The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World

I wrote a book!

So…I wrote a thing.

I’ve been beating it to death for some time now, but my book, The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World, finally, officially comes out next Tuesday, July 20th.

It’s my first book, it’s been a long road to get here, and I’m pretty stoked about the whole thing. People I like and respect a great deal have said nice things about it:

So what is The Verge about, and why should you care? Read the first few pages and decide for yourself.

Put simply, The Verge is about a relatively brief but incredibly eventful period in the history of Europe, the decades between 1490 and 1530, and their role in laying the groundwork for Europe’s future role as the home of industrialization and global empires. The roots of those developments, I argue, can be found in the collision of incredibly disruptive processes at the beginning of the 16th century. Voyages of exploration, rising states, banking, gunpowder warfare, the printing press, the Reformation: all of these things tore the continent apart at the seams, while killing and immiserating untold numbers across the globe both then and in the centuries to come.

These things - exploration, states, printing presses, etc. - are usually understood as separate developments. I disagree: Finance linked them all together. All were expensive, capital-intensive processes that scaled exponentially as more money flowed into them, which it did in precisely this period. At the beginning of the 16th century, Europeans figured out that there was money to be made in long-distance sea voyages, financing rising states’ yen for gunpowder warfare, and investing in printing presses. The result was intense disruption in the short term and long-term shifts that eventually, many centuries down the road, led to European global hegemony.

These things can seem like impersonal, abstract processes, things that we discuss in grand terms over the span of decades and centuries. But they were real and tangible, and real people were involved in them, drove them forward, and suffered as a result. To avoid this depersonalization, I’ve told the story of this period through the lives of a series of historical figures. Some of them, like Christopher Columbus, Queen Isabella of Castile, and the banker Jakob Fugger, you might have heard of; others, like the one-armed German mercenary Goetz von Berlichingen, are a bit more obscure, but no less illustrative.

My hope is that I’ve written an entertaining book that nevertheless engages with the latest scholarship on this period while addressing a big, important question about the history of the last half millennium.

The Verge comes out on Tuesday, but you can preorder it now on the platform of your choice. I read the audiobook, which will be available on Audible and everywhere else you get your audiobooks; it was a cool experience, especially because the booth where I did it was exactly where Lil Wayne recorded much of Tha Carter III. If you’ve already preordered the book, thank you for the support!

(Perspectives will return to not-book-related-content shortly.)