This is one of the Oxford University Press ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series. Originally published as the text for an illustrated book, it works very well as a primer for anyone who does not know the period or who, like me, is interested in just how an author is going to encompass five hundred years of history in seventy-five pages.
Of course, this is John Blair writing, so it covers the political, social, religious and cultural history with verve. We are given just enough to form a broad picture and teased just enough to want to go and find out more. Yet for all its brevity, it deals with the subject in an intelligent and interesting way. At no point in reading this did I feel I was rushing through too quickly.
There is a useful bibliography that lists books that will start to fill in the gaps (including the main primary sources); a brief chronology that will help you find your way round the book; and a few maps and illustrations (as one would expect of a history book). If this period of history is a blank to you, I can’t think of a better place to start.