Have you heard of the Quilombo of Palmares? Or the Free State of Bottleneck? How about The Soviet Republic of Soldiers & Fortress-Builders of Naissaar? Me neither. Not until I read this book. It’s a fun and eccentric look at some nation states that no longer exist. Some of them were around for centuries, others for merely weeks.
The countries are divided into themes: Chancers & Crackpots, Mistakes & Micronations, Lies & Lost Kingdoms, Puppets & Political Footballs. There’s a bit of information for each: population estimate, language, currency, cause of death, what country it’s part of today and a ‘what3words’ reference so you can find the exact location online if you wish. Some of the causes of death are rather wacky, such as ‘nobody took it seriously’, ‘telephones’, ‘boredom’ and ‘probably not existing in the first place’. Of course the same patterns are repeated over and over, mainly the ‘posh white guys’ wanting to be kings of tiny pieces of land.
It’s not really an atlas, but there’s a small cartoon-style map for each country. This is one of those ‘irreverent’ history books where nothing is above criticism. Funny, easy to read and packed full of quirky facts, it manages to be entertaining and informative while summarising the problems resulting from colonialism and the abuse of power.
First published in 2020.