An engrossing volume on the Italian Renaissance by Pulitzer Prize - winning historian Will Durant
The fifth volume of Durant's acclaimed Story of Civilization,The Renaissance chronicles the history of Italy from1304 to 1576. In this masterful work, listeners will encounter
©2014 Will Durant (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is the fifth book of Durant’s excellent History of Civilization series.
See my review of the first volume for comments on the series as a whole.
This volume does not cover all of, or only, the Renaissance, but instead covers Italy from 1304-1576 AD. Not to worry, Volume VI covers the same period in the rest of Europe. Durant presents an integrated history, which does not focus on dates, but upon the themes of history and the totality of each period including the daily life, the arts, the crafts, the politics and the ideas. This volume covers a few well known artists and popes and other characters of the Italian Renaissance, but also much more. After a brief framing of the period, the history of each major city or region is covered along with the art and artists, politics and leaders, and people and life, then each pope of the period is covered along with the politics and art of their pontificate. Finally the transition between the Renaissance and the reformation is described.
I liked this series quite a bit, and would not recommend skipping this volume. This is not the best of the series, but is interesting never the less. I had read and listened to this volume before, yet I still learned things I had forgotten or did not previously absorb, and more importantly, I enjoyed every minute of the 37 hours.
This installment reflects the usual qualities of this series: Durant's lucid, witty and colorful prose style; his insightful (and sometimes quirky) opinions; his history in the round approach which blends art, religion, politics, literature, etc. to shine light on each other.
The main potential drawback of this volume is that a period intensely visual is being listened to as an audiobook. Even the book had only a small selection of the works discussed displayed in black and white photos of limited resolution. However, this defect is easily remedied nowadays by searching online for the artworks in question.
I would never say that the Durants' work should be the last word on any period. But when I read other more current volumes, it is always with far more understanding because of my exposure to the their Story of Civilization.
I bought this book before my 3rd trip to Italy. I honestly thought I'd only listen to some of it. I listened to the entire 35 hours and learned more than I've learned from any book since college. I listened to many chapters twice so I could retain the information or synthesize what I was learning with what I already knew. The reader is excellent and the writing is thoughtful, analytical but also surprisingly entertaining. Anyone who loves history and wants to get a grand overview of this remarkable time in history should read this book.
I am running out of ways to praise this series of books. I learned a lot from this book as I did with the ones before it.
If you like history, you should at least try this series.
Will Durant, the man who put Simon & Schuster on the map, delivers the most researched account of the Renaissance I've read. He dives into the details of the famous tales of the time with facts and background I've never heard.
The down side was Durant's unobjective treatment of homosexuality that prevailed the 14th and 15th centuries in Italy. He is also the harshest art critic I've ever heard (which was refreshing).
He didn't stumble over himself with fawning praise of the giants like Michelangelo. In fact, the author pointed out imperfections in the "perfect" Pieta and David works.
But, please, did his editors not catch his use of "Michael" and "Angelo" when referring to Michelangelo? The man's name is Michelangelo Buonarroti! Not Michael Angelo. Urgh!!!
Overall a great book!
Rich & full , Durant paints a complete picture of the period.
It is hard to beleive that one could learn enought in a lifetime to fill these volumes.
Spent a lot of time stopping the story and looking up the art that was being described. Someone needs to figure out how to do mixed media for these kinds of books.
A career security manager.
The extent of the renaissance is more on the arts. Although too much story about the arts than evolution, religion continues to fight for supremacy and secularism begins to form with the coming of the reformation. We see a transformation where people become more overtly greedy and lewd.
Compared to the previous volumes, this is not the most interesting history of civilization (although I have yet to finish the collection). The narrator is excellent and knows how to stylized the meaning.
I feel the renaissance was a hope for classics, but failed with selfish and weak leaders. The wise men did not get involved nor were the philosophers. Arts is for the sensations more than intellect.
Listening to Durant is balm to the intellect and soul. I only regret that I can't pause and reread and contemplate some of the more beautiful passages. something about words on paper is just more penetrating for me.
A pleasure to hear Durant's insights expressed. The research, knowledge and depth of understanding is awesome. Narrator does him justice. I can even forgive his insistent mispronunciation of the word schism.
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