Of the Old North and other Vanished Kingdoms..

I’m currently trawling through Norman Davies’s fabulous new tome – “Vanished Kingdoms” – Five stars in the (London) Telegraph’s review from Ben Wilson:

All the nations that have ever lived have left their footsteps in the sand,” writes Norman Davies. “The traces fade with every tide, the echoes grow faint, the images are fractured, the human material is atomised and recycled. But if we know where to look, there is always a remnant, a remainder, an irreducible residue.” In this brilliant, beautifully written book, Davies recovers those scattered vestiges of dead kingdoms, tracing the skeins that link modern political realities with ancient history. Vanished Kingdoms is a book about memory and loss, a journey down some of the least fashionable byways of European history.


In the chapter on Alt Clud (Strathclyde), Davies takes us to Dumbarton Rock, a volcanic plug that guards the approach to Glasgow from the Firth of Clyde. For centuries, it was the capital of the “Kingdom of the Rock”, a stronghold of the Welsh Britons. Over time, the culture of the Britons was shaped by external forces, from the Romans, Picts, Norse, Normans and Gaelic Scots. Invasions and population movement submerged the Britons, until the kingdom of Strathclyde became part of Scotland.

At 22.17 here’s an interview with Prof. Davies by Vaughan Roderick on Radio Wales. Worth a listen (it’s only 8 minutes)  for the chapter entitled Éire, on a vanishing kingdom – that of the United Kingdom – the next on the list according to Norman.
The Independent Review, by Ian Thomson, is also a delight:

Norman Davies, a distinguished historian of eastern Europe, devotes a fascinating chapter to Estonia in Vanished Kingdoms, his exhaustive account of various “lost” kingdoms, duchies and nation states of Europe from medieval times to the present. Independent Estonia had lasted scarcely two decades from 1918 before it was subsumed into the Soviet empire and effectively disappeared from the map of Europe. Now it is the USSR that has disappeared: Estonia, the “diminutive David”, has stood up to and survived the “super-colossal Goliath”

That’s a couple of vignettes from two reviews – the book encompasses a mass of tales with the typical Davies inserts of poetry, song lyrics, maps and illustrations.
For me I always thought there was a bit of the Old North about William Wallace or “Uilleam Breatnach” (William the Briton) as he was known to his Gaelic speaking colleagues.
….Half way through and looks superb so far.

P.S. Some background from Wiki on our Northern Kingdoms… Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North)