Stockholm (Ekonamik) – The summer holiday comes to Sweden in July. The school year ends in the middle of June and most kindergartens close down for the whole of July. Midsummer – the Summer solstice celebration – is generally used as the point after which people are more likely to not answer your email than to respond.
Conscious that many of our local readers will part ways with us for the coming weeks, we wanted to leave you with some reading suggestions for your time at the beach, in the country or in the archipelago. Over the next few weeks, we will provide a range of reading (and listening) suggestions based on our own very idiosyncratic tastes. As you will see, we are nerdy in our own very specific ways.
For suggesting this idea, I’ve earned the privilege to go first and so have the pleasure to delight you with my interest for empires, in general, and the Roman empire in particular.
The list below should provide an interesting range of entry points for people interested in history, statistics, podcasts and science fiction. I’ve linked the titles to their Amazon page or whatever other relevant sources. The list is divided in two parts: First I list some lighter, more relaxed, entertaining and accessible, podcasts and novels. The second part includes heavier, more academic suggestions that delve into the way empires work in more detail:
- “The History of Rome“, by Mike Duncan (Podcast) – Ok so the first entry to this reading list is something you listen to. But, podcasts and audiobooks are the modern version so I’m including this. If you are on the go, this podcast will keep you busy with all of its 179 episodes covering the mythical foundation of Rome by Romulus to the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476. The episodes on the Crisis of the Third Century are possibly the most accessible account of this period I’ve come across.
- “The History of Byzantium“, by Robin Pierson (Podcast) – Because there was still a Roman Empire in the East from 476 CE to 1453 CE.
- “Embers of Empire” series, by Q.V. Hunter (Book) – This is by far the best series of novels about the late Roman Empire that I have found. It’s a very well researched historical spy novel during the time of the Constantinian Dynasty.
- “The Foundation” series, by Isaac Asimov (Book) – In case you are not familiar with it, Asimov is the granddaddy of modern science fiction and space operas. This entry deals with the collapse of a spacefaring empire and attempts to safeguard that civilisation’s knowledge. If you read long enough, you might find your way back to earth.
- “The Collapsing Empire“, by John Scalzi (Book) – A more contemporary novel about collapsing space empires from one of my favourite authors.
- “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History“, by Peter Heather (Book) – In my view this is the best and most updated introduction to the fall of the Roman Empire. Bear in mind it was not a linear process so the book is quite dense in detail. Pay attention to all the usurpers and successive civil wars, the lose “federations” of Barbarians on the borders of the Empire, the coup and purge of 408CE as it leads to the sack of 410CE, the capture of Carthage in 439CE, the sack of Rome in 455CE and failure at Cape Bon in 468CE.
- “The Roman Market Economy“, by Peter Temin (Book) – The Roman empire was fascinatingly segmented
- “Late Roman Warlords“, by Penny MacGeorge (Book) – When the funds dried up and the central authority started to collapse, local leaders attempted to hold things together for as long as possible.
- “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers“, by Paul Kennedy (Book) – A very good description of the cycle of empires illustrated by the history of Europe since the 1500s.
- “Size and Duration of Empires: Systematics of Size“, by Taagepera; “The Life-Spans of Empires” by Arbesman & “On Roman Emperors, their Chinese Counterparts and Statistics of their Reign“, by Khmaladze, Brownrigg and Haywood (Academic Articles) – Some fascinatingly stable statistical facts about empires and emperors.
The list is in no way a complete bibliography, but it should be interesting to you if this sort of topic spikes your interest. I hope you enjoy it!
Have a good holiday!