The collapse of the Western Roman Empire led to over a thousand years of chaos and re-creation before a new system would evolve to lead Europe back into the realm of organized civilization, and researcher Jack L. Schwartzwald's The Collapse and Recovery of Europe, AD 476–1648 is key to understanding this process and time period.
This volume is a companion to his introductory The Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome: A Brief History, which concluded with the fall of the Roman Empire: familiarity with the prior history is recommended for a smooth continuation of the saga in this title, which details the history of Byzantium (the successor state to the Eastern Roman Empire), the struggles of Western Europe in the absence of Roman rule, and the evolution of the nation-state from the ashes of the old empire.
One might think such coverage would be weighty and limited to graduate-level history students alone, but Schwartzwald has taken care to tailor these events for readers who may not necessarily hold college-level backgrounds in Western European history, and that makes it a recommendation for general history readers, as well.
It's important to note that tone and approach have a lot to do with this access: descriptions are heavily footnoted, but are also packed with lively language.
As Schwartzwald describes events, individuals, and social and political struggles, the result is a captivating survey that draws even general readers into the drama and controversies of the times.
It's no mean feat to produce a read equally accessible by scholars and lay readers; no light accomplishment to heavily footnote a researched piece but keep the language inviting enough to draw in and immerse even readers with little prior familiarity with European history. That Schwartzwald accomplishes all this in a manner designed to successfully satisfy both disparate audiences is testimony to an achievement that offers the rare opportunity to appear in both college-level history collections and general lending libraries alike.
The Collapse and Recovery of Europe, AD 476–1648 may sound like a weighty, imposing read, but its ability to pair facts with descriptions that are involving and engrossing set it apart from many other accounts and make it an outstanding recommendation and accomplishment, indeed.