Vanished Countries – Travel Guides to Countries That No Longer Exist


Meets once a week for 8 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-18

If you were to examine an 1816 map of the world, you would discover that half the countries represented there no longer exist. This is a course about those vanished countries. In this class, we won’t follow today’s borders but will take learners on a journey through time and space to lost kingdoms, republics and empires, looking for what unites us rather than what divides us.



“It seems to me that the egotism of a traveller, however incessant—however shameless and obtrusive, must still convey some true ideas of the country through which he has passed. His very selfishness—his habit of referring the whole external world to his own sensations, compels him, as it were, in his writings, to observe the laws of perspective; —he tells you of objects, not as he knows them to be, but as they seemed to him.

The people, and the things that most concern him personally, however mean and insignificant, take large proportions in his picture, because they stand so near to him. He shows you his Dragomen, and the gaunt features of his Arabs—his tent—his kneeling camels—his baggage strewed upon the sand; —but the proper wonders of the land—the cities—the mighty ruins, and monuments of bygone ages he throws back faintly in the distance. It is thus that he felt, and thus, he strives to repeat the scenes of the Elder World.

You may listen to him forever without learning much in the way of Statistics; but, perhaps, if you bear with him long enough, you may find yourself slowly and slightly impressed with the realities of Distant Travel.”
–Alexander Kinglake

Alexander Kinglake traveled to Austria-Hungary during the height of a plague epidemic. In his account, he shares with us the consequences for breaking the laws of the quarantine:

(A lazaretto /ˌlæzəˈrɛtoʊ/ is a quarantine station for maritime travelers.)

The world as we know it today has changed many times throughout history. We may no longer carefully shoot and carelessly bury those who break quarantine laws, but we still find in common the very real fear of epidemics.

This course will dive into all this like a cultural and geographic time machine looking for the things that unite us rather than divide us. Every week, learners will voyage to some of the world’s most wondrous, improbable and – most of all – unexpected of places to discover the legends, and traditions from different areas of former republics, kingdoms, and empires.

This class will be a journey to far-off lands, obscure discoveries, and unimaginable locations of the not-so-distant past. Our travels will be guided by the written accounts of travelers who journeyed to the Republic of Venice, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. It will be a journey to countries that no longer exist.

Take an old map from 100 or 200 years ago and try to point to some of your familiar places. Found yourself in trouble? Maybe they have a new name, or they’re divided by a border that today no longer exists. That’s the evolution of history: the countries we live in succeeded ancestors from the past, the languages we speak have long and intricate roots, and even our identity is a combination of diverse influences.

At a time when the world is experiencing resurgent nationalism, this course shows that throughout history countries change and leave behind composite and stratified cultural legacies. As a result, today we have many things in common, not only with our neighbors but also with people that might live far away but were once connected to us. There are legends, traditions, and dishes that we share from our common past, and that bring us closer rather than farther apart.

Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn history best by doing what professional historians do.

(Read more about our approach to history.)

Our approach to academics helps learners view traditional disciplines in unconventional ways. With immersive classes that cross disciplines, learners stretch themselves both within and beyond conventional academic pathways, while small classes encourage close collaboration between learners and instructors. Today, Polyhistoria is the only comprehensive online learning platform teaching in-depth, cutting-edge social science scholarship to teenagers.

(Read more about our teaching philosophy.)

Learning is not a spectator sport. Interaction and intellectual exchanges involving all students and the instructor enrich learning for all. Studying history involves an accumulation of knowledge about the past. But it also requires that we communicate that knowledge to others. You must be ready to share your views in class. A worthwhile course depends upon active participation by all students in class discussions.

The goal here is to advance an intelligent conversation from which we all learn. The most obvious way to do that is to say smart things and say them clearly. But that is not the only meaningful way to participate. Asking a question, connecting something already on the table to another thing, clarifying something that someone else has said, and offering evidence from the text under discussion are also all valuable. Bonus points are awarded for contributions that draw on what others have said. Other things to keep in mind: aim for clarity, keep in mind the value of an amicable classroom environment, and try not to monopolize the conversation.

1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically and creatively analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.

Crystal Ferreira

Assignments will be posted on the classroom wall each week for students and may include reading, researching, and watching videos. It will also include participation in the threaded discussions on the classroom wall.

1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 0 – 1 hour per week outside of class.

Meets once a week for 8 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-18