'He writes history like nobody else. He thinks like nobody else ... He sees the world as a whole, with its limitless fund of stories' Byan Appleyard, Sunday Times
Where have the people in any particular place actually come from? What are the historical complexities in any particular place? This evocative historical journey around the world shows us.
'Human history is a tale not just of constant change but equally of perpetual locomotion', writes Norman Davies. Throughout the ages, men and women have endlessly sought the greener side of the hill. Their migrations, collisions, conquests and interactions have given rise to the spectacular profusion of cultures, races, languages and polities that now proliferates on every continent.
This incessant restlessness inspired Davies's own. After decades of writing about European history, and like Tennyson's ageing Ulysses longing for one last adventure, he embarked upon an extended journey that took him right round the world to a score of hitherto unfamiliar countries. His aims were to test his powers of observation and to revel in the exotic, but equally to encounter history in a new way. Beneath Another Sky is partly a historian's travelogue, partly a highly engaging exploration of events and personalities that have fashioned today's world - and entirely sui generis.
Davies's circumnavigation takes him to Baku, the Emirates, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Tasmania, Tahiti, Texas, Madeira and many places in between. At every stop, he not only describes the current scene but also excavates the layers of accumulated experience that underpin the present. He tramps round ancient temples and weird museums, summarises the complexity of Indian castes, Austronesian languages and Pacific explorations, delves into the fate of indigenous peoples and of a missing Malaysian airliner, reflects on cultural conflict in Cornwall, uncovers the Nazi origins of Frankfurt airport and lectures on imperialism in a desert oasis. 'Everything has its history', he writes, 'including the history of finding one's way or of getting lost.'
The personality of the author comes across strongly - wry, romantic, occasionally grumpy, but with an endless curiosity and appetite for knowledge. As always, Norman Davies watches the historical horizon as well as what is close at hand, and brilliantly complicates our view of the past.
From Norman Davies, the acclaimed author of Europe: A History, comes the magical history of Europe's lost realms, selected as a Book of the Year by the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, Independent, Guardian and Financial Times.
Europe's history is littered with kingdoms, duchies, empires and republics which have now disappeared but which were once fixtures on the map of their age. What happened to the once-great Mediterranean 'Empire of Aragon'? Where did the half-forgotten kingdoms of Burgundy go? Which current nations will one day become a distant memory too? This original and enthralling book peers through the cracks of history to discover the stories of lost realms across the centuries.
'Dazzling, provocative and brilliant' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, Books of the Year
'A luminous account ... there are few better ways of understanding the multilayered splendours and horrors of Europe's past than through the pages of this wise, humane and unfailingly engaging book' John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph
'Vanished Kingdoms is great history and also great art. It is written with verve, passion and profound empathy' David Marquand, New Statesman, Books of the Year
'A magnificent achievement. Brocaded with scholarship, the book is unlikely ever to be equalled' Ian Thomson, Independent
Collected here for the first time are some of the numerous essays and lectures by Norman Davies, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Europe, The Isles and Rising '44. Spanning more than fifteen years of his remarkable career, this highly accessible collection addresses many of the issues that continue to dominate the political and cultural climate of Europe today.
From the classical origins of the idea of Europe to the division between East and West during the Cold War; from the Jewish and Islamic strands in European history to the expansion of Europe to other continents; from the misunderstood Allied victory in 1945 to Britain's place in Europe; from reflections on the use and abuse of history to personal recollections on learning languages - this companion volume to the bestselling Europe looks at European history from a variety of unusual and entertaining angles in an equally stimulating and accessible way.
Surprisingly little known, the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20 was to change the course of twentieth-century history.
In White Eagle, Red Star, Norman Davies gives a full account of the War, with its dramatic climax in August 1920 when the Red Army - sure of victory and pledged to carry the Revolution across Europe to 'water our horses on the Rhine' - was crushed by a devastating Polish attack. Since known as the 'miracle on the Vistula', it remains one of the most decisive battles of the Western world.
Drawing on both Polish and Russian sources, Norman Davies illustrates the narrative with documentary material which hitherto has not been readily available and shows how the War was far more an 'episode' in East European affairs, but largely determined the course of European history for the next twenty years or more.
The story of Central Europe is anything but simple. As the region located between East and West, it has always been endowed with a rich variety of migrants, and has repeatedly been the scene of nomadic invasions, mixed settlements and military conquests. In order to present a portrait of Central Europe, Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse have made a case study of one of its most colourful cities, the former German Breslau, which became the Polish Wroclaw after the Second World War.
The traditional capital of the province of Silesia rose to prominence a thousand years ago as a trading centre and bishopric in Piast Poland. It became the second city of the kingdom of Bohemia, a major municipality of the Habsburg lands, and then a Residenzstadt of the kingdom of Prussia. The third largest city of nineteenth-century Germany, its population reached one million before the bitter siege by the Soviet Army in 1945 wrought almost total destruction. Since then Wroclaw has risen from the ruins of war and is once again a thriving regional centre.
The history of Silesia's main city is more than a fascinating tale in its own right. It embodies all the experiences which have made Central Europe what it is - a rich mixture of nationalities and cultures; the scene of German settlement and of the reflux of the Slavs; a Jewish presence of exceptional distinction; a turbulent succession of imperial rulers; and the shattering exposure to both Nazis and Stalinists. In short, it is a Central European microcosm.
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Norman Davies C. M. G., F. B. A. is Professor Emeritus of the University of London, a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and the author of several books on Polish and European history, including God's Playground, White Eagle, Red Star, The Isles, Microcosm and Europe: East and West.