History is an amazing thing. It is filled with fascinating civilizations and cultures. Yet, some time periods are more interesting than others.

The inside of the Roman Colosseum, the ruins of a stone stadium.
The Flavian Amphitheater, aka the Colosseum, Rome
Photo from Henry Paul on Unsplash

History is split into many time periods. Every era has interesting stories to tell. However, these stories are not created equal. Some periods are more exciting for me to read about than others.

Classical Antiquity, c. 800 BCE to 476 CE

The Roman Forum, an ancient town square filled with stone buildings.
The Roman Forum
Photo from Anna Church on Unsplash

The Classical Era is the period that set much of the foundations of modernity. It is also more commonly called the Greco-Roman World. I chose to use this term for accuracy to encompass other civilizations.

This is easily my favorite period to study. Roman history, in particular, is a favorite for me. It has everything you could want: monarchs, empires, and civil wars. This history is also the main reason why Rome is the city I most want to travel to in my lifetime.

When it comes to Rome, I also have quite an interest in their relations with their neighbors. The most known of these neighbors leads me to the history of multiple other entities. For instance, I recently read a book called The Enemies of Rome by Stephen Kershaw. This book covers the famous and not so famous of Rome’s rivals throughout its history.

However, despite my love of all things Roman, they are not the only civilization I love from this period. There are other interesting cultures as well. The one that most interests me outside of Rome is Persia. Unfortunately, there are not many cheap, scholarly books on Persia to put on my reading list. As a result, I read less about them and often use the Internet when I do.

High and Late Middle Ages, c. 1000 to 1453

A 19th century painting of the Knights Templar. A knight in the foreground with a banker and a priest in the background.
A 19th century painting of the Knights Templar
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

These are technically two subsections of the larger Middle Ages. That being said, I have more interest in these parts. The High Middle Ages are what most think about when they hear the term “medieval.” The Late Middle Ages were when everything fell apart.

Probably the most important events of the High Middle Ages were the Crusades. These are interesting to read about since it lead to massive social changes. However, how broad these changes were is something historians debate.

Reading about the Crusades goes beyond the historical influence, though. It’s fun to read because so much of it has become myth. Even the name has come to mean that someone is fighting for a cause. I enjoy figuring out what is and isn’t true.

The Late Middle Ages is really a dismantling of the feudal order. I am interested in any system that lasted for a millennium then fell apart. In this case, this period also includes many wars such as the Hundred Years’ War and the final fall of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. This last event, the conquest of Constantinople, I consider the end of the Middle Ages.

Early Modern Era, 1453-1789

A painting of Albrecht von Wallnestein riding through a battlefield of the Thirty Years War, one of the defining time periods of the Early Modern Era.
A 19th century painting of Bohemian general Albrecht von Wallenstein of the Thirty Years’ War.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

We move now into one of the most historically important periods in world history. This period, as the name suggests, set the stage for the modern world. The Early Modern Era is filled with too many major world-changing events to list. It goes from the end of the Middle Ages to the French Revolution.

This period is also what I am currently reading about. I am in the process of reading Peter Wilson’s The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy. The book talks about one of the most important events of this period and is not for the faint of heart. It has roughly 1,000 pages, including sourcing.

The period is also notable for the rise of the Ottoman Empire and its consequences. These include the very discovery of the New World by Europeans. I have not read much about the Ottomans, but it is interesting to me. I have multiple books I’m interested in reading on the subject.

American Civil War, 1845-1865

Painting of the Battle of Chickamauga
Battle of Chickamauga
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Civil War started in 1861, but I started this period in 1845 to include the leadup to the war. I start it here since the annexation of Texas exposed the tensions that lead to the war. The period ends with the war in 1865.

I am a huge fan of military history. The Civil War is filled with battles, strategy, and tactics. As a result, it is quite easy to make a great narrative. It doesn’t hurt that books on the time period are easy to find.

The most important reason that I read about this period, though, is to gain context for current events. The Civil War is a defining event in history. It is generally the cutoff between early and modern American history. If you want to know about American history, start here.

World War II, 1933-1945

The World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., a central fountain surrounded by white pillars.
World War 2 Memorial, Washington D.C.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

This journey through time ends with a period that needs no introduction. World War II has created the modern world as we know it. It also is probably the most written-about war in human history.

This plethora of books is part of what makes this period fun to read. It is possible to learn individual stories in a way that is not possible for any event. This allows readers to get inside the minds of not just the major players but also ordinary people. This makes this war more real than most other events.

World War II is also far more widespread than any other conflict. It was fought on multiple fronts. People mostly think of Europe and the Pacific, but it was also fought in North Africa and Asia. This means that there will always be new stories to tell.

These time periods represent my favorite ones to read. However, this does not mean that it is the only history I enjoy. I love most, if not all, historical periods. The best way to understand the present is by reading the past. The past never truly dies; it is always with us in more ways than one.