With my course on European History just around the corner, I wanted to provide students (and others) with a chance to pick up the best history books that you can use to follow-up on the material independently.
My list of the top ten history books on European history begins with #10, Willis Mason West’s “Early Progress.”
West’s “Modern Progress“, which I’ve recommended before, is perhaps my favorite history book. It does more to render the story of Western civilization accessible than any other work. But “Modern Progress” spends very little time on the early history of Europe; it deals almost exclusively with developments after the Reformation. That’s why I also recommend West’s “Early Progress.”
The main focus of this complementary volume is Ancient history, but a sizeable portion of the book is dedicated to Rome around the time of the Fall of the Western Empire, to the rise of Christendom during the Dark Ages, the establishment of the different feudal monarchies of Europe, and the torturously slow progress of man through the Middle Ages.
The main strength of the book is its flowing narrative and avoidance of minutiae–which it shares with “Modern Progress”–but “Early Progress” has one advantage over its companion volume. Since it doesn’t deal with modern history, its narrative is not as colored by misinterpretations of contemporary topics, which tend to mar the latter part of “Modern Progress.”
For those who are interested in more recommendations, #9 on my list goes out tonight, exclusively in my newsletter. (Sign up here!) #8 will show up here in a little while.