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 No 1 best-seller Europe: a History (1996), Microcosm: Portrait of a European City (with Roger Moorhouse) and Rising '44: the Battle for Warsaw (date). From 1997-2006 he was Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford; he is now Professor at the Jagiellonian University at Cracow, an Honorary Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford and a life member of Clare Hall and Peterhouse, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and lives in Oxford and Cracow.
April 2012 Guest Editor Paul Torday on Vanished Kingdoms... I found this book about states and kingdoms that have had their day in the sun, and then vanished, compelling and very relevant. Norman Davies writes about lost nation states such as Burgundy and Aragon and even the USSR. I was fascinated to read about Alt Clud, the kingdom on the Clyde whose main fortress was on Dumbarton Rock. It was a British kingdom that survived for seven centuries and is now almost quite forgotten except by historians. The United Kingdom is entering its fourth century….will it manage a fifth?
Human history is a tale not just of constant change, but of perpetual restlessness. In Beneath Another Sky the esteemed historian Norman Davies embarks upon a journey round the world to show the layers of experience that underpin our present - and brilliantly complicate our view of the past. 'If you are someone, or know someone, who is romanced by stamps, or maps, or names, or journeys, or plaques, then I recommend this book to you. I loved it. It deserves a shelf of its own' David Aaronovitch, The Times 'Rich, thought-stirring and deeply engaging' John Gray, New Statesman 'Gripping, enthralling, a great read ... a fragrant stew of history, literature and travel spiced with digression, detective work and dabs of humour' Sarah Wheeler, Observer
Rising '44 is a brilliant narrative account of one of the most dramatic episodes in 20th century history, drawing on Davies' unique understanding of the issues and characters involved. In August 1944 Warsaw offered the Wehrmacht the last line of defence against the Red Army's march from Moscow to Berlin. When the Red Army reached the river Vistula, the people of Warsaw believed that liberation had come. The Resistance took to the streets in celebration, but the Soviets remained where they were, allowing the Wehrmacht time to regroup and Hitler to order that the city of Warsaw be razed to the ground. For 63 days the Resistance fought on in the cellars and the sewers. Defenceless citizens were slaughtered in their tens of thousands. One by one the City's monuments were reduced to rubble, watched by Soviet troops on the other bank of the river. The Allies expressed regret but decided that there was nothing to be done, Poland would not be allowed to be governed by Poles. The sacrifice was in vain and the Soviet tanks rolled in to the flattened city. It is a hugely dramatic story, vividly and authoritatively told by one of our greatest historians.
'He writes history like nobody else. He thinks like nobody else ... He sees the world as a whole, with its limitless fund of stories' Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times Where have the people in any particular place actually come from? What are the historical complexities in any particular place? This evocative historical journey around the world shows us. 'Human history is a tale not just of constant change but equally of perpetual locomotion', writes Norman Davies. Throughout the ages, men and women have endlessly sought the greener side of the hill. Their migrations, collisions, conquests and interactions have given rise to the spectacular profusion of cultures, races, languages and polities that now proliferates on every continent. This incessant restlessness inspired Davies's own. After decades of writing about European history, and like Tennyson's ageing Ulysses longing for one last adventure, he embarked upon an extended journey that took him right round the world to a score of hitherto unfamiliar countries. His aims were to test his powers of observation and to revel in the exotic, but equally to encounter history in a new way. Beneath Another Sky is partly a historian's travelogue, partly a highly engaging exploration of events and personalities that have fashioned today's world - and entirely sui generis. Davies's circumnavigation takes him to Baku, the Emirates, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Tasmania, Tahiti, Texas, Madeira and many places in between. At every stop, he not only describes the current scene but also excavates the layers of accumulated experience that underpin the present. He tramps round ancient temples and weird museums, summarises the complexity of Indian castes, Austronesian languages and Pacific explorations, delves into the fate of indigenous peoples and of a missing Malaysian airliner, reflects on cultural conflict in Cornwall, uncovers the Nazi origins of Frankfurt airport and lectures on imperialism in a desert oasis. 'Everything has its history', he writes, 'including the history of finding one's way or of getting lost.' The personality of the author comes across strongly - wry, romantic, occasionally grumpy, but with an endless curiosity and appetite for knowledge. As always, Norman Davies watches the historical horizon as well as what is close at hand, and brilliantly complicates our view of the past.
Following the conquest of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, hundreds of thousands of Polish families were torn from their homes and sent eastwards to the arctic wastes of Siberia. Prisoners of war, refugees, those regarded as 'social criminals' by Stalin's regime, and those rounded up by sheer chance were all sent 'to see the Great White Bear'. However, with Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa just two years later, Russia and the Allied powers found themselves on the same side once more. Turning to those that it had previously deemed 'undesirable', Russia sought to raise a Polish army from the men, women and children that it had imprisoned within its labour camps. In this remarkable work, renowned historian Professor Norman Davies draws from years of meticulous research to recount the compelling story of this unit, the Polish II Corps or 'Anders Army', and their exceptional journey from the Gulag of Siberia through Iran, the Middle East and North Africa to the battlefields of Italy to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Allied forces. Complete with previously unpublished photographs and first-hand accounts from the men and women who lived through it, this is a unique visual and written record of one of the most fascinating episodes of World War II.
Collected here for the first time are some of the numerous essays and lectures by Norman Davies, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Europe, The Isles and Rising '44. Spanning more than fifteen years of his remarkable career, this highly accessible collection addresses many of the issues that continue to dominate the political and cultural climate of Europe today. From the classical origins of the idea of Europe to the division between East and West during the Cold War; from the Jewish and Islamic strands in European history to the expansion of Europe to other continents; from the misunderstood Allied victory in 1945 to Britain's place in Europe; from reflections on the use and abuse of history to personal recollections on learning languages - this companion volume to the bestselling Europe looks at European history from a variety of unusual and entertaining angles in an equally stimulating and accessible way.
From the Ice Age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Davies here tells the entire story of Europe in a single volume. It is the most ambitious history of the continent ever undertaken.
From Norman Davies, the acclaimed author of Europe: A History, comes the magical history of Europe's lost realms, selected as a Book of the Year by the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, Independent, Guardian and Financial Times. 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. What happened to the once-great Mediterranean 'Empire of Aragon'? Where did the half-forgotten kingdoms of Burgundy go? Which current nations will one day become a distant memory too? This original and enthralling book peers through the cracks of history to discover the stories of lost realms across the centuries. 'Dazzling, provocative and brilliant' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, Books of the Year 'A luminous account ... there are few better ways of understanding the multilayered splendours and horrors of Europe's past than through the pages of this wise, humane and unfailingly engaging book' John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph 'Vanished Kingdoms is great history and also great art. It is written with verve, passion and profound empathy' David Marquand, New Statesman, Books of the Year 'A magnificent achievement. Brocaded with scholarship, the book is unlikely ever to be equalled' Ian Thomson, Independent
The conventional narrative of the Second World War is well known: after six years of brutal fighting on land, sea and in the air, the Allied Powers prevailed and the Nazi regime was defeated. But as in so many things, the truth is somewhat different. Bringing a fresh eye to bear on a story we think we know, Norman Davies.Davies forces us to look again at those six years and to discard the usual narrative of Allied good versus Nazi evil, reminding us that the war in Europe was dominated by two evil monsters - Hitler and Stalin - whose fight for supremacy consumed the best people in Germany and in the USSR . The outcome of the war was at best ambiguous, the victory of the West was only partial, its moral reputation severely tarnished and, for the greater part of the continent of Europe, `liberation' was only the beginning of more than fifty years of totalitarian oppression. `Davies writes with real knowledge and passion.' Michael Burleigh, Evening Standard `Punchy and compelling' Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph
Surprisingly little known, the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20 was to change the course of twentieth-century history. In White Eagle, Red Star, Norman Davies gives a full account of the War, with its dramatic climax in August 1920 when the Red Army - sure of victory and pledged to carry the Revolution across Europe to 'water our horses on the Rhine' - was crushed by a devastating Polish attack. Since known as the 'miracle on the Vistula', it remains one of the most decisive battles of the Western world. Drawing on both Polish and Russian sources, Norman Davies illustrates the narrative with documentary material which hitherto has not been readily available and shows how the War was far more an 'episode' in East European affairs, but largely determined the course of European history for the next twenty years or more.
The story of Central Europe is anything but simple. As the region located between East and West, it has always been endowed with a rich variety of migrants, and has repeatedly been the scene of nomadic invasions, mixed settlements and military conquests. In order to present a portrait of Central Europe, Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse have made a case study of one of its most colourful cities, the former German Breslau, which became the Polish Wroclaw after the Second World War. The traditional capital of the province of Silesia rose to prominence a thousand years ago as a trading centre and bishopric in Piast Poland. It became the second city of the kingdom of Bohemia, a major municipality of the Habsburg lands, and then a Residenzstadt of the kingdom of Prussia. The third largest city of nineteenth-century Germany, its population reached one million before the bitter siege by the Soviet Army in 1945 wrought almost total destruction. Since then Wroclaw has risen from the ruins of war and is once again a thriving regional centre. The history of Silesia's main city is more than a fascinating tale in its own right. It embodies all the experiences which have made Central Europe what it is - a rich mixture of nationalities and cultures; the scene of German settlement and of the reflux of the Slavs; a Jewish presence of exceptional distinction; a turbulent succession of imperial rulers; and the shattering exposure to both Nazis and Stalinists. In short, it is a Central European microcosm.
This book is the first to deal with the impact on the Jews of the area of the sovietization of Eastern Poland. Polish resentment at alleged Jewish collaboration with the Soviets between 1939 and 1941 affected the development of Polish-Jewish relations under Nazi rule and in the USSR. The role of these conflicts both in the Anders army and in the Communist-led Kosciuszko division and 1st Polish Army is investigated, as well as the part played by Jews in the communist-dominated regime in Poland after 1944.