Penguin 2012. ISBN 978-0141048867

This is my fourth book by Norman Davies and not only is it written in his attractive and accessible style, it presents a set of European histories that it is impossible to find together anywhere else.

As he points out, history is written by the winners, so it is doubly useful to record the stories of kingdoms/ peoples that were once well-known but are now almost forgotten. They influenced their epoch and their millions of citizens had lives the same as those of the winners.

In the last chapter he reflects on his "Vanished Kingdoms" saying that historians are not comfortable with the idea of random causation, and that some sort of analysis, however tentative, is desirable and he goes on to categorize the various internal and external ways that kingdoms/ peoples can be overwhelmed.

A few private reflections triggered by the book would include the following:

He shows how larger geographic kingdoms often break up along ethnic lines when central control weakens but somehow England managed to integrate invaders a varied as Saxons, Normans, Scandinavians and Celts with the original Old British (Welsh) inhabitants in what is now the English part of the British Isles. The same would go for Spain in integrating Moors, Carthaginians, Greeks and Visigoths with the original Basque inhabitants in most of the Peninsula. Possible reasons could include I suppose, newcomers plans to settle and rhe length of time that they live together under central control.

Davies perhaps shows that the old European late monarchic system was ready to collapse after the blows of the French Revolution, the rise of commercial middle classes and new democratic egalitarian ideas, so maybe it only needed a good push when traditional authority was gravely weakened after WW1, particularly in Russia after its military defeat by the central powers. (top)
There is no doubt after reading the book that the business of the Communists was destruction, and their explicit aim was to extend their dictatorship to all Europe and liquidate whole sections of the population there in the same way that they did in Russia (15 million people in the extreme violence of the Great Terror according to Robert Conquest). They were nothing like as effective at building society (if they cared) as Davies shows by his account of the economic failure and implosion of the USSR.

Finally, he also follows the well trodden path of remaining silent about the fact that the Bolsheviks were not Russians.

As David R. Francis, the US ambassador to Russia at the time, said in a 1918 dispatch, "The Bolshevik leaders here, most of whom are Jews and 90 percent of whom are returned exiles, care little for Russia or any other country but are internationalists and are trying to start a worldwide social revolution."

Almost all of the top leadership was Jewish as were the heads of the NKVD (Genrikh Yagoda and his deputy Yakov Agranov) and all the heads of the Gulag (Aron Solts, Yakov Rappoport, Lazar Kogan, Matvei Berman and Naftaly Frenkel) according to Solzhenitsyn in "The Gulag Archipelago, Part 1 & 2,". It was Lazar Kaganovich who organized and executed the Holodomor (3 million+ deaths in the Ukraine) and Jews who were the leading activists/administrators with a special protected status until the last days of the Stalin dictatorship as is amply demonstrated in Slezkine's recent book, "The Jewish Century".

In the 20th century they switched from being the primary aggressors to the primary victims but maybe this is outside the scope of the text.

I found "Vanished Kingdoms" to be another great book from Norman Davies and it ought to be of interest to all Europeans. It seems to be resonating more in the UK than it does in the US judging by Amazon reviews.