The Best History Books of the Year, So Far

As I set off on my summer holiday, thoughts inevitably turn to reading matter.

Though I may take the odd novel, of which Bryan Appleyard’s meditation on fin de siècle Modernism, Bedford Park, is most attractive, I inevitably hit the beach with a bundle of history books. It’s what I do.

Many of the best recent studies have been on the large side – think Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (Allen Lane), David Scott’s Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power (HarperPress) and Michael Burleigh’s Small Wars, Far Away Places: The Genesis of the Modern World (Macmillan) – so a tablet comes in handy.

I’ve loaded mine up with Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy (Weidenfeld and Nicolson) by Ben Wilson, one of our finest, most erudite young historians, who I am sure will be up to the task of charting Britain’s maritime past; Peter Heather’s The Restoration of Rome: Barbarians, Popes and Imperial Pretenders (Macmillan)  – I will be in Italy, after all; and Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople (Norton).  

Oh, and for light relief, PG Wodehouse. How about Piccadilly Jim?