Part of the Norton History of Modern Europe series, this is a good introductory history of a fairly turbulent period written in 1970. I’ll note that the series was apparently reorganized later, as there is a 1979 version of the book that runs to 1715 instead of 1689.

The book starts with the end of international conflict, and runs through the internal crises that beset most of Europe in the later sixteenth century. In so doing, it lays some groundwork that would have helped me with parts of Braudel’s Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II. It spends a fair amount of time showing the evolution of political structure, with the rise of absolutism in France, the failure of absolutism in Spain, the rise of constitutional government in England, to the dissolution of central power in much of Central Europe and Russia.

Despite the title, there’s not a lot of warfare here. Everything from the Hugenots to the Glorious Revolution is discussed, and gives a fairly solid understanding of why things happened for such a small volume. There is a good chapter on the limitations of pre-modern production, and how it limited the economy, and the end of the book gives a whirlwind tour of the trends in art and evolution of the sciences.

In all, if this is a period where you don’t have a lot of background knowledge (and it was never a popular period in my classes), this is an excellent and clear place to start.