• 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 (163 ratings)

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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

What listeners say about Vanished Kingdoms

Average Customer Ratings
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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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Great book and stellar narrator

Best narration I've ever heard. This was a complicated read, but between the writing and unbelievably skilled narration, e.g., languages and type of materials read, it was easy to follow. Highly recommend.

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Poor Narrative Style

The narrative style is incoherent, jumping from topic to topic and century to century without continuity.

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