The most recommended European history books

Who picked these books? Meet our 1,343 experts.

1,343 authors created a book list connected to European history, and here are their favorite European history books.
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Book cover of Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life

Marisa Linton Author Of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution

From my list on French Revolutionary terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of eighteenth-century France, above all, the French Revolution. Throughout my career, my primary goal has been to try to reconstruct the experience of revolution in all its dimensions. I have published extensively on subjects relating to the French Revolution, including the French revolutionary terror; the politics of the Jacobins; ideology, emotions, and revolution; revolutionary leaders – including Robespierre and Saint-Just; fear of conspiracy as a driver of actions; the influence of classical antiquity; women participants in the Revolution.

Marisa's book list on French Revolutionary terror

Marisa Linton Why did Marisa love this book?

Maximilien Robespierre will always be associated in people’s minds with ‘the Terror’. In reality, he was not a dictator, but one of a group of committed revolutionaries in the National Convention. Within hours of his execution in July 1794 a myth began to circulate that he had been the sole mastermind behind ‘the Terror’. This myth was a way of exculpating the men who had also backed terror during the crisis of the ‘Year II’. Afterward, it was so much simpler for them to lay all the blame onto Robespierre. McPhee’s profound knowledge of the Revolution enables him to situate Robespierre in his context, showing not just how Robespierre affected the course of the Revolution, but how the Revolution changed Robespierre. This is simply by far the best recent study in English of Robespierre’s life.

By Peter McPhee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Robespierre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate new portrait of one of history's most controversial figures: heroic revolutionary or the first terrorist?

For some historians and biographers, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-94) was a great revolutionary martyr who succeeded in leading the French Republic to safety in the face of overwhelming military odds. For many others, he was the first modern dictator, a fanatic who instigated the murderous Reign of Terror in 1793-94. This masterful biography combines new research into Robespierre's dramatic life with a deep understanding of society and the politics of the French Revolution to arrive at a fresh understanding of the man, his passions,…

Book cover of Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past

L.S. Berthelsen Author Of The Haling and the Scottish Templars

From my list on navigating ancient wisdom traditions and the cosmos.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Templar history enthusiast with a penchant for spiritual surprises hiding in plain sight. I believe words are vessels of spirit and that writing opens a channel of communication for manifesting thoughts into reality. Traveling throughout Europe, Scotland, and England has deepened my confidence that there was so much more to the Middle Ages than crusades and feudalism. The Templars facilitated many societal transformations, including a flowering of mysticism under their guardianship. The mystery is… why have we not connected these dots before? And I suspect there’s much more to discover! My books gather research threads from seemingly isolated historic characters, places, and events into cohesive, inspired, and vibrant stories.

L.S.'s book list on navigating ancient wisdom traditions and the cosmos

L.S. Berthelsen Why did L.S. love this book?

Of all Silva’s books, I am most excited about this one, because of his groundbreaking discoveries. I admire his relentless tenacity for research, while sniffing out enigmatic information. My love of Scottish history often leaves me feeling lost regarding its ancient history. But I also am super careful to take many extrapolations on ancient history with a grain of salt. Silva’s writings are refreshing and his sense of humor is delightful. So, if you want to learn more about your Scottish roots from before Christianity arrived, then take a stroll through ancient circles aligned with the constellation Orion. Home may not be where you think it is!

By Freddy Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Around 6000 BC a revolution took place on Orkney and the Western Isles of Scotland. An outstanding collection of stone circles, standing stones, round towers and passage mounds appeared seemingly out of nowhere. And yet many such monuments were not indigenous to Britain, but to regions of the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean.
Their creators were equally mysterious. Traditions tell of the Papae and Peti, 'strangers from afar' who were physically different, dressed in white tunics and lived aside from the regular population. They were regarded as master astronomers with an uncanny ability to work with enormous stones. But where…

Book cover of Queen Elizabeth in the Garden: A Story of Love, Rivalry, and Spectacular Gardens

Gerit Quealy Author Of Botanical Shakespeare: An Illustrated Compendium of All the Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Trees, Seeds, and Grasses Cited by the World's Greatest Playwright

From my list on Shakespeare's shelf to grow your mind and garden.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had myriad careers in my life but the through-line has always been Shakespeare. I became smitten with the “words, words, words” seeing a production of Twelfth Night in 3rd grade and it’s been a passion ever since. Acting led to being a “Journalist, Editor, Speaker, Spy” but everything I’ve done was to fund my secret joy of being in a dusty old archive, transcribing manuscripts. Even though my first favorite book was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (that was already taken here!), I wasn’t that ‘outdoorsy’, but when the wonderful Japanese artist Sumié Hasegawa showed me her Botanical Shakespeare drawings, I got excited about approaching Shakespeare in a totally new way.

Gerit's book list on Shakespeare's shelf to grow your mind and garden

Gerit Quealy Why did Gerit love this book?

A sizzling tale of competition, grandeur, and royal romance—and it’s true! Shakespeare loved writing about court intrigue and this story of Queen Elizabeth and the courtiers & ministers who created spectacular gardens for her has loads of it. People always focus on what was going on behind palace walls & inside castle corridors, but it turns out the real drama is down in the garden. Imagine gilding rosemary bushes so they glitter in the sun. I certainly think the theatricality of the landscape inspired Shakespeare’s work. In addition to being intricate and fascinating, this book impelled me to further investigate Queen Elizabeth’s effect on the green space of the country and seeding the prospect of garden competition. For me, it uncovered an amazing origin story of green desire and the intricate facets of female leadership.

By Trea Martyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Queen Elizabeth in the Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Taking a fresh and original approach to the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this book tells the incredible story of her great passion for gardens, and how the two most powerful men in England during her reign fought a decade-long duel for their queen's affections by creating lavish gardens for her. It chronicles how, in their quest to woo the queen and outdo each other, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and William Cecil, Baron of Burghley, competed for Elizabeth’s favor by laying out innovative and extravagant pleasure grounds at their palaces for when she came to visit. As…

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…

Book cover of Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Author Of Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism in the Era of the Two World Wars

From my list on German Protestantism in Hitler’s Germany.

Why are we passionate about this?

Kevin P. Spicer is a historian of twentieth-century Germany who investigates the relationship between church and state from 1918-1945. I'm fascinated by the choices of Christian leaders as they negotiated the challenges of living and leading under National Socialism. I seek to understand the connections between Christian antisemitism and National Socialist’s racial-based exclusionary ethnonationalism and antisemitism. Rebecca Carter-Chand is a historian of twentieth-century Germany who focuses on Christianity during the Nazi period. I'm particularly interested in the smaller Christian churches on the margins of the German religious landscape, many of which maintained ties with their co-religionists abroad. I seek to understand how religious communities navigate ethical and practical challenges of political upheaval and fascism.

Kevin's book list on German Protestantism in Hitler’s Germany

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Why did Kevin love this book?

Bergen’s classic study of the German Christian movement explores the origins and influence of this sizable movement within German Protestantism that sought to synthesize Christianity and Nazism. The German Christians’ mission to transform Christianity into a ‘racially pure’ church manifested in practical ways, including denying the Jewishness of Jesus and excluding Christians of Jewish heritage. The book emphasizes the movement’s theological and political foundations, dispelling the myths that the German Christian movement was a purely Nazi creation imposed on the church or that the movement’s adherents were merely opportunistic. A central component of Bergen’s analysis is focused on gender, arguing for the centrality of gendered rhetoric and what would today be recognized as toxic masculinity. The narrative continues into the postwar period, revealing how many German Christians were able to reintegrate into German Protestant life after the war.   

By Doris L. Bergen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twisted Cross as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How did Germany's Christians respond to Nazism? Bergen addresses one important element of this response by focusing on the 600,000 self-described ""German Christians"" who sought to expunge all Jewish elements from the Christian church. In a process that became more daring as Nazi plans for genocide unfolded, this group of Protestant lay people and clergy rejected the Old Testament, ousted people defined as non-Aryans from their congregations, denied the Jewish ancestry of Jesus, and removed Hebrew words like ""Hallelujah"" from hymns. Bergen refutes the notion that the German Christians were a marginal group and demonstrates that members occupied key positions…

Book cover of Primo Levi's Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy

Gemma Liviero Author Of The Road Beyond Ruin

From my list on WW2 occupation, resistance, and the aftermath.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gemma is the bestselling author of historical fiction novels, translated into several languages. Set against the backdrop of war in Europe, her fifth book in this genre will be released later this year. She has combined the war experiences of family members in WWI and WWII, information collected during her research and travels, and her academic studies in writing and history, to create the authentic scenes and characters for her books.

Gemma's book list on WW2 occupation, resistance, and the aftermath

Gemma Liviero Why did Gemma love this book?

The partisan experiences of Primo Levi—chemist, Auschwitz survivor, and writer—are researched and offered in gritty, thorough detail by Luzzatto. Levi, in his writings, alluded to incidents that occurred during his time as a partisan, and Luzzatto delves deeper into the motivations behind these events and the personalities involved. The Resistance in its early days, while being hunted by Nazis and their Italian allies, became a small force of its own making, using collective, military-style decisions and tactics, and meting out its own forms of justice. An important book to gain insight into the complexities of purpose within the Resistance, learn about the crimes and subsequent justice of members of Salò—the puppet government installed in northern Italy—and understand the influences on political alignments and fascism in the period beyond the war.

By Sergio Luzzatto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Primo Levi's Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No other Auschwitz survivor has been as literarily powerful and historically influential as Primo Levi. Yet Levi was not only a victim or a witness. In the fall of 1943, at the very start of the Italian Resistance, he was a fighter, participating in the first attempts to launch guerrilla warfare against occupying Nazi forces. Those three months have been largely overlooked by Levi's biographers; indeed, they went strikingly unmentioned by Levi himself. For the rest of his life he barely acknowledged that autumn in the Alps. But an obscure passage in Levi's The Periodic Table hints that his deportation…

Book cover of The White Mouse: The autobiography of Australia's Wartime Legend

Clare Harvey Author Of The Escape

From my list on WW2 memoirs by brave and remarkable women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m endlessly fascinated by the stories of young women from the WW2 era, who came of age at the moment the world was torn apart. As an author of wartime historical fiction with strong female characters, it’s vital for me to understand the experience of ordinary women who grew up in such extraordinary times, so I’m always on the hunt for real voices from the era. I’d love to think that in similar circumstances I’d face my challenges with the same humour, resourcefulness, bravery, and humanity as my favourite five female memoirists selected for you here.

Clare's book list on WW2 memoirs by brave and remarkable women

Clare Harvey Why did Clare love this book?

Some wartime memoirs are fascinating because they detail the lives of ordinary women in extraordinary times. But Nancy Wake was never ordinary. Brave, beautiful, and bull-headed, this feisty Australian worked undercover for the British Secret Operations Executive (SOE) in occupied France, leading French resistance fighters in sabotage missions against the Nazis. Nicknamed ‘The White Mouse’ by the Gestapo, Nancy was a key player in the Resistance, earning herself a clutch of medals after the war, including France’s Legion d’Honneur. There are plenty of biographies about this remarkable woman, but I recommend this, because it’s in her own words, and to me, that’s what makes it a special read.

By Nancy Wake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The White Mouse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nancy Wake, nicknamed 'the white mouse' for her ability to evade capture, tells her own story. As the Gestapo's most wanted person, and one of the most highly decorated servicewomen of the war, it's a story worth telling.

After living and working in Paris in the 1930's, Nancy married a wealthy Frenchman and settled in Marseilles. Her idyllic new life was ended by World War II and the invasion of France. Her life shattered, Nancy joined the French resistance and, later, began work with an escape-route network for allied soldiers. Eventually Nancy had to escape from France herself to avoid…

Book cover of A Dictionary of English Folklore

Sally Coulthard Author Of A Brief History of the Countryside in 100 Objects

From my list on superstitions, sacrifice, and folk history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having lived in the countryside for more than two decades and fallen for its charms, I find myself fascinated by its heritage. Rural history is often overlooked for the grand stories of royalty, urban life, and warfare. For me, the archaeology and history that speaks of daily life, practical struggles, and the humanity of people–that’s what really switches me on. I constantly yearn to get inside the minds of our ancestors to try and understand how they saw the world. Whether that’s strange superstitions or ingenious inventions, it’s all part of what it means to be human.

Sally's book list on superstitions, sacrifice, and folk history

Sally Coulthard Why did Sally love this book?

For a rational, well-educated woman, I’m also occasionally superstitious. This gripping compilation of folk beliefs and rural ritual–from two stalwarts of folklore academia–is a book I return to again and again.

Almost every aspect of rural life has a superstition attached. From churning butter to childbirth, I pour over these weird and wonderful subjects and am reminded of just how pervasive and persuasive folk beliefs still are.

By Jacqueline Simpson, Steve Roud,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Dictionary of English Folklore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are there any legends about cats? Is Cinderella an English story? What is a Mumming Play? The subject of folklore covers an extremely wide field, with connections to virtually every aspect of life. It ranges from the bizarre to the seemingly mundane. Similarly, folklore is as much a feature of the modern technological age as the ancient world, of every part of the country, both urban and rural, and of every age group and occupation. Containing 1,250 entries, from dragons to Mother Goose, May Day to Michaelmas, this reference work is an absorbing and entertaining guide to English folklore. Aimed…

Book cover of Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton

Tom Kratman Author Of The Romanov Rescue

From my list on history and practice of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by war since I was literally a toddler. True story, I was the only two-and-a-half-year-old in South Boston, Massachusetts with an adult library card. I had to get one, and to get it to prove to the librarian that I could read, in order to check out certain books that I wanted. I only recall one title, The Battle of Midway. Since then, though I’ve done other things like practice law and become a novelist, most of my adult life was still spent as an enlisted man, non-commissioned officer, and company grade and field grade infantry officer in the Army.  

Tom's book list on history and practice of war

Tom Kratman Why did Tom love this book?

Everyone’s surely heard the old saw, “Amateurs study tactics while professionals study logistics.” It’s not exactly true; real professionals study everything, down to and including the plastic arts, because war is the art that subsumes all other arts and sciences. That said, while studying everything, the real professional still gives pride of place to logistics. Van Creveld explains in this brief volume how that has historically worked or failed, and why.

By Martin Van Creveld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Supplying War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did Napoleon succeed in 1805 but fail in 1812? Could the European half of World War II have been ended in 1944? These are only two of the many questions that form the subject-matter of this meticulously researched, lively book. Drawing on a very wide range of sources, van Creveld examines the specifics of war: namely, those formidable problems of movement and supply, transportation and administration, so often mentioned - but rarely explored - by the vast majority of books on military history. In doing so he casts his net far and wide, from Gustavus Adolphus to Rommel, from…

Book cover of Forensic Medicine and Death Investigation in Medieval England

Katherine D. Watson Author Of Medicine and Justice: Medico-Legal Practice in England and Wales, 1700-1914

From my list on the history of forensic medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I work on topics where medicine, crime, and the law intersect, aided by an undergraduate degree in chemistry and stimulated by my fascination with how criminal justice systems work. I have published on the history of poisoning, vitriol attacks, assault, child murder, and the role of scientific expertise in criminal investigations and trials, focusing on Britain since the seventeenth century. I’ve contributed to many TV documentaries over the years, and enjoy the opportunity to explain just why the history of crime is about so much more than individual criminals: it shows us how people in the past lived their lives and helps explain how we got where we are today.  

Katherine's book list on the history of forensic medicine

Katherine D. Watson Why did Katherine love this book?

This book overturns a long-held notion that the English were slow to adopt forensic practices in death investigations, by showing just what medieval people did when a body turned up dead in mysterious circumstances. The records created by coroners’ inquests reveal the rather impressive thoroughness of this key element of late medieval law enforcement, including the regular presence of medical professionals on inquest juries.  

By Sara M. Butler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forensic Medicine and Death Investigation in Medieval England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

England has traditionally been understood as a latecomer to the use of forensic medicine in death investigation, lagging nearly two-hundred years behind other European authorities. Using the coroner's inquest as a lens, this book hopes to offer a fresh perspective on the process of death investigation in medieval England. The central premise of this book is that medical practitioners did participate in death investigation - although not in every inquest, or even most, and not necessarily in those investigations where we today would deem their advice most pertinent. The medieval relationship with death and disease, in particular, shaped coroners' and…

Book cover of The Years

Zeese Papanikolas Author Of An American Cakewalk: Ten Syncopators of the Modern World

From Zeese's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Grew up in Salt Lake City Left Salt Lake City Reader Writer

Zeese's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Zeese Papanikolas Why did Zeese love this book?

The Years is a novel in the form of an autobiography but a novel stripped of the usual cohesion and sense that its protagonist’s life is all moving in a direction that will eventually cohere into some final meaning and that everything in its pages, its various settings, its observations, its smallest details, will all make a single story with its beginning, middle and end.  

But is anyone’s life like that? An epigraph from Ortega Y Gasset gives the clue to how this book unfolds and the atmosphere that moves through it: “All we have is our history, and it does not belong to us.” The narrator, who distances herself from her autobiography by writing about herself in the third person, is born just after World War Two in a provincial town haunted by the war. 

She looks at photographs of herself at various stages of her life, she…

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Years as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Considered by many to be the iconic French memoirist's defining work, The Years is a narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present, cultural habits, language, photos, books, songs, radio, television, advertising and news headlines. Annie Ernaux invents a form that is subjective and impersonal, private and communal, and a new genre - the collective autobiography - in order to capture the passing of time. At the confluence of autofiction and sociology, The Years is 'a Remembrance of Things Past for our age of media domination and consumerism' (New York Times),…