The following books are works that take a much more narrow path towards collective historical analysis vis-à-vis European studies; however, they can be extrapolated to address political, social, and economic matters during a particular periodization. Students tend to find the following works enjoyable to read. The following works at one point have been a part of my course syllabus. I originally wrote this blog post as a guest author for the Second Baptist School’s AP European history blog by Phil Sinitiere.
1. The Burgermeister’s Daughterby Steve Ozment addresses a scandal of a rebellious teenage girl in 16th century Germany (of the German States). This is a work of both social and intellectual history as Ozment indirectly uses a popular narrative style of writing to address Reformation history.
2. The Cheese and the Wormsby Carlo Ginzburg looks at elite and popular culture from the point of view of Menocchio, a miller who is fairly educated. Menocchio’s trial records illustrate the confusion by those of popular culture who struggled to understand the religious and social questions of the 16th centuries inquisition.
3. The Thirty Years Warby Ronald Asch looks beyond the political game. This particular epoch was transformative in the early process of state building. Asch looks at the significance this conflict had on the feudal regions of Germany and the continual enforcement of the Augsburg Treaty (circa 1555).
4. A Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Hollandby Paul Zumthor is an excellent read; it is true that it reads more like a travel guide than a dense work of historical topicality; it is Zumthor’s use of adjectives that paints a region enriched by trade and advanced by liberal values (constitutionalism). Moreover, Zumthor’s work covers much of the more tested content elements in a fairly entertaining way; it is required reading at Houston Christian High School. I suggest reading it before or after you have read [or watched] The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.
5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and King Leopold’s Ghostby Adam Hochschild address the evils of western modernity and imperialism, which is associated with the Berlin Conference. Both works are classics and highly entertaining. Furthermore, they raise a number of questions about fate and humanity, as well as matters of race and superiority. Conrad’s work is by far the more complex as he injects an emotional element into the structural make up of literary analysis.