Norman Davies

Ivor Norman Richard Davies CMG FBA FRHistS (born 8 June 1939) is a British-Polish historian[1][2] known for his publications on the history of Europe, Poland and the United Kingdom. He has a special interest in Central and Eastern Europe and is UNESCO Professor at the Jagiellonian University, professor emeritus at University College London, a visiting professor at the Collège d'Europe, and an honorary fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was granted Polish citizenship in 2014.

Norman Davies

Ivor Norman Richard Davies

(1939-06-08) 8 June 1939
Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom
ResidenceOxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Kraków, Poland
Alma mater
Scientific career
FieldsEuropean history

Academic career

Davies was born to Richard and Elizabeth Davies in Bolton, Lancashire. He is of Welsh descent. He studied in Grenoble, France, from 1957 to 1958 and then under A. J. P. Taylor at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he earned a BA in history in 1962. He was awarded an MA at the University of Sussex in 1966 and also studied in Perugia, Italy.

Davies intended to study for a PhD in the Soviet Union but was denied an entry visa, so instead he went to Kraków, Poland, to study at the Jagiellonian University and did research on the Polish–Soviet War. As this war was denied in the official communist Polish historiography of that time, he was obliged to change the title of his dissertation to The British Foreign Policy towards Poland, 1919–20. After he obtained his PhD in Kraków in 1968, the English text was published in 1972 under the title White Eagle, Red Star. The Polish–Soviet War 1919–20.

From 1971, Davies taught Polish history at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of University College London, where he was professor from 1985 to 1996, when he retired. He subsequently became Supernumerary Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, from 1997 to 2006. Throughout his career, Davies has lectured in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Poland and in most of the rest of Europe as well.

Stanford University's history department denied Davies a tenured faculty position in 1986 (on an 11 against, 10 for and 1 abstaining, vote).[3] The decision was described as "the closest, most acrimonious tenure decision of recent years".[4] After failing to arrange a formal review hearing of the decision, Davies filed a lawsuit against History Professor Harold Kahn and 29 other Stanford professors. This case was dismissed when Davies was unable to depose Kahn.[4] Davies subsequently sought to obtain $3 million in damages from the university, arguing he had been the victim of discrimination on the grounds of his political views (with the claim being "defamation," "breach of contract" and "tortious interference" with a business). The court ruled that because of California's right of privacy "even if we assume that... a candidate may be denied tenure for improper" [e.g., defamatory] "reasons, we are of the opinion that the right of a faculty member to discuss with his colleagues the candidate's qualifications thoroughly and candidly, in confidence and without fear of compelled disclosure, is of such paramount value that it ought not to be impaired." The court upheld the university's right to decide on faculty appointments on the basis of any criteria.[5][6]

Davies is a visiting professor at the Collège d'Europe.[7]


Davies' first book, White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20 was published in 1972. His 1981 book God's Playground, a comprehensive overview of Polish history, was published officially in Poland only after the fall of communism. In 1984, Davies published Heart of Europe, a briefer history of Poland, in which the chapters are arranged in reverse chronological order.

In the 1990s, Davies published Europe: A History (1996) and The Isles: A History (1999), about Europe and the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, respectively. Each book is a narrative interlarded with numerous sidepanel discussions of microtopics.

In 2000, Davies' Polish publishers Znak published a collection of his essays and articles under the title Smok wawelski nad Tamizą ("The Wawel Dragon on the Thames").

In 2002, at the suggestion of the city's mayor, Bogdan Zdrojewski, Davies and his former research assistant, Roger Moorhouse, co-wrote a history of Wrocław / Breslau, a Silesian city. Titled Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City, the book was published simultaneously in English, Polish and German, and was later translated to Czech, French and Italian.

Davies also writes essays and articles for the mass media. Among others, he has worked for the BBC as well as British and American magazines and newspapers, such as The Times, The New York Review of Books and The Independent. In Poland, his articles appeared in the liberal Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.

Davies' book Rising '44. The Battle for Warsaw describes the Warsaw Uprising. It was followed by Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory (2006). In 2008 Davies participated in the documentary film The Soviet Story.[8]


Historians Lucy Dawidowicz[9] and Abraham Brumberg[10] objected to Davies' historical treatment of the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland. They accused him of minimising historic antisemitism, and of promoting an idea that academic views of the Holocaust in international historiography largely overlook the suffering of non-Jewish Poles.

Davies himself argues that "Holocaust scholars need have no fears that rational comparisons might threaten that uniqueness. Quite the opposite." and that "one needs to re-construct mentally the fuller picture in order to comprehend the true enormity of Poland's wartime cataclysm, and then to say with absolute conviction 'Never Again'."[11][12] Davies' "manner and substance of academic interpretation" of the Holocaust was cited as a factor in a controversy at Stanford University in which Davies was denied a tenured faculty position for "scientific flaws".[5]

Awards and distinctions

Davies holds a number of honorary titles and memberships, including honorary doctorates from the universities of the Jagiellonian University (since 2003), Lublin, Gdańsk and Warsaw (since 2007), memberships in the Polish Academy of Learning (PAU), the Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea,[13] and the International Honorary Council[14] of the European Academy of Diplomacy, and fellowships of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society.[15] Davies received an honorary DLitt degree from his alma mater the University of Sussex.[16]

Davies is also an honorary citizen of Polish cities of Warsaw, Wrocław, Lublin and Kraków.[17]

He is a member of the committee for the Order of the Smile.

Edward Bernard Raczyński, President of the Polish government-in-exile, decorated Davies with the Order of Polonia Restituta. On 22 December 1998 President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski awarded him the Grand Cross (1st class) of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. Finally, on 11 November 2012, Davies was decorated with the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest civilian award.

In 2001, Davies was made a companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George for service to Central European history.[18]

Davies has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the European Association of History Educators—EUROCLIO. In 2008, he was awarded the Order of the Cross of St Mary's Land 3rd Class by the Republic of Estonia.

Davies also received Knight of Freedom Award in 2006 for his promotion of Polish history and the values represented by General Casimir Pulaski.[19][20]

In 2012, he received the Aleksander Gieysztor Prize for his promotion of Polish cultural heritage abroad.[17]

In 2019 he was accepted by Swedish Academy to the list of literature Nobel Prize candidates. The information was announced during author's meeting in Gniezno, Poland.[21]

Personal life

Davies married Maria Korzeniewicz, a Polish scholar born in Dąbrowa Tarnowska. He lives in Oxford and Kraków, and has two sons.[22] His uncle Donny died in the Munich air disaster.[23]


  • 1972: White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish–Soviet War, 1919–20. (2004 edition: ISBN 0-7126-0694-7)
  • 1977: Poland, Past and Present: A Select Bibliography of Works in English. ISBN 0-89250-011-5
  • 1981: God's Playground: A History of Poland. Vol. 1: The Origins to 1795, Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-925339-0 / ISBN 0-19-925340-4
  • 1984: Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-285152-7
    • 2001: Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present. Oxford University Press, USA; New edition ISBN 0-19-280126-0
  • 1991: Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939–46. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-06200-1
  • 1996: Europe: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  • 1997: Auschwitz and the Second World War in Poland: A lecture given at the Representations of Auschwitz international conference at the Jagiellonian University. Universitas. ISBN 83-7052-935-6
  • 1999: Red Winds from the North. Able Publishing. ISBN 0-907616-45-3
  • 1999: The Isles: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513442-7
  • 2002 (with Roger Moorhouse): Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-06243-3
  • 2004: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw. London: Pan Books. ISBN 0-333-90568-7
  • 2006: Europe East and West: A Collection of Essays on European History. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-06924-1
  • 2006: Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory. Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-69285-3
  • 2008: To and From. Modern Poland: A Journey Through Postal History. Rosikon Press. ISBN 978-83-88848-64-3
  • 2011: Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-1-84614-338-0
  • 2015: Trail of Hope: The Anders Army, An Odyssey Across Three Continents. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-47281-603-0
  • 2017: Beneath Another Sky: A Global Journey into History. Allen Lane ISBN 978-1-84614-831-6[24]


  1. "UK historian Norman Davies granted Polish citizenship". Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy.
  2. "We must not forget the real causes of the war". The Independent. 28 August 2009.
  3. Applebaum, Anne (May 1997). "Against the old clichés – Review of Europe: A History by Norman Davies". The New Criterion. New York. Retrieved 2 August 2008.
  4. "Davies case exposes tenure process to public scrutiny"
  5. "State appellate court upholds Stanford in Davies case". Stanford University News Service. Stanford University. 5 September 1991. Retrieved 3 August 2008. Davies's works have been criticized at Stanford and elsewhere, by such experts as Lucy S. Dawidowicz (author of The War Against the Jews: 1933–1945) who said they felt Davies minimized historic anti-Semitism in Poland and tended to blame Polish Jews for their fate in the Holocaust. Davies' supporters contend that Poles suffered as much as Jews did in the war and could have done very little to save any of the 3 million Jews living in Poland at the time of the Nazi invasion in 1939. Davies had sought $3 million in damages from the university for what he called fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract, discrimination and defamation.
  6. "Kahn v. Superior Court (Davies) (1987)". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  7. College of Europe | Collège d'Europe Brochure
  8. "The Soviet Story". Archived from the original on 18 January 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  9. Lucy Dawidowicz, "The Curious Case of Marek Edelman". Observations. Commentary, March 1987, pp. 66–69. See also reply by Norman Davies and others in Letters from Readers, Commentary, August 1987 pp. 2–12.
  10. Abraham Brumberg, "Murder Most Foul", Times Literary Supplement, 2 March 2001. Essay on Neighbors by Jan T. Gross. Tony Judt and Abraham Brumberg. Letters, Times Literary Supplement, London 6 April 2001. See also response by Norman Davies, Letters, Times Literary Supplement, London 13 April 2001.
  11. Norman Davies, "Russia, the missing link in Britain's VE Day mythology", The Times, London, 1 May 2005.
  12. Norman Davies, lecture, University of Cincinnati Department of History and the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, Cincinnati, OH. 26 April 2005.
  13. "Gesamtliste der Mitglieder". European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Salzburg. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. "Fellows of the Royal Historical Society, D – F". Archived from the original (MSWord) on 19 December 2008. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  16. Sussex Lectures 2006: Europe at war, 1939–45: not freedom's victory Archived 7 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. "Poland honours historian Norman Davies". Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy.
  18. United Kingdom 2001 New Year Honours List: "No. 56070". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2000. pp. 3–3.
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. "Kazimierz Pulaski – Polish patriot and United States army officer". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  21. "Norman Davies na liście do Nagrody Nobla".
  22. Davies, Norman, Biography.
  23. "Norman Davies: "Podejrzewaliśmy Niemców"" (in Polish). Wawrzyn Info. 6 February 2015.
  24. "Beneath Another Sky, A Global Journey into History by Norman Davies". Retrieved 27 April 2018.

Further reading

  • Schwarz, Benjamin (December 2002), "God's Playground: A History of Poland", Atlantic Monthly (review): 127.
  • Snowman, Daniel "Norman Davies" pp. 36–38 from History Today, Volume 55, Issue 7, July 2005.
  • Taylor, Gilbert (15 December 1997), "A History of Europe", Booklist: 682.
  • America, 18 December 1982, p. 394.
  • American Historical Review, April 1991, p. 520.
  • American Scholar, Fall, 1997, p. 624.
  • Booklist, 15 September 1996, p. 214; 1 February 2000, p. 1006; 1 May 2004, Jay Freeman, review of Rising '44: The Battle of Warsaw, p. 1538.
  • Commentary, March 1987, p. 66.
  • Current History, November 1984, p. 385.
  • Economist, 6 March 1982, p. 104; 10 February 1990, p. 92; 16 November 1996, p. S3; 4 December 1999, p. 8; 27 April 2002, "What's in a Name: Central European History."
  • History Today, May 1983, p. 54; March 2000, Robert Pearce, "The Isles: A History," p. 55.
  • Kirkus Reviews, 15 March 2004, review of Rising '44, p. 256.
  • Library Journal, 15 March 1997, p. 73; 1 February 2000, p. 100.
  • Nation, 21 November 1987, p. 584.
  • National Review, 5 June 2000, John Derbyshire, "Disunited Kingdom"; 17 May 2004, David Pryce-Jones, "Remember Them," p. 46.
  • New Republic, 15 November 1982, p. 25; 22 September 1997, p. 36.
  • New Statesman, 21 May 1982, p. 21; 31 August 1984, p. 26.
  • New Statesman & Society, 20 December 1996, Norman Davies, "How I Conquered Europe," pp. 36–38; 17 October 1997, David Herman, review of Europe: A History, pp. 30–32; 15 May 1998, Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, "The Hunted, Not the Hunters," p. 35. 15 November 1999, Alistair Moffat, "Jobs and Foxes Will Flee to England," p. 35; 13 December 1999, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "Forging Our History," p. 57.
  • New York Review of Books, 29 September 1983, p. 18; 15 May 1997, p. 30.
  • New York Times Book Review, 5 December 1982, p. 52; 4 March 1984, p. 34; 23 December 1984, p. 5; 22 June 1986, p. 34; 7 December 1986, p. 84; 1 December 1996, p. 15.
  • Observer (London, England), 10 October 1999, Andrew Marr, "A History Lesson for Wee Willie," p. 29.
  • Publishers Weekly, 26 August 1996, p. 83; 24 November 1997, "A History of Europe," p. 64; 24 January 2000, p. 301.
  • Sunday Times (London, England), 17 October 1999, Niall Ferguson, "Breaking up Is Hard to Do if You're British," p. NR4.
  • Times (London, England), 30 October 1999, Richard Morrison, "Britain Dies as Mr. Tough Rewrites the Past," p. 21.
  • Wilson Library Bulletin, October 1986, p. 68.
  • World and I, August 2004, Richard M. Watt, "The Warsaw Insurrection: How Polish Capital Ferociously Resisted World War II Occupiers."*
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