 hrs and 21 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (173 ratings)

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Vanished Kingdoms

By: Norman Davies
Narrated by: Derek Perkins
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Publisher's Summary

An evocative account of 14 European kingdoms - their rise, maturity, and eventual disappearance.

There is something profoundly romantic about lost civilizations. Europe's past is littered with states and kingdoms, large and small, that are scarcely remembered today, and while their names may be unfamiliar - Aragon, Etruria, the Kingdom of the Two Burgundies - their stories should change our mental map of the past. We come across forgotten characters and famous ones - King Arthur and Macbeth, Napoleon and Queen Victoria, right up to Stalin and Gorbachev - and discover how faulty memory can be, and how much we can glean from these lost empires. Davies peers through the cracks in the mainstream accounts of modern-day states to dazzle us with extraordinary stories of barely remembered pasts, and of the traces they left behind.

This is Norman Davies at his best: sweeping narrative history packed with unexpected insights. Vanished Kingdoms will appeal to all fans of unconventional and thought-provoking history, from listeners of Niall Ferguson to Jared Diamond.

©2011 Norman Davies (P)2021 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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What listeners say about Vanished Kingdoms

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

needs a good editor.

This book has some great information, and even some good chapters. The problem is that it has no sense of audience. The book is horribly over explanatory for a history buff. Nobody who I would expect to read this book needs to be told the story of Napoleon Bonaparte. The book frequently sidesteps into a general western history. If it was meant for a casual history fan, then it is even worse because it frequently expects you to know who Talleyrand is, or the details of the 30 years war without explanation. The book could be easily halved if the author and editor had selected a target audience and focused on them.

Another turn off was the frequent quotation of original texts. This is a great idea for the written book, to give you a sense of the languages and their similarities to Germanic or Latin languages. The narrator did his best, but those sections could have been eliminated for the audio version and nothing would be lost.

28 people found this helpful

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Pedantic

It's rare that I don't finish a book but this one on which I've bailed, for two reasons.

This book sorely needs editing. I prefer long audio books but this book's length (to the extent I muddled through) is not due to compelling narratives or interesting takes. There is a lot of pointless detail inserted for no discernible reason (particularly the introductory discussions of each of the current state of the vanished kingdoms. In general, it's of course interesting, but after a while it's minutiae.) A larger sin however is the incessant passages read in ancient or dead languages. It's simply not interesting beyond a phrase or even a sentence. There are quotations in, for instance, Latin or Gaellic or Burgundian, that seem to go on and on and on. Nothing breaks one's concentration like a solid minute of what amounts to gibberish for those not learned in ancient tongues. I actually burst laughing more than once when, during a pause I took to mean the end of the ancient language, the silence was filled by more of the same. It's absurd. I suspect in text, most readers just skip over this but you can't in audio.

The book is also pedantic. The best example is the conclusion of the Burgundian section - for what felt like an hour, the book quotes definitions of "Burgundy" from various sources (some obscure no less) and then scores each definition's 'accuracy' on a scale of 1-15. Whether or not that's self-congratulations I can't say, but I can say it's beyond dull to listen to.

Kudos to the narrator for deftly handling the needless swathes of ancient tongues.

10 people found this helpful

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Wonderful!

fascinating! pick any spot and just start listening, you will be enthralled. never fails to capture the ironic twists and turns of History

7 people found this helpful

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Informative

I have ancestry in 5 of these vanished kingdoms. It was interesting to learn the history behind them, which is often ignored.

6 people found this helpful

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Beautiful

Elegant, eloquent, artful. I'd give this six stars if possible. The rest of this review is filler.

4 people found this helpful

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Breezy non-history

Author should have written a travel guide since this book is 70% travel guide, 20% poor art review, and 10% history. what a bummer.

2 people found this helpful

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Vanished Kingdoms should just disappear

If you intended to learn ANY history, and maybe even enjoy just SOME of it, then you were sadly mistaken with “Vanished Kingdoms.” Horrible. 28 hours of misery, with a narrator trying his best to win a landing on Broadway.

2 people found this helpful

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Need to listen to 10 other books before this one

Feel like I should have done a lot of research before diving into this one. Also the lack of access to maps was confusing.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent - Some Even More Interesting History

I love history books like this, with a wealth of detail and obvious attention being made to correct research methods. This is a great book to listen to. Everything I listen to or read that comes from Norman Davies is just as phenomenal, and Derek Perkins does an unbelievable job with general narration and especially with his attention to good pronunciation of non-English-language parts. More importantly, I love history like this, along with its philosophical and humanistic implications. They are more than implications, they are stated outright without pretension nor apology.

I thoroughly enjoyed the lesser-known, almost forgotten things we know (or at least have historical evidence for) about people and places. There are many important movements telling us to "Never Forget!", but they tell us not to forget things that are considered large parts of history and which find descriptions in the historical descriptions from the majority of humanity's groups.

I'm paraphrasing this next part of what Norman Davies says, but it's important. There are great and successful people, states, nations, countries, and events, but there are just as many if not more near misses, good tries, and even failures. The conclusion is that the latter need to be part of the history that is studied and published. I couldn't agree more.

When we think of history as a discipline, there are no states or people which are more deserving of being studied or of being written about. The goal of historical study is to find and share what happened in the past as well as we can. That past belongs to everyone who was part of it, and we as a species should strive to know about all of it. As someone who loves helping others with family history research and sharing, I don't want anyone to be forgotten, because I think it cheapens their existence and ours.

So, to conclude, I'll tell you that I found this book while looking for something, for anything, that discusses the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Thanks, Norman Davies, for putting one out there. It helps me to know more about my wife's ancestors, whether great or small, whether on the winning or the losing side of history, whether worthy of emulation or not, whether the information is about a specific individual or some general fact about the group to which one or many of them may have belonged. I found that, and I have new trails of information to follow.

I was looking for that, and I found it. But I got much more than just information about that one region. I got great stories that are new and wonderful and instructive. I also got advice that is new and wonderful and instructive. My attitude toward human beings and their social structures is now better and more complete. I am better equipped to Never Forget people and stories that might otherwise slip from memory. I'm reminded of a kid's movie - Coco - which portrays the land of the dead. It is shown as a place where, once no one among other living remembers one of the dead, that dead individual ceases to exist. For the sake of those real people who play a vital part in making us who we are and in making our world what it is, let us strive to Never Forget the worth of each one.

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Fascinating

Interesting perspectives on dead or dying states and Empires. Worth a listen
Some of the entities are well known, some more unfamiliar