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A Short History of Byzantium

A Short History of Byzantium [Kindle Edition]

John Julius Norwich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

With wit, intelligence and his trademark eye for riveting detail, John Julius Norwich has brought together the most important and fascinating events from his trilogy of the rise and fall of the Byzantine empire.

About the Author

John Julius Norwich was born in 1929. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and, after a spell of National Service in the Navy, at New College, Oxford, where he took a degree in French and Russian. In 1952 he joined the Foreign Service, where he remained for twelve years, serving at the embassies in Belgrade and Beirut. In 1964 he resigned from the service to write. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice and the Byzantine Empire. He has written and presented some thirty historical documentaries on television, and is a regular lecturer on Venice and numerous other subjects.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 13549 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 Oct 1998)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #92,688 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not in-depth, but definitely readable 18 April 2001
By A Customer
Covering a thousand years of history in as many pages is a challenge but this 'Short History...' does a pretty good job of condensing the whole thing into a readable format.
A previous reviewer criticised the author for skimping on detail. But for a reader (like me) who's just interested in getting a flavour of the times, it's perfect. It's rather sensational at points, but more than once I found myself slack-jawed at the goings-on: plots, murders, adultery, intrigue...sometimes it's more like an extended soap opera than a history book.
So it's not for the serious academic then, but as an introduction to the subject it makes for a good read.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
For all students of history, this is a great intro to a period that has been largely ignored in English schools, for hundreds of years.
It does seem a little rushed at times, but this is only to be expected from this edited version, and JJN apologises for this in the preface.
I enjoyed this so much, I am now reading the individual volumes. It's highly entertaining and a real page turner - not something one normally says about a history book.
Quite simply one of the best books I have ever read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Endless List of Emperors... 14 Oct 2007
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"A Short History of Byzantium" is a condensed version of author John Julius Norwich's three volume work. It covers the Byzantine Empire from its founding by Constantine the Great in AD 330 through its final destruction by the Turks in 1453.

I began the book with little knowledge about the Byzantine Empire with which to place what I was reading in context. This may have handicapped me as I proceeded through it. Much of this book consists of a seemingly endless list of Emperors, Empresses and challengers. It contains relatively little about other pieces of the Byzantine puzzle, such as the economy, the arts and other social forces which contributed to the whole picture. I did find interesting the sections dealing with the relationship of Charlemagne to the Empire and the occasional attempts, usually the result of foreign pressure, to heal the breach in Christendom.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with this book. I finished it with little more understanding of Byzantium than I had when I started. It may be the nature of the subject itself, but I feel that I need to look elsewhere for a good initiation into the Byzantine World.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction to a Fascinating Subject 1 May 2002
JJ Norwich manages to condense over 1,000 years of history into a single volume and does it with style. The book is well-written and keeps the reader's interest from beginning to end. For me, this has certainly whetted my appetite for buying and reading the original 3-volume work and also other books on this amazing period in European and Asian history. It is amazing how much of our culture and knowledge is owed to the Byzantines and until you read about them, how little most of us know.
I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who has the slightest interest in understanding more about how religion, ambition, greed, courage, vice, weakness and many other factors intertwined to dictate the course of the Empire and indeed most of Europe and Asia Minor over such a long period of time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Byzantine history 15 April 2009
This was a very exciting, and pacy, introduction to Byzantine history, from its inception in AD330 by Constantine the Great to Constantinople's capture by the Ottomans in 1453. True, this is not scholarship and only skirts over the surface of Byzantium's long and complex history, but I do not see any problem with that. The author states in the introduction that he makes no claim to scholarship.

What Norwich does provide though is an exciting chronological narrative of Byzantium. To fit over one thousand years of history into one relatively small book is an admirable achievement. As already stated, this book should primarily be used as a primer, or introduction, to Byzantine history, before moving on to more scholarly and in-depth studies. Norwich here provides a basic narrative, with little or no analysis. However, this is compensated by the pacy, friendly style of writing, in which the reader is given an endless list of emperors, patriarchs, battles and sieges (especially of Contantinople). Indeed, the overwhelming impression given is one of Byzantium's constant struggle for survival.

Highlights are the glorious reigns of Justinian, Basil II and Heraclius. I would have have liked more analysis of these interesting characters and their reigns, as well as the Iconoclastic Controversy of the eighth century.

All in all recommended as a good introduction to Byzantine studies.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too brief 9 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had toyed with the idea of buying John Julius Norwich's three books on Byzantium and opted for this instead (simply because I figured it would take me too long to read the three books). I therefore really wanted to like this, but I genuinely felt as though so much had been edited out of the original work that it became quite difficult to read. Large chunks of history are whizzed through in a couple of pages and it's quite difficult to come out of it with a good understanding of the events being described.

You can't really blame the author for this. To take three books and condense them into such a short number of pages is an incredibly difficult task. A good effort has been made here - some sections are entirely readable - but overall it just falls a bit short of the mark.

I have read the first of his three books on Byzantium and thoroughly enjoyed it, so my advice would be to just stick with those. This book seems appealing on account of its length, but the merciless editing makes it a bit more of a chore to get through, even if it's a third of the length of his trilogy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a good book
Published 2 months ago by brian rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book. Good price. Good service
Published 2 months ago by hfytnvbu
2.0 out of 5 stars Loved his three volume history, but not this.
I found I couldn't put down Norwich's three volume history of Byzantium: it was the details that made it. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Edward Kenworthy
4.0 out of 5 stars Short History
although three volumes of John Julius Norwich would be an improving read, it is certainly much easier to absorb what he says in one volume. Worth while book.
Published 9 months ago by JdeS
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous narrative history
This is an absolutely marvellous work of narrative history, which I was inspired to read after watching the first episode of Simon Sebag Montefiore's recent TV documentary on the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by John Hopper
4.0 out of 5 stars Good concise political history
This is a condensed edition of the author's three-volume tome on Byzantium (Byzantine Empire). It is a concise and very readable book on the long political history - spanning over... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mhr
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent synopsis of a fascinating historical period
This work summarizes the three more detailed tomes on Byzantium by the same author. It is a new work rather than a collection of passages of the previous (more detailed books). Read more
Published on 3 Jun 2012 by S. Papanastasiou
4.0 out of 5 stars Why they call it it Byzantian.
Fiction cannot come close to mimicing the decedant, violent torrent of Constantines and Zoes and Theophiluses and Irines who murdered and prayed their way down these glittering... Read more
Published on 26 May 2012 by Sefton
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Introduction to Byzantium
Strictly speaking this book probably isn't good history. JJN, where possible in this edited volume, clearly enjoys those extra colourful details and isn't afraid to offer an... Read more
Published on 5 May 2012 by Piers Harper
5.0 out of 5 stars Byzantium the empire that saved Western Culture
I thoroughly enjoyed Norwich's work. I have gone back to reference this book several times in my subsequent reading. Read more
Published on 19 April 2012 by JH
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