At its height, Renaissance Florence was a center of enormous wealth, power, and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family's huge influence on the political, economic, and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence's slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line.
©1974 Christopher Hibbert (P)2016 Tantor
"A superb introduction to the history and arts created by one man's greed." (Books for Breakfast)
I was interested in learning more about the Medicis so this seemed to be a good choice. It would no doubt have been better as an actual book but as an audio book, the endless list of people involved in every part of the book made it difficult to follow the "plot" - to get the bigger picture of the history. It just seemed like an encyclopedic listing of all the family members and their neighbors. I did make it about 90% of the way through but ultimately couldn't finish it. All that said, I did get a general sense of the history of the family. I probably wouldn't buy another book from this author though. Michael Page's narration was fine - seemed like authentic Italian pronunciation of the many, many names and titles.
It was boring.
No problems with the narrator.
Frustration and disappointment
The best authors make history come alive, and this book did NOT do such a thing. The story was a depressingly dry litany of names and places, with no elaboration of otherwise exciting events. I was told this was a good history of Florence, but if I wanted an unimaginative year-by-year account of the Medici years, I could have bought a text book. I expected Hibbert to make this interesting, and he did not. Indicative of such unimaginative history was his brief description of two separate coup attempts against the Medici, events that were fraught with emotion and danger, but which Hibbert relates with no more captivating prose than he uses to describe every day events. This was the first book I disliked enough to return.
Hibbert's history maintains a weak and modestly approving story through Lorenzo the Magnificent. After that, the story disappears among names, tangents and snide comments. Listening becomes extremely difficult in the latter half of the book. Hibbert's descriptions are simply cruel, and the cruelty is compounded by Page's haughty tone. Why, for instance, does Hibbert focus so many lines on on the smell and pain of Pope Leo X's anal fistula? Pope Leo certainly made errors, but Hibbert's credibility founders when he mocks Leo's illness.
I'll try to return the book for a credit.
I would not recommend the entire book or narration. Copy or borrow the early chapters through Cosimo.
Very, very irritating. He accentuates Hibbert's disdain and haughty phrasing.
Anything can get turned into a movie. Would it be good? Probably not.
I listened without knowing that the book was written over 40 years ago, and I could not tell - a good history book is a good history book, no matter when it was written. In lesser books, you may detect a period perspective (positive or negative innuendoes toward each issue), but I did not detect any period perspectives here.
The book trailed-off in interest near the end, and I realized that it was no fault of the author - it was the nature of the family itself as the later generations lost interest and finally died out (it was a good run - around 200 years of being significant).
What was really fascinating was how, even back in the 1300's, people thought - the focus of human endeavor was largely no different than today (accumulating material things, trying to impress one another), and the social institutions (for example banking) were quite developed, which made me wonder how far back in history they really went. I was also struck by the general maturity (though misguided and misplaced, lacking any truly enlightened overall life-guiding philosophy, which, in all fairness, still does not exist) of the people covered, I was thinking, "This is a world of adults" (contrasting that with today's youth-centric environment, at least from America's marketing and entertainment), so it was refreshing in that respect.
I had heard of the family name many times in my travels through history, so I finally 'dug-in' and read some hard, specific history, which is always a daunting task, but usually rewarding, and this book was both. Good that it was audio, so I could multitask. The very least of the things I learned was how to properly pronounce their name - ME-di-chi (short e),rather than going by its misdirecting English appearance, Me-DEE-CEE. Aren't I sophisticated now.
Centuries of Medici Family history and events are researched and explained in a thorough and meaningful manner. Personalities and relationships are presented with adequate detail and incorporated into the fabric of historical context.
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