It'll never win gongs for its literary style but A History of Byzantium is the best bread-and-butter textbook for those who want a comprehensive 330-1453 introduction that – unlike J. J. Norwich's brilliant series – isn't plagued by that niggling and perennial doubt: did this really happen?
The Byzantine Achievement
by R. Byron (1929)
Once the facts are in place, readers need bold judgments, sweeping statements and oodles of charm to get a sense of Byzantium's place in history's warp and weft. Byron supplies all these and more in this old-fashioned yet accurate portrayal of this unique civilisation.
The Orthodox Way
by Kallistos Ware (1979)
There's no point in understanding the structures and events of Byzantium if you can't get inside the heads or, more to the point, the hearts of Byzantines. The bishop – sole survivor of the Sherard & Palmer trinity that brought us the Philokalia in English – has done a brilliant job of illuminating the living tree of Orthodoxy; the cause which every good Byzantine saw himself as pursuing.