Native Landsis Norman Davies's account of a global circumnavigation, of the places he visited and the history he found there, from Abu Dhabi to Singapore, the settlement of Tasmania to the short-lived Republic of Texas. As in Vanished Kingdoms, Davies's historical gaze penetrates behind the present to see how things became as they are, and how peoples came to tell themselves the stories which make up their identities. Everywhere, it seems, human beings have been travelling - pushing out others or arriving in terra nullius- since the beginning of recorded time. To whom is a land truly native? As always, Norman Davies has his eye on the historical horizon as well as on what is close at hand, and brilliantly complicates our view of the past.
But that is where the misery begins: the author regularly offers tourist cliché remarks, stories by taxi drivers, reports on dinners with diplomats, etc. From time to time Davies’ story strongly resembles that of an elderly white man who is stranded in an exotic place. And in that regard, especially his closing chapter is a let-down: Davies makes an attempt to more or less exonerate European nations from imperialist crimes by listing all the serious crimes committed throughout history by just about all nations (even starting with the Celts and ancient Greeks). Putting things into perspective is always in order, but this is going too far for me. Of course I do share Davies' view that more attention should be paid to global diversity and to the fundamental contingency in history. And I must concede, this really comes into its own in this book.