The Inheritance of Rome by Chris Wickham

61blm-ko2bzl-_sx325_bo1204203200_There’s sometimes a bit of a paradox as you look closer and closer into an event or period in history.  The end of the Roman empire can a great example of this – classically it was thought that the empire (and indeed civilization) came to a crashing halt under waves of barbarian invasions, but as historians have looked more closely at the years, decades and even centuries after they see all sorts of continuity.  Often the same type of people were running things, often using the same methods.  People living through these world changing events may not have realized they were quite so defining.  Yet living standards did fall, economically things declined, the quality of items found by archaeologists drops.  How do you trace a middle path that can account for both sides of the argument?

For Chris Wickham, you do it very carefully.  In this book Wickham tries to summarize european history between 400 and 1000 A.D. (including the Byzantines and Islam) while constantly stressing that there is no overarching story or end point.  At times this begs the question, why put it all together in one book?  But Wickham does piece together certain themes throughout the book – the influence of Rome on these successor states and how they continued or broke away from the old ways of doing things.

Despite all the ambiguity, Wickham seems authoritative (on Latin Christendom at least).  The range of anecdotes, analysis and information is breathtaking; and where there is nothing to go on, Wickham is explaining that as well.  The painstakingly precise style means that it isn’t always an easy read, but it does feel worthwhile.  It may help that my podcast listening had recently taken me to Patrick Wyman‘s podcasts, and he stresses very similar continuities.

Perversely, the sheer scale and depth of the book actually helps.  A look into the political procedures of one kingdom might be dry and difficult to follow; but repeated over multiple kingdoms, regions and cultures it starts to become understandable.  This comparison seems to justify Wickham’s scope for the book:  Why include Islamic empires?  Why even include outlying regions of Europe like Ireland or Scandinavia?  Because these shine light on the successor kingdoms to Rome that could otherwise be the focus of a more conventional book.

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Patrick Wyman/Fall of Rome bibliography

I do like a good bibliography – I’ve been interested by the books Mike Duncan has been selling as fundraisers – not necessarily to get his copy, but it’s a good prompt for what I might get myself.  I recently finished Patrick Wyman’s podcast Fall of Rome and I’m looking forward to his follow up, Tides of History, that promises to cover a little more on the end of the Roman Empire and a lot more on the formation of the (early) modern world (or Europe at least).  I was therefore interested to see that he has put a biography on his facebook page.  For my own notes as much as anything else, I have copied the post below.

A number of folks have asked me about a bibliography. I’ll continuously update this post as I have time.

General Works – Fall of the Roman Empire:
-Chris Wickham, “Framing the Early Middle Ages”
-Guy Halsall, “Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568”
-A.H.M. Jones, “The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: A Social and Economic Study”
-Michael McCormick, “Origins of the European Economy”
-Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, “The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History”

Late Antiquity and the Fall of the Roman Empire:
Bryan Ward-Perkins, “The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization”
-Peter Brown, “The World of Late Antiquity”
-G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar (eds.), “Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World”
-Guy Halsall, “Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568”
Peter Heather, “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians”
-Megan Hale Williams, “The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship”
-Peter Brown, “The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity”
-Peter Brown, “Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD”
-Thomas Sizgorich, “Violence and Belief in Late Antiquity: Militant Devotion in Christianity and Islam”

The Renaissance:
-Guido Ruggiero, “Renaissance Italy: A Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento”
-Charles G. Nauert, “Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe”
-Brian Jeffrey Maxson, The Humanist World of Renaissance Florence
-Patrick Baker, “Italian Renaissance Humanism in the Mirror”
-Paul D. McLean, “The Art of the Network”
-Richard Goldthwaite, “The Economy of Renaissance Florence”
-Richard Goldthwaite, “Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy, 1300-1600”
-Gary Ianziti, “Writing History in Renaissance Italy”

Justinian, Natural Disasters, and the End of the Roman Empire:
-Kyle Harper, “The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire”
-Lester K. Little, “Plague and the End of Antiquity”
-John Moorhead, “Justinian”
-Peter Sarris, “Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian”
-Michael Maas (ed.), “The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian”
-M. Shane Bjornlie, “Politics and Tradition Between Rome, Ravenna, and Constantinople”
-Torsten Jacobsen, “The Gothic War: Rome’s Final Conflict in the West”

Rise of Capitalism:
-Avner Greif, “Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy”
-Christopher Dyer, “A Country Merchant, 1495-1520: Trading and Farming at the End of the Middle Ages”
-Edwin S. Hunt and James M. Murray, “A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 1200-1550”
-Martha C. Howell, “Commerce Before Capitalism in Europe, 1300-1600”
-Wendy Childs, “Trade and Shipping in the Medieval West”
-David Nicholas, “The Later Medieval City, 1300-1500”
-James M. Murray, “Bruges, Cradle of Capitalism, 1280-1390”
-Robert Duplessis, “Transitions to Capitalism in Early Modern Europe”
-Maarten Prak (ed.), “Early Modern Capitalism: Economic and Social Change in Europe, 1400-1800”
-Richard Lachmann, “Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite Conflict and Economic Transition in Early Modern Europe”
-Reinhold C. Mueller, “The Venetian Money Market: Banks, Panics, and the Public Debt, 1200-1500”

Roman Cities:
-J.W. Hanson, “An Urban Geography of the Roman World BC 100 to AD 300”
-Helen Parkins (ed.), “Roman Urbanism: Beyond the Consumer City”
-Adam Rogers, “Late Roman Towns in Britain: Rethinking Change and Decline”
-Ray Laurence, A.S. Esmonde Cleary, and Gareth Sears, “The City in the Roman West, C.250 BC-c.AD 250”
-J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman City”
-Hendrik W. Dey, “The Afterlife of the Roman City”
-John Rich, “The City in Late Antiquity”
-Michael Kulikowski, “Late Roman Spain and its Cities”
-Claudia Rapp and H.A. Drake (eds.), “The City in the Classical and Post-Classical World”
-Brogiolo, Gauthier, and Christie, “Towns and their Territories Between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages”

Military Revolution:
-Geoffrey Parker, “The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800”
-David Parrott, “The Business of War: Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe”
-FrankTallett, “War and Society in Early Modern Europe, 1495-1715”
-Adrian Bell, Anne Curry, Andy King, and David Simpkin, “The Soldier in Later Medieval England”
-Michael Mallett, “The Italian Wars, 1494-1559”
-Fritz Redlich, “The German Military Enterpriser and His Work Force: A Study in European Social and Economic History”
-’Idan Sharar, “Warriors for a Living: The Experience of the Spanish Infantry in the Italian Wars, 1494-1559”
-Maurizio Arfaioli, “The Black Bands of Giovanni”
-Jan Glete, “War and the State in Early Modern Europe: Spain, the Dutch Republic, and Sweden as Fiscal-Military States”

Eastern Roman Empire in the Fifth Century:
-Michael Maas (ed.), “The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila”
-Fergus Millar, “A Greek Roman Empire: Power and Belief Under Theodosius II, 408-450”
-Anthony Kaldellis, “The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome”
-Gerard Friell and Stephen Williams, “The Rome That Did Not Fall: The Survival of the East in the Fifth Century”
-Christopher Kelly, “Ruling the Later Roman Empire”
-Alan Cameron, “Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius”
-Roald Dijkstra (ed.), “East and West in the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century”

The Rise of the State:
-John Watts, “The Making of Polities: Europe, 1300-1500”
-Joseph Strayer, On the Medieval Origins of Modern States
-Hendrik Spruyt, “The Sovereign State and its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change”
-Thomas Ertman, “Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Early Modern Europe”
-Daniel Nexon, “The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires, and International Change”

I’ve bolded the ones I have actually read, but I do have works by some of the other authors: Christopher Kelly, Anthony Kaldellis, Chris Wickham.

Revolutions Podcast Fundraiser II

Mike Duncan of Revolutions Podcast is doing another fundraiser (possibly more of a downsizing, as he moves house).  As ever, I’m interested in the books he’s selling – largely to add to my own reading list, so I’ve reproduced them below.  Check out his podcasts if somehow you haven’t, and if you are familiar with them, check out the extra episodes and some good t-shirts (I do like his “Livia did it” one).

Philosophy

  • Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant
  • On Revolution – Hannah Arendt
  • The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes
  • Second Treatise of Government – John Locke
  • Essential Rousseau – JJ Rousseau
  • Birth of Tragedy – Nietzsche
  • Beyond Good And Evil – Nietzsche
  • Thus Sprach Zarathustra – Nietzsche
  • Genealogy of Morals – Nietzsche
  • Autobiography – John Stuart Mill
  • On Liberty – John Stuart Mill
  • Utilitarianism – Mill and Bentham
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
  • Political Essays – David Hume
  • Cambridge Companion to David Hume
  • Surveys From Exile – Karl Marx
  • Common Sense and Rights of Man – Thomas Paine
  • Guerrilla Warface – Che Guevara

The English Civil War

  • The Causes of the English Revolution – Lawrence Stone
  • The Causes of the English Civil War – Conrad Russell
  • Britain in Revolution – Austin Woolrych
  • The Crisis of Parliaments – Conrad Russell
  • History of the Great Rebellion – Earl of Clarendon
  • Revolution, Riot and Rebellion – David Underdown
  • The World Turned Upside Down – Christopher Hill
  • The Century of Revolution – Christopher Hill

The American Revolution

  • Rules of Civility – George Washington
  • Washington – Ron Chernow
  • A Defence of the Constitutions – John Adams
  • The Federalist Papers
  • The Americans – Daniel Boorstein
  • American Scripture – Paulin Maier
  • Paul Revere’s Ride – David Hackett Fischer
  • The Birth of the Republic – Edmund Morgan
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution – Bernard Bailyn
  • Radicalism of the American Revolution – Gordon Wood
  • The Unknown American Revolution – Gary Nash
  • Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution – Arthur Schlesinger
  • American Slavery, American Freedom – Edmund Morgan
  • The Glorious Cause – Robert Middlekauff

The French Revolution

  • Massacre at the Champs de Mars – David Andress
  • Talleyrand – Duff Cooper
  • The Longman Companion – Colin Jones
  • The Peasantry in the French Revolution – PM Jones
  • Twelve Who Ruled – RR Palmer
  • The Sans-culottes – Albert Soboul
  • The French Revolution and Human Rights – Lynn Hunt
  • Becoming a Revolutionary – Timothy Tackett
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
  • The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars – TCW Blanning
  • Interpreting the  French Revolution – Francois Furet
  • The Coming of the  French Revolution – Georges Lefebvre
  • The Social Interpretation of the  French Revolution – Alfred Cobban
  • The King’s Trial – David Jordan

The Haitian Revolution

  • Toussaint L’Ouverture – Jean-Bertrand Aristide
  • The Haitian Revolution – David Geggus
  • Slave Revolution in the Caribbean – Laurent Dubois and John Garrigus
  • Haiti – Laurent Dubois
  • Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue – John Garrigus
  • You Are All Free – Jeremy Popkin
  • Confronting Black Jacobins – Gerald Horne
  • The Making of Haiti – Carolyn Fick
  • Facing Racial Revolution – Jeremy Popkin
  • The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon – Philippe Girard
  • A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution – Jeremy Popkin

Spanish-American Independence

  • Bolivar – Marie Arana
  • The Spanish-American Revolutions – John Lynch
  • Francisco de Miranda – Karen Racine
  • For Glory and Bolivar: The Remarkable Life of Manuela Saenz – Pamela Murray
  • Simon Bolivar – John Lynch
  • Writings of Simon Bolivar
  • Bolivar – JL Salcedo-Bastardo
  • The United States and the Independence of Latin America – Arthur Whitaker
  • The General in His Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Jose Antonia Paez – RB Cunninghame Graham

Rome

  • Scipio Aemillianus – AE Astin
  • The Civil War – Caesar

There’s also a baseball section, but I think that’s beyond my interests.

The Dutch Republic by Jonathan Israel

It’s Rise, Greatness and Fall 1477-1806

51jdw9mkxzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_This is a heavy book – over eleven hundred pages, with narrative chapters; chapters on social history, architecture, art and the economy.  It’s not easy reading.  I only picked it up because in 1672 the dutch killed and ate their prime minister, and that seemed like an idea worth exploring.

Seriously, it’s a dry book, detailed enough to get lost in but fast enough to not burst into life at the more colourful events (of which dutch history has many).  Dutch history is the history of a rich and complex society about which most of Britain (including myself) now knows much less than it should.  I’ve previously struggled with Lisa Jardine’s book on the topic.  I thought I would focus on a few things that did come across strongly.

  • Being from Northern Ireland, I’d happily leave William of Orange alone – but he’s actually a fascinating character.  Manipulative, populist and authoritarian.  His rise feels like something from a much later period of history (Napoleon III?).
  • In fact the whole of dutch history feels like something from a much later period – with a necessary focus on party politics, economics and industry.  I’m not sure you can get away with a Great Man approach to history here.
  • Dutch history seems to be a constant series of division and factionalism: north/south, catholic/protestant, rural/urban, coastal/inland, republican/Orangist, the Reformed church vs Arminius, religious tolerance vs repression.
  • There’s an oddly familiar feel to the Dutch Republic.  Liberal, but only in part.  It manages to create and house free-thinkers like Spinoza and Descartes, and then force them out or keep them quiet when they go too far.
  • The strength of the Republic feels constantly precarious, and despite the book being loaded with information it can be difficult to really see how it became and remained so powerful for so long.
  • These ethereal connections that held it together seem to eventually collude in it’s downfall with the decline of the navy as William III let the British Navy take over.

I’m glad I struggled through it, but I’m still looking for a genuinely accessible introduction to the Netherlands.

April in Podcasts: History of England (also John Julius Norwich’s Four Princes)

A long time ago, I posted on David Crowther’s History of England podcast.  Since then Crowther has went from strength to strength, with at least another hundred episodes and two more centuries.  He has also explored ways of expanding the podcast – with a patreon platform and additional members podcasts – though I think he does still record in his shed.  I faded out of listening to it a year ago, as he reached the Tudors (a topic that has never really been close to my heart).

51nb3qals4l-_sx329_bo1204203200_

I’ve picked it up again in the last month or two and actually quite enjoyed the topic.  Although Crowther still loved to quote from the Ladybird Book of kings and queens, Sellar and Yeatman, and Winston Churchill (though the latter mostly just to wheel out an impression), he really seems to have dug into the historiography on the Tudors.  His coverage of Henry VII finds a surprisingly light and positive tone, different to many popular histories, and his coverage of Henry VIII finds him exploring academic opinion over time.  It’s detailed without getting bogged down – very well done.

Tacking a different tack on the subject, I recently re-read John Julius Norwich’s Four Princes.  A quadruple biography of Henry VIII, Charles V, Francis I and Suleiman the Magnificent.  Norwich is as opinionated as ever – writing offhand comments on topics that Crowther agonised over for episodes – but he is still a very entertaining writer.  There may not really be much new material there, even the focus on the relationships between the princes and their effect on foreign policy, but the inclusion of Suleiman is a good touch.  Norwich does show how the Ottomans could drive the politics of Europe that the other three fought to rule, and it feels good to have them in their proper place in a history of Europe.