I have to start by saying that this book is very difficult to put down, although this may only be true for people like me who seem to have a passion for history books about the collapse of great civilizations (Runciman's history of the Byzantine Empire, Norwich's history of the Norman kingdom of Si
I have to start by saying that this book is very difficult to put down, although this may only be true for people like me who seem to have a passion for history books about the collapse of great civilizations (Runciman's history of the Byzantine Empire, Norwich's history of the Norman kingdom of Sicily, and Dalrymple's 'From the Holy Mountain' are among the books I enjoyed the most in recent years, don't ask me why). But I also have to add that while reading I kept puzzling about the selection of 'vanished kingdoms' Davies made, which is not good, in fact becomes irritating at times. Some choices are spot on - e.g., Burgundy, or the Kingdom of the Rock that I didn't even know about - and those chapters also tend to be the ones I had the most pleasure reading. But the rest is very weird - e.g., there is chapter on the Byzantine empire, which may well be the prototypical 'vanished kingdom of Europe', but then the author probably assumes that everybody already knows the story so he just writes a sort of meta-comment on it: why? And when discussing vanished kingdoms of Italy, why Etruria (which lasted only 12 years, and wasn't really anything else than a temporary name for Tuscany) and 'Sabaudia' (which after all is sort of where Italy came from) and not Venice, or indeed the kingdom of the two Sicilies, or the Pope's states, which after all were the most important states in Italy for many centuries?) Also, the chapter on Sabaudia is full of dreadful misspellings and out-and-out mistakes that made me wonder about the rest.
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