I'm pretty ignorant of continental history, but I learned the broad strokes of British history from some decent TV documentaries I watched a few years ago (tag: lazy).
The book sketches the latter half of the Roman Empire until the Renaissance, i.e. ~ 1000 years, in about 400 pages. Hollister breaks the period into early/high/late middle ages, and discusses the events, the way societies were structured, and the important ideas of each era.
There's a long chapter on Rome/Byzantium, and another on Islam, obviously big influences on medieval Europe.
He clearly aimed this book at 1st year history undergrads with short attention spans, the style is very readable, and he keeps things moving with no tangents. Perfect for dumb laymen.
I learned a lot, 2 thumbs up from me, the dumb layman. History buffs can probably skip it.
Next time - Gernet's A History of Chinese Civilization
Anyone recommend a concise history of the Middle East, or is that even possible? How about India?
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