While many history books focus on a specific topic, such as the Vietnam War, others cover a far broader range of topics, and there are numerous volumes spanning Europe’s history from prehistory to the present day. These volumes provide useful insights into long-term development while avoiding the frequently nation-centric interpretations of shorter research, despite their lack of detail.
Europe: A History by Norman Davies
This enormous tome, with over a thousand pages, describes Europe’s history from the ice age to the late 1990s in an easy-until-read and thoroughly fascinating manner. A useful reference source is created by a large appendix featuring maps and charts of information. This best-selling book has been chastised for its anti-Polish bias, but this is simply a flaw in the genre.
The Penguin History of Europe by J. M. Roberts
This Penguin history spans from the first peoples in Europe to the late 1990s, and is a shorter alternative to Davies’ work (at half the size but not half the price). A variety of maps and chronologies are judiciously sprinkled throughout the scholarly and balanced text.
The Making of Eastern Europe: From Prehistory to Postcommunism by Longworth
Longworth analyzes the region from prehistory to post-communism, with one focus on explaining the current disputes and complexities in Eastern Europe. This is an excellent example of how a narrow focus may harm actual knowledge. It is unnecessarily sweeping in tone, but highly informative. Note: The revised and updated edition, which includes a new chapter, is the one to go for.
The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst
This expanded version of The Shortest History (which includes the global wars, among other things) is a risk-free investment. It simply takes an afternoon to read the under 200 pages, so it’s not a big deal if you don’t like it. However, if you do, you’ll discover wide topics and an outstanding perspective that can serve as a beginning point or a point of comparison.
Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies
Norman Davies is an expert in the history of Eastern Europe, a fascinating subject that is frequently overlooked in Anglocentric literature. In Vanished Kingdoms, he travels around Europe in search of governments that do not appear on modern maps and are often forgotten in popular culture, such as Burgundy. He’s also an exhilarating company.
A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present by John Merriman
Many European history courses in English-speaking countries cover the period from the Renaissance to the present. It’s long and dense, with a single author who ties everything together better than many multi-author books.
Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present by Brendan Simms
Simms offers a themed look at the same era, only the theme is conquest, domination, struggle, and faction. If you’ve studied the ‘Renaissance to today’ timescale of much modern teaching, perhaps with Merriman’s book on this list, Simms offers a themed look at the same era, only the theme is conquest, domination, struggle, and faction. You don’t have to agree with everything, but there’s a lot to consider, and it’s a good job.
Revolution and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560–1991
A collection of eight essays, each analyzing a separate episode of revolution in Europe, such as the British and French uprisings, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the American Revolution, as an example of events originating from Europe. This book is appropriate for both students and specialists, as it examines ideologies alongside political changes.
Monarchy, Aristocracy and State in Europe 1300–1800 by Hillary Zamora
This book covers not only five hundred years of history, but also a significant subject in the construction of our modern world, focusing primarily on the shifting connections between monarchy, government, and elites in Western and Central Europe.
The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
By starting with these two, I’m cheating a little. But how could I say no? There have always been battles and travels, endless battling, and then the weary travelling that comes after triumph. When it comes to literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey have spawned so many other works, appeared in various forms, and been re-examined (from Virgil to Joyce), that they constitute Europe’s shared foundation.
The Sleepless World by Stefan Zweig
Zweig is our great European worrier. His entire oeuvre may be included on a European reading list, but this piece (published in Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink) appeals to me since it explores the themes of insomnia and anxiousness. Zweig knew that the world was becoming agitated around him, and that this would result in carnage.
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
I can’t talk about Europe without mentioning the Mediterranean, and The Leopard is one of the best novels set in this region. Lampedusa has been unfairly eclipsed in recent years by Visconti’s excellent film; one must read it to immerse oneself in these southern countries, where splendour and sorrow coexist, and to comprehend that our legacy is one of both blood and light.
The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht
It’s worth reading, listening to, or seeing performed: The humorous voice of Brecht and the melody of Kurt Weill remind us that our works must never forget the people. And when I think of The Threepenny Opera, I can’t help but think of Giorgio Strehler’s staging, which I saw in Paris in 1986, when I was 14, and will never forget.
Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire
This text is fantastic. I frequently return to it: it is necessary to read it several times in order to remember what Europe accomplished when it ruled the world. When it came to colonial predation, each country sought to go further and faster than its neighbors. It’s a part of our past. And Césaire reminds us of this in a rage-filled, beautiful, and frantic manner.
The Truce by Primo Levi
If This Is a Man, a somber and clinical depiction of our huge black hole, was an option. The Truce, on the other hand, throws light on a lesser-known and less-discussed aspect of the Holocaust: the return. Levi asks us to visualize Europe a few months after the Allies’ victory: a ruined landscape full with shadows attempting to find their way home.