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Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe

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 – 'the Empire of Aragon' which once dominated the western Mediterranean; the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, for a time the largest country in Europe; the successive kingdoms (and one duchy) of Burgundy, much of whose history is now half remembered – or half-forgotten – at best.

Historical memory is extraordinarily imperfect and we often forget that the past is different from the present in many unfamiliar ways. Thinking of the European past as the history of countries which exist today – France, Germany, Britain, Russia and so on – often obstructs our view of the past, and blunts our sensitivity to ever-changing political landscapes.

Professor Norman Davies’s latest book, Vanished Kingdoms, published in October 2011, offers a challengingly original perspective on the history of Europe, showing readers how to peer through the cracks of mainstream history writing and listen to the echoes of lost realms across the centuries. He examines the lives and afterlives of vanished kingdoms that no longer have advocates, subverting our established view of what seems familiar, and urging us to look and think afresh.

About the Speakers:
Norman Davies was for many years Professor of History at the School of Slavonic Studies, University of London, and has also taught at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, McGill, Cracow, Adelaide, Australian National and Hokkaido universities. He is the author of God’s Playground: a History of Poland (1981), the best-selling Europe: a History (1996), The Isles (2000), and Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (2003). He is now Professor at the Jagiellonian University at Cracow and an Honorary Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford.

Christopher Clark is Professor in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St Catherine's College. He teaches and writes on various themes across the field of modern European history, specialising in the history of Germany since the eighteenth century. Last year he presented a BBC4 documentary on Frederick the Great of Prussia. His principal publications include Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (2006; winner of the 2007 Wolfson History Prize) and Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power (2009).

This event was supported by Allen Lane.