The work which established Davies' reputation in the English-speaking world was God's Playground (1981), a comprehensive overview of Polish history. In Poland, the book was published officially only after the fall of communism. 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"). It is not available in English.
In 1984, Davies published Heart of Europe, a briefer history of Poland. Interestingly, 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 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, German and Czech. 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"
Some historians, most vocally Lucy Dawidowicz and Abraham Brumberg, object to Davies' historical treatment of the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland. They accuse him of minimizing historic antisemitism, and of promoting a view that accounts of the Holocaust in international historiography largely overlook the suffering of non-Jewish Poles. Davies’s supporters contend that he gives due attention to the genocide and war crimes perpetrated by both Hitler and Stalin on Polish Jews and non-Jews. 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’." In 1986, Dawidowicz’s criticism of Davies’ historical treatment of the Holocaust was cited as a factor in a controversy at Stanford University in which Davies was denied a tenured faculty position for alleged "scientific flaws". Davies sued the university for breach of contract and defamation of character, but in 1989 the court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in an academic matter.
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) and the Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea, and fellowships of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. Davies received an honorary DLitt degree from his alma mater the University of Sussex. Davies is also an honorary
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