I've been reading The Story Of Civilization for some time now. It's pretty good. There are two recurring themes:
1) If you really want to see a piece of exquisite art, then it was blown up in WWII.
2) Sieges are really bad. Even though you probably think they're really bad, they're probably much worse than you think. In various sieges people have eaten dogs, horses, glue, books, the recently dead, and corpses long buried. In other words, don't get into a siege. You'll just end up dead or eating something that you shouldn't be eating.