The World of Late Antiquity
by Peter Brown (1971)
No mini-survey of Byzantine texts would be complete without the book that virtually invented the period of late antiquity in anglophone scholarship. Particularly useful if placed alongside Herrin's Formation of Christendom or Wickham's Inheritance of Rome each gives the wider context of the whole oikoumene rather than just half.
The Byzantine Revival
by Warren Treadgold (1988)
Being a tough nut to crack is only half Byzantium's story. In many ways, the real attraction its its ability not just to keep antiquity on life-support but to pour antiquity's best vintages into new skins. Tracing developments between Leo IV and Theophilos, according to Treadgold the golden age that followed was due to the religious unity restored by Irene, the financial system of Nikephoros I and the military reorganisation of Theophilos
Margins and Metropolis
by Judith Herrin (2013)
The first of Anthony Bryer's doctoral students at Birmingham to go on to make careers in the field, Herrin's place in this list is guaranteed by her masterly outline of Byzantine ideology. Highlighting its idiosyncrasies and volatile dynamics, she smashes lazy, static and monolithic thinking about how the leviathan survived in an understated and elegant manner.
The Byzantine Republic
by Anthony Kaldellis (2015)
A powerful corrective to narratives that rely on dated portrayals of Byzantium as a rigid and static theocracy, Kaldellis argues – con brio – that Byzantium had strong republican and democratic roots. What's more, once the pejoratively "Byzantine" elements have been historiographically purged, a brighter, clearer picture emerges in which "Greeks" (as we anachronistically label them) reappear as Romans – not an odd, hybrid postscript.
The Empire that Would Not Die by John Haldon (2016)
For many, the magic of Byzantium lies in the fact it didn't go down when the sort of punches that typically floored superpowers were thrown. In this volume, Haldon keeps his finger on Byzantium's flickering pulse during its darkest days – when Arabs attacked from the South, Slavs from the West and Bulgars from the North – only for the bicephalous eagle to emerge triumphant.