The best books on The Dutch Golden Age, recommended by Maarten Prak

The Netherlands witnessed a flourishing in the late 16th and first half of the 17th century, leading the world in technology, commerce and the arts, particularly painting. Historian Maarten Prak recommends five books to help you understand why the Dutch Golden Age saw the invention of stock exchanges and why it produced Rembrandt, too.

The best books on The Venetian Empire, recommended by Georg Christ

The Venetian Republic was one of the mightiest empires of early modern Europe, with its Terraferma dominions on land and a maritime empire, the Stato da Màr,  that stretched across the Mediterranean. Its unique strength lay in long-distance trade and, as historian Georg Christ explains, in some ways, it resembled a company more than a state. Here, he recommends books to better understand the Venetian empire, what it was and how it grew.

The best books on The Body, recommended by Karen Harvey

We assume that many of our bodily functions—sleeping and smiling, for example—are ‘natural’ and culturally invariant. But their characteristics and expression are heavily influenced by their cultural milieu. Professor Karen Harvey explains how attitudes to the body in the 18th century were radically rethought in the light of changing scientific and cultural views of its nature and function.

The best books on The Renaissance, recommended by Jerry Brotton

A century-and-a-half ago the Swiss art historian, Jacob Burckhardt, popularized the idea of a ‘Renaissance’ in 14th century Italy. For most people, the term still conjures up works of art by the likes of Michelangelo or Leonardo. But there is much, much more to it than that. Professor of Renaissance studies, Jerry Brotton, picks the best books to read for a more complete understanding of the Renaissance.

The Best Thomas Cromwell Books, recommended by Benedict King

The Mirror and the Light—the final instalment of Hilary Mantel’s epic trilogy covering the life of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister and architect of the English Reformation—was published to great acclaim this month. Here, Five Books contributing editor Benedict King chooses five of the best books to help you get to grips with the real Thomas Cromwell and the political and religious environment in which he operated. You can watch Benedict talking about his Thomas Cromwell book choices here.

The best books on The Reformation, recommended by Peter Marshall

On October 31st 1517, Martin Luther, an unknown friar in an obscure town in eastern Germany may or may not have posted a list of complaints to the door of his local church. His actions would lead to what was later called ‘the Reformation’ — a grisly period in European history that nonetheless paved the way for a more tolerant and pluralistic society. Peter Marshall, one of the period’s leading scholars, talks us through the best books on the Reformation.

The best books on The Dutch Masters, recommended by Adam Eaker

The past may be a foreign country, but the world portrayed in the art of the Dutch Masters is not so very far from our own, says Adam Eaker of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. For a society that struggles with materialism and consumption, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from the 17th century Golden Age.

The best books on Jacobitism, recommended by Murray Pittock

The failure of the Stuarts to win back the English or Scottish throne changed the course of history, enabling the buildup of a highly centralized British state and, possibly, America’s war for independence. Murray Pittock chooses the best books on Jacobitism, the 18th century phenomenon that nearly overthrew the British government.

The best books on The French Revolution, recommended by Peregrine Worsthorne

For anybody wanting to go into politics a mastery of the French Revolution is an enormous help and a knowledge of history essential, says Peregrine Worsthorne, the columnist and former editor of Britain’s Sunday Telegraph. He recommends the best books on the French Revolution, both for and against.

The Best History Books of 2018, recommended by Paul Lay

From female spies during the English Civil Wars to the enduring distinctiveness of Iran, there is much left to be understood about history globally. Editor of History Today Paul Lay recommends the best history books that hit the shelves in 2018.