As mentioned in prior posts, I’m in the midst of trying to make sense of the European intellectual history of the late medieval/early modern period. As such, I’m more interested in the texts used in education as well as the various theological and political disputes than in, say, the daily lives of the peasantry. (A good, comprehensive history of such might nonetheless be useful as a reference, especially if and when elites begin to pay attention to the politics of the peasantry; ditto with merchants.)
While I’m willing to read much wider than my mark (cf. Freeman’s book on the transition from the pagan to the Christian era), I do pay particular attention to technological innovations, trade, and the various maneuverings between and among the various monarchs, emperors, cardinals, and popes. I clearly don’t hew to a strictly materialist interpretation of history, but insofar as I believe that ideas are not unmoored from their concrete surroundings, I’m looking at those technologies and techniques which in particular were disruptive of prior ways of being.
That, after all, is what I’m really trying to understand: both the ways of being and their disruptions. Maybe if I can see some of what happened back then, I can see more of what’s happening now.
My reading list:
- A Splendid Exchange, William J. Bernstein
- The Waning of the Renaissance, William Bouwsma
- Handbook of European History, 1400-1600, vol II, Thomas Brady, Heiko Oberman, James Tracy, eds.
- Europe, Norman Davies
- Machiavelli in Hell, Sebastian de Grazia
- The Age of Religious Wars, 1559-1715, Richard Dunn
- Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
- The Science of Liberty, Timothy Ferris
- The Closing of the Western Mind, Charles Freeman
- The Theological Origins of Modernity, Michael Allen Gillespie
- Betraying Spinoza, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
- The Story of Art, EH Gombrich*
- The Forge of Christendom, Tom Holland
- Divided by Faith, Benjamin Kaplan
- God’s Crucible, David Levering Lewis
- The House of Wisdom, Jonathan Lyons
- Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Diarmaid MacCulloch
- A World Lit Only By Fire, William Manchester
- Fire in the City, Lauro Martines
- The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, B Netanyahu
- Sea of Faith, Stephen O’Shea
- The Age of Reform 1250-1550, Steven Ozment
- The Fourth Crusade, Jonathan Phillips
- Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, Uta Ranke-Heinemann
- The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559, Eugene Rice, Jr and Anthony Grafton
- Aristotle’s Children, Richard E. Rubenstein
- Dissent and Order in the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Burton Russell
- A Social History of Truth, Stephen Shapin
- The Scientific Revolution, Stephen Shapin
- Leviathan and the Air-Pump, Stephen Shapin and Simon Schaffer
- A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman*
- The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages, Walter Ullman
- Medieval Technology & Social Change, Lynn White, Jr
- The Mapmakers, John Noble Wilford
*Suggested by others.
I’ve heard that Levering Lewis’s book isn’t very good, and I was unimpressed with the writing style de Grazia deployed in his introduction, but I’ll still read ’em both.
Anyway, these are the books I have; there are a bunch more on my list that, if they make it to the Strand or whatever used bookstores I happen to hit, I’ll add. I know I want MacCulluch’s Reformation, and I’d like good intellectual bios for both Luther and Calvin. Philips’s book, Holy Warriors, has gotten good reviews, but I may wait for the paperback version.
Among the rest: The Inheritance of Rome, Chris Wickam; Making of the Middle Ages, Richard Southern; What is Medieval History, John Arnold; Lineages of European Political Thought, Cary Nederman; The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe, Daniel Nexon; The Last Days of the Renaissance, Theodore Rabb; Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, Merry Wiesner-Hanks; Economic and Social History of Later Medieval Europe 1000-1500; Growth of Medieval Theology, Jaroslav Pelikan; Calvin, Bruce Gordon; Debating Politics and Power in Early Modern Europe, Sharon Jansen.
Finally, I have books on the history of political thought by Sheldon Wolin, Leo Strauss, George Sabine, and Quentin Skinner, as well as the primary texts of the usual suspects. Still, any books which focus specifically on the political thought of the transition period would also be helpful.
Commentary on any of these books as well as any suggestions for further reading are always welcome.
Updated: June 13, 2010