Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
A wide-ranging ride through some of the lesser-known states of Europe. There's plenty of anecdote and detail here, and the book seeks to (and largely succeeds in) explaining the history of some areas that are often left out of the European story. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the origins of Prussia and Burgundy are all fascinating.
The inclusion of a chapter on Éire seems a little out of place. Ireland is hardly a "vanished" kingdom, and the history presented is almost exclusively 19-20th century. One could reasonably argue that the period of the High Kings and the maintenance of scholarship in the Dark Ages might constitute missing history, but the emergence of the Irish Republic is well-trodden ground. In fact this chapter seems to exist only for its conclusion, a musing on the inevitable decline and disintegration of the UK as calls grow for devolution: a worthwhile discussion and an arguable point, but surely not in the same vein as the rest of the book?
This is the only wrinkle in an otherwise well-woken canvas, however, and even someone who's familiar with European history -- as I thought I was -- will find much to learn, and many resonances with contemporary events.
4/5. Finished 01 December 2012.
(Originally published on Goodreads.)