1) A History of France – John Julius Norwich
Grove Atlantic | 2019 | EPUB
John Julius Norwich—called a “true master of narrative history” by Simon Sebag Montefiore—returns with the book he has spent his distinguished career wanting to write, A History of France: a portrait of the past two centuries of the country he loves best.
Beginning with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, this study of French history comprises a cast of legendary characters—Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Joan of Arc and Marie Antionette, to name a few—as Norwich chronicles France’s often violent, always fascinating history. From the French Revolution—after which neither France, nor the world, would be the same again—to the storming of the Bastille, from the Vichy regime and the Resistance to the end of the Second World War, A History of France is packed with heroes and villains, battles and rebellion, stories so enthralling that Norwich declared, “I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed writing a book more.”
With his celebrated stylistic panache and expert command of detail, Norwich writes in an inviting, intimate tone, and with a palpable affection for France. One of our greatest contemporary historians has deftly crafted a comprehensive yet concise portrait of the country’s historical sweep.
2) Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy – John Julius Norwich
Random House | 2011 | EPUB
In a chronicle that captures nearly two thousand years of inspiration and intrigue, John Julius Norwich recounts in riveting detail the histories of the most significant popes and what they meant politically, culturally, and socially to Rome and to the world. Norwich presents such popes as Innocent I, who in the fifth century successfully negotiated with Alaric the Goth, an invader civil authorities could not defeat; Leo I, who two decades later tamed (and perhaps paid off) Attila the Hun; the infamous “pornocracy”—the five libertines who were descendants or lovers of Marozia, debauched daughter of one of Rome’s most powerful families; Pope Paul III, “the greatest pontiff of the sixteenth century,” who reinterpreted the Church’s teaching and discipline; John XXIII, who in five short years starting in 1958 instituted reforms that led to Vatican II; and Benedict XVI, who is coping with today’s global priest sex scandal. Epic and compelling, Absolute Monarchs is an enthralling history from “an enchanting and satisfying raconteur” (The Washington Post).
3) Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History – John Julius Norwich
Random House | 2015 | EPUB
“Sicily,” said Goethe, “is the key to everything.” It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, the stepping-stone between Europe and Africa, the link between the Latin West and the Greek East. Sicily’s strategic location has tempted Roman emperors, French princes, and Spanish kings. The subsequent struggles to conquer and keep it have played crucial roles in the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful dynasties.
Yet Sicily has often been little more than a footnote in books about other empires. John Julius Norwich’s engrossing narrative is the first to knit together all of the colorful strands of Sicilian history into a single comprehensive study. Here is a vivid, erudite, page-turning chronicle of an island and the remarkable kings, queens, and tyrants who fought to rule it. From its beginnings as a Greek city-state to its emergence as a multicultural trading hub during the Crusades, from the rebellion against Italian unification to the rise of the Mafia, the story of Sicily is rich with extraordinary moments and dramatic characters. Writing with his customary deftness and humor, Norwich outlines the surprising influence Sicily has had on world history—the Romans’ fascination with Greek civilization dates back to their sack of Sicily—and tells the story of one of the world’s most kaleidoscopic cultures in a galvanizing, contemporary way.
This volume has been a long time coming—Norwich began to explore Sicily’s colorful history during his first visit to the island in the early 1960s. The dean of popular historians leads his readers through the millennia with the steady narrative hand of a master teacher or the world’s most learned tour guide. Like the island itself, Sicily is a book brimming with bold flavors that begs to be revisited again and again.
4) A Short History of Byzantium – John Julius Norwich
Vintage | 1998 | EPUB
In this magisterial adaptation of his epic three-volume history of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich chronicles the world’s longest-lived Christian empire. Beginning with Constantine the Great, who in a.d. 330 made Christianity the religion of his realm and then transferred its capital to the city that would bear his name, Norwich follows the course of eleven centuries of Byzantine statecraft and warfare, politics and theology, manners and art.
In the pages of A Short History of Byzantium we encounter mystics and philosophers, eunuchs and barbarians, and rulers of fantastic erudition, piety, and degeneracy. We enter the life of an empire that could create some of the world’s most transcendent religious art and then destroy it in the convulsions of fanaticism. Stylishly written and overflowing with drama, pathos, and wit, here is a matchless account of a lost civilization and its magnificent cultural legacy.
5) Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe – John Julius Norwich
Grove Atlantic | 2017 | EPUB
John Julius Norwich―“the very model of a popular historian” (Wall Street Journal)―is acclaimed for his distinctive ability to weave together a fascinating narrative through vivid detail, colorful anecdotes, and captivating characters. Here, he has crafted a bold tapestry of Europe and the Middle East in the early sixteenth century, when four legendary rulers towered over the era.
Francis I of France was the personification of the Renaissance, and a highly influential patron of the arts and education. Henry VIII, who was not expected to inherit the throne but embraced the role with gusto, broke with the Roman Catholic Church and appointed himself head of the Church of England. Charles V was the most powerful industrious man of the time, and was unanimously elected Holy Roman Emperor. Suleiman the Magnificent―who stood apart as a Muslim―brought the Ottoman Empire to its apogee of political, military, and economic power.
Against the vibrant background of the Renaissance, these four men collectively shaped the culture, religion, and politics of their respective domains. With remarkable erudition, John Julius Norwich delves into this entertaining and layered history, indelibly depicting four dynamic characters and how their incredible achievements―and obsessions with one another―changed European history.