Kearsley, Susanna. The Shadowy Horses.

NY: Bantam, 1997.

I read a great deal, in nearly every genre and flavor of fiction, and I strongly disagree with the elitists who insist that certain entire categories of books simply aren’t worth their time. That’s pure snobbery, and it’s generally based on prejudice, not experience. Because a book is either well-written or it isn’t, and while there are plenty of books that I haven’t bothered to finish, and certain authors whose repeated lame attempts I have learned (usually) to avoid, the occasional losers are spread across the whole of literature. There are almost always books in any niche that are worth your time. And this one, a romance novel with a strong psychic flavor, is one of them.

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Williams, Derek. Romans and Barbarians: Four Views from the Empire’s Edge, 1st Century AD.

NY: St. Martin, 1998.

When I did an undergraduate history degree many years ago, I found myself concentrating on “early medieval,” which is the period during which the hegemony of Rome was being replaced by the more dynamic Germanic culture that eventually supplanted it — and which adopted many of its underlying assumptions.

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Published in: on 23 February 2015 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Burke, John. Roman England.

London: Artus Books, 1983.

There are two kinds of pictorial, coffee-table-type history books: Those for which the pictures are the main reason for picking up the book at all, and those for which the illustrations are, um, only illustrative.

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Published in: on 21 March 2014 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bagnall, Nigel. The Punic Wars, 264-146 BC.

(Essential Histories series) London: Osprey Publishing, 2002.

The century of wars between Rome (then in its “adolescent” phase) and the great Phoenician mercantile empire based at Carthage is not a major area of study among today’s history students, but as an undergrad Classical History major (an academic strategic error I later corrected), I spent an entire semester sorting out what all happened, and why, and what the immediate and long-term results were. I sure wish I’d had this book.

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Bowman, Alan K. Life and Letters on the Roman Frontier: Vindolanda and Its People.

NY: Routledge, 1998 (London: British Museum Press, 1994).

When Rome reached a certain point in its conquest of Britain — around the end of the governorship of Agricola in AD 85 — a policy decision was reached that the Picts in the far north of the island (against whom Agricola had led several expeditions without much effect) simply weren’t worth the trouble. Eventually, the result was Hadrian’s Wall, begun about AD 122, but before the construction of that permanent boundary, the Roman army established a string of forts of assorted sizes somewhat farther south and stretching across Britain from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.

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Merrifield, Ralph. London: City of the Romans.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

This magisterial volume is an outgrowth of the change in the state of archaeology in postwar Britain, and especially in London. In the 1950s, a great many opportunities unfortunately were missed during the clearing and rebuilding of the devastation left in the city by the Blitz, to poke about and discover what could be found from earlier centuries — but people understandably had other things on their minds.

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Bell, Walter George. Unknown London.

London: John Lane, 1919.

__________. More About Unknown London. London: John Lane, 1921.

I admit to a weakness for books of history with “unknown” in the title. And I always enjoy collections of then-present-day observations written in the semi-distant past. Well, 1919 doesn’t really seem that ancient to me — but it’s ninety years ago now, nearly a century, so I suppose that says something about me. The Great War had just ended and Bell the antiquarian was continuing his lifelong habit of poking about in the city of his birth, climbing down ladders into medieval basements, opening cupboards in ancient churches, and discovering things of which, he laments, the people about him walking to work are completely oblivious.

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Published in: on 3 April 2012 at 5:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Green, Peter. Classical Bearings: Interpreting Ancient History and Culture.

NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989.

Green, now well into his eighties, has been a noted classicist nearly all his life, having been educated in the old classics tradition at Charterhouse and then taking a Double First at Trinity, Cambridge, followed by a professorial career in universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Published in: on 30 March 2012 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thomas, Chris (ed). London’s Archaeological Secrets: A World City Revealed.

New Haven: Yales University Press, 2003.

I’ve always been interested in London’s deep history — all those two thousand years of layers — and in searching for a good, recently published survey, I had high hopes for this oversized volume from the Museum of London’s Archaeology Service.

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Published in: on 13 January 2012 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wells, Peter S. Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered.

NY: Norton, 2008.

Anyone who studies Classical history has to have read Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — but you should also recognize that modern views of that vanished world have changed considerably since Gibbon’s day, more than two hundred years ago.

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