What is Byzantium

At the moment there is no authoritative and widely accepted monograph on the entire history of the Byzantine Empire. The classic History of the Byzantine State by George Ostrogorsky (revised English edition Oxford: Blackwell, 1969, but going back to a book originally written in the 1930s) is hopelessly outdated.
There are two quite recent books written by authorities on Byzantium that treat the topic in very different, but compelling ways: Averil Cameron, The Byzantines (Oxford: Wiley, 2007) and Judith Herrin, Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (London: Allan Lane, 2007).
A number of edited volumes, though they may lack the unified focus of a single-authored work, provide a more varied approach to each period and its key questions. The most authoritative collections have been produced by CUP. Chronologically, one should start with the last two volumes of The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 13, The Late Empire, AD 337–425, edited by A. Cameron and P. Garnsey (1998) and Vol. 14, Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, AD 425–600, edited by A. Cameron, B. Ward-Perkins and M. Whitby (2001) and continue with The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500–1492, edited by J. Shepard (2009). Alongside it is very profitable to consult The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vols 1-7, which cover the period from 500–1500 (various editors, published between 1998 and 2005).
Equally important are the volumes of The Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 1, Origins to Constantine, edited by M. M. Mitchell and F. M. Young (2006), Vol. 2, Constantine to c.600, edited by A. Casiday and F. W. Norris (2007), Vol. 3, Early Medieval Christianities, c.600–c.1100, edited by Th. F. X. Noble and J. M. H. Smith (2008) and Vol.5, Eastern Christianity, edited by M. Angold (2006). On matters of the Church the overview provided in Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (New York: Viking, 2010) includes ample discussion of the Byzantine Empire.

¶ To these I would add the three volumes Le monde byzantin published by the Presses Universitaires de France (PUF): I, L’Empire romain d’Orient (330-641), edited by C. Morrisson (Paris: PUF, 2004); II, L’Empire byzantin (641-1204), edited J.-C. Cheynet (Paris: PUF, 2006); III, L’empire grec et ses voisins XIIIe-XVe siècle, edited by A. Laiou and C. Morrisson (Paris: PUF, 2011), but also the 2-volume overview Telemachos C. Lounghis, Επισκόπηση Βυζαντινής Ιστορίας (Athens: Sygchrone Epoche, vol I, 2nd ed. 1998, vol II, 2011) to which my reconstruction of the social history of Empire owes a lot.

The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by A. P. Kazhdan in 3 vols (Oxford: OUP, 1991) is the first place one should look for references to all Byzantine topics. Entries are short and authoritative.
The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies, edited by E. Jeffreys, J.F. Haldon and R. Cormack (Oxford: OUP, 2008) includes short chapters on various important issues for Byzantine studies – some, however, may not be of interest to a general reader.
Two recent collections, A Companion to Byzantium, edited by L. James (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) and The Byzantine World, edited by P. Stephenson (London: Routledge, 2010) are quite eclectic in their choice of topics, but include a number of important contributions and guide readers towards less-trodden paths.
On economic history there is the magisterial The Economic History of Byzantium edited by A. E. Laiou (Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002) in three volumes. It has a more detailed analysis of the overall problems than any other synthesis. For a more brief approach see: Angeliki E. Laiou, and Cecile Morrisson, The Byzantine Economy (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), and also Michael F. Hendy, Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy (Cambridge: CUP, 1985).
Social matters have not yet received the attention they deserve; A social history of Byzantium, edited by J. Haldon (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) is a good place to start. Warfare was obviously a very important aspect of Byzantine history. These two more general works will provide ample information: John F. Haldon, Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 565–1204 (London: Routledge, 1999) and Telemachos C. Lounghis, Byzantium in the Eastern Mediterranean: Safeguarding East Roman Identity, 407–1204 (Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre, 2010).
On Byzantine art see John Lowden, Early Christian and Byzantine Art (London: Phaidon, 1997) ¶ and Robin Cormack, Byzantine Art (Oxford: OYP, 2000) The Glory of Byzantium and Early Christendom (London: Phaidon Press, 2013).
For detailed maps on all periods of Byzantine history, the best work is John F. Haldon, The Palgrave atlas of Byzantine history (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

(pp. 4-7) ¶ My very quick overview of the physical world of the Byzantine Empire is greatly indebted to Johannes Koder, Der Lebensraum der Byzantiner. Historish-geographischer Abriß ihres mittelalterlichen Staates im östlichen Mittelmeerraum (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2nd ed., 2001), a work I have translated into Modern Greek as Το Βυζάντιο ως χώρος (Thessalonica: Banias, 2005); for those with Modern Greek this edition is preferable as it incorporates a number of changes and an up-to-date bibliography.

(pp. 7-8) ¶ On demography, apart from the work by Koder (as above) see my chapter on ‘Population, Demography and Disease,’ in Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (as above) 309-16. On developments in the ethnic make up of the population see Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire, edited by H. Ahrweiler and A. E. Laiou (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

(p. 9) ¶ On the agricultural regime in the Byzantine world see the chapters by Anthony Bryer and Pierre Toubert in the Economic History of Byzantium (as above).

From crisis to Constantine

The study of the period owes a lot to Peter Brown and his groundbreaking book The world of Late Antiquity (London: Thames and Hudson, 1971). More specifically on the era before Constantine see Simon Corcoran, The Empire of the Tetrarchs: Imperial Pronouncements and Government, AD 284–324, (Oxford: OUP, 2000) and From the Tetrarchs to the Theodosians. Later Roman History and Culture, 284-350 CE, edited by S. McGill, et al. (Cambridge: CUP, 2010), which will be relevant for Chapter 1 as well. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, edited by N. Lenski (Cambridge: CUP, 2006) includes a number of chapters dealing with Constantine and his reign, his predecessors and his successors. ¶ In using the latter I have adopted some of the criticisms voiced by Timothy D. Barnes, ‘Constantine after Seventeen Hundred Years: The Cambridge Companion, the York Exhibition and a Recent Biography,’ International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14 (2007) 185-220. The classic work by Alexander Demandt, Die Spätantike. Römische Geschichte von Diocletian bis Justinian. 284 – 565 n. Chr. (Munich: Beck, 2nd ed. 2007) should also be consulted for the entire period it covers.

(pp. 14-19) ¶ The number of scholarly works on Constantine is huge. I will only mention two of the latest here as they discuss and engage with previous literature on the subject: Raymond Van Dam, The Roman Revolution of Constantine (Cambridge:  CUP, 2007); Jonathan Bardill, Constantine, Divine Emperor of the Christian Golden Age (Cambridge and New York:  CUP, 2012). Of the numerous works by Timothy Barnes his latest, Constantine. Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), though contested in parts, produces an assessment of his reign based on decades of research. The study by Garth Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth. The consequences of monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) contextualizes the theological shifts in the period.

(p. 17-19 )¶ On Constantine and Christianity see Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981);  Claudia Rapp, ‘Imperial Ideology in the Making: Eusebius of Caesarea on Constantine as ‘Bishop,’ Journal of Theological Studies 49 (1998) 685-95. Especially on the question of Donatism see  W. H. C. Frend, Donatism: The Donatist Church. A Movement of Protest in Roman North Africa (Oxford: OUP, 1952) as well as the relevant chapters in the Cambridge Companion and the first volume of the Cambridge History of Christianity (as above).