The best books on the early modern period (1500-1800) 📚

Browse the best books on the early modern period as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492-1763

Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492-1763

By Philip P. Boucher

Why this book?

Boucher contributes to our understanding of two aspects of Caribbean history, the activities of French colonizers and the history of the Carib (or Kalinago) native peoples of the eastern Caribbean. Although Cannibal Encounters addresses imperial policies and warfare (in line with an older scholarship), it also reveals the importance of the indigenous peoples to the early interactions in the Caribbean basin. In particular, the rivalries between the French and the English played out in the context of confrontations, alliances, and betrayals involving the Kalinago.

From the list:

The best books on the early modern global Caribbean

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Book cover of Entrepreneurial Families: Business, Marriage and Life in the Early Nineteenth Century

Entrepreneurial Families: Business, Marriage and Life in the Early Nineteenth Century

By Andrew Popp

Why this book?

While perhaps a little late to be truly classed as ‘early-modern’, Andrew Popp’s Entrepreneurial Families is one of the books that sparked my own interest in a social approach to business history. Revitalising the exploration of the role of families in business after Davidoff and Hall’s seminal 1987 study Family Fortunes, this micro-study primarily employs correspondence as its source. This not only allows Popp to explore the validity of this approach, but it also helps him to realise his aim to ‘re-humanise the economic’. The focus on family makes this work appealing not only to those interested in business…
From the list:

The best books on early-modern business history

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Book cover of The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America

The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America

By Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor

Why this book?

It has been broadly recognised in recent years that the traditional perception of early-modern Atlantic business as a male-dominated space is outmoded and inaccurate. In this superb book, Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor shows that the women who participated in commerce – from all ranks of society – were not exceptions in exclusively male-dominated markets but were ‘quintessential market participants’. Appealing strongly to my own approach to business history, Hartigan-O’Connor marries social and economic history, providing an updated view of who the commercial players were in eighteenth-century America.

From the list:

The best books on early-modern business history

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Book cover of England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620

England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620

By David B. Quinn

Why this book?

This remains so far, the best documented investigation of the earlier contacts between England and the North Atlantic world from the late fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century. Superbly researched and written, it permits to unveil the complexity and the mystery behind the “new world” with which England entered contact. 

From the list:

The best books to understand the Atlantic world in the early-modern period

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Book cover of The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 1500-1800

The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 1500-1800

By Geoffrey Parker

Why this book?

In the year 1500 European civilization was fractured, deficient in natural resources, and unremarkable in its military technology. By 1800 it had gained control over one-third of the globe. How? This seminal work by Geoffrey Parker tackles that question with a sweeping assessment of global developments during the period, revealing the suite of innovations that allowed the West to expand so dramatically. Sparking a debate that continues to this day, it is a must-read on the subject of early modern technology, imperialism, and warfare.

From the list:

The best books on early modern European warfare

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Book cover of Siege Warfare: The Fortress in the Early Modern World 1494-1660

Siege Warfare: The Fortress in the Early Modern World 1494-1660

By Christopher Duffy

Why this book?

Christopher Duffy is a great go-to author for books on early modern warfare, and this is one of his finest—and most important--contributions to the subject. The transformation of the European landscape from a place littered with castles to one dominated by angular, masonry bastions, is an epic all its own, and here it is in all its complex glory. What emerges is a nuanced, nicely illustrated narrative of one of the greatest arms races in military history: increasingly destructive weapons vs. the fortified structures built to thwart them. There is plenty of action in this book, as well, as Duffy…

From the list:

The best books on early modern European warfare

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