Mosaic showing St Ambrose

Strongly Recommended Background Reading

This is a list of the ten most useful books for this course which are held in the library. These will provide a broad narrative of period and set particular topics in context. Books marked with an asterisk* have been placed on 24-hour short loan.

  1. Ward-Perkins, Bryan, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (Oxford, 2005). LVS.* A brilliant new critique of the ‘transformation’/‘late-antiquity’ thesis and a great introduction to the course. This book will be discussed in Seminar XI. Paperback available from for less than £7.
  2. Heather, Peter, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History (Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2005). LVS.* A new narrative history of the period which synthesises the findings of much recent work to produce an ‘Anglican’ or ‘middling’ interpretation. This book will be discussed in Seminar XI. Paperback available from for £7.
  3. Brown, Peter R. L., The World of Late Antiquity from Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad (London, 1971). LV.* Important, but needs careful attention. First published in 1971, this brief volume set out a subtly expressed but radical new version of late Roman history. This book will be discussed in Seminar VIII. Paperback available from for £6.
  4. Halsall, Guy, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568, Cambridge Medieval Textbooks (Cambridge, 2007). MBB.* There are two copies on short loan. New, thorough and important. Begins with an extremely useful historiographical survey.
  5. Brown, Peter R. L., The Rise of Western Christendom, Triumph and Diversity, AD 200-1000 (2nd edn, Oxford, 2003). PO.A.* There is a copy of the 2nd edn on short loan. The library also has multiple copies of the first edition on long loan at PO.A. The second edition offers far more than the first. This is a challenging but rewarding book which positions western Europe in the wider context of events throughout ‘Christendom’, and revises many of the ideas first floated in his The World of Late Antiquity (1971), but over a much longer time-span.
  6. Grant, Michael, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A Reappraisal (New York, 1976). LVS.* A thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion of various themes drawn out of Gibbon’s account of the later Roman Empire.
  7. Bowersock, G. W., P. R. L. Brown and O. Grabar (eds), Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World (Cambridge, MA, 1999). LVL.* A kind of encyclopaedia with some very useful essays on topics such as the army and the ethnicity of the barbarians. This book is, however, grounded in the ‘late-antiquity’ thesis of Peter Brown, and needs to be seen as the product of a particular interpretation of the period.
  8. Schiavone, Aldo, The End of the Past: Ancient Rome and the Modern West, trs. Margery J. Schneider, Revealing Antiquity 13 (Cambridge, MA, 2002). LV. 2 copies. Advanced reading.
  9. Noble, Thomas F. X., From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms (London, 2005). A collection of important and instructive articles. MBB.*
  10. Jones, A. H. M., The Decline of the Ancient World (London, 1966). MBB.* A shortened version of Jones’s great work, The Later Roman Empire: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1964). LV.

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