Out on 20 February 2020


Simon Winder

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20 February 2020
576 pages

'He is a master of the art of making history both funny and fun, with never any loss of seriousness. Once again he brings Germany bouncing back to life.' Simon Jenkins, author of A Short History of Europe.

At the heart of western Europe lies a huge swath of land, stretching from the mud and fogs of the North Sea coast, down through countless market towns, ports, fortresses and ancient cathedrals, through a mass of river systems and forests, all the way to the great barrier of the Alps. Divided by their languages, religions and frontiers, everyone living there shares one thing: that they are inhabitants of a lost part of Europe – Lotharingia.

In his highly entertaining new book Simon Winder tells the story of this ghostly but persistent presence. In AD 843, the three surviving grandsons of the great Emperor Charlemagne met at Verdun. After years of bitter squabbles over who would inherit the family land, they finally decided to divide the territory and go their separate ways. In a moment of staggering significance, one grandson inherited what became France, another Germany and the third Lotharingia, the chunk that initially divided the other two chunks: ‘the lands of Lothar’. The dynamic between these three great zones has dictated much of our subsequent fate.

Lotharingia is a history of this in-between land and joins the equally fascinating Germania and Danubia in Simon Winder’s personal exploration of Europe. In this beguiling, hilarious and compelling book we retrace how both from west and from east any number of ambitious characters have tried and failed to grapple with these people. Over many centuries, not only has Lotharingia brought forth many of Europe’s greatest artists, inventors and thinkers, but it has also reduced many a would-be conqueror to helpless tears of rage and frustration.

A master of the art of making history both funny and fun . . . Once again he brings Germany bouncing back to life

Simon Jenkins, author of A Short History of Europe

Weird and wonderful . . . [written by] a compendious mind that darts from the sublime to the ridiculous on every page. No Briton has written better than Winder about Europe. At a time when we might be tempted to turn our backs on our neighbours in exasperation at the hostility that Brexit has provoked on the continent, we could do worse than to read his three volumes to remind ourselves that we, too, are Europeans - not least in our love of horrible history

Daniel Johnson - Sunday Times

Simon Winder is a deft and gentle guide to the Franco-Dutch-German borderlands, which at various times have been the epicentre of major conflicts. There is so much fascinating detail in this book that it is hard to put down . . .

Michael Burleigh, author of The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: A History of Now