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City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire [Hardcover]

Roger Crowley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Aug 2011

A magisterial work of gripping history, City of Fortune tells the story of the Venetian ascent from lagoon dwellers to the greatest power in the Mediterranean - an epic five hundred year voyage that encompassed crusade and trade, plague, sea battles and colonial adventure.

In Venice, the path to empire unfolded in a series of extraordinary contests - the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, the fight to the finish with Genoa and a desperate defence against the Turks. Under the lion banner of St Mark, she created an empire of ports and naval bases which funnelled the goods of the world through its wharfs. In the process the city became the richest place on earth - a brilliant mosaic fashioned from what it bought, traded, borrowed and stole.

Based on first hand accounts of trade and warfare, seafaring and piracy and the places where Venetians sailed and died, City of Fortune is narrative history at its finest. Beginning on Ascension Day in the year 1000 and ending with an explosion off the coast of Greece - and the calamitous news that the Portuguese had pioneered a sea route to India - it will fascinate anyone who loves Venice and the Mediterranean world.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First Edition edition (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571245943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571245949
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roger Crowley read English at Cambridge before going to live in Istanbul. His particular interests are the Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman empires, seafaring, and eyewitness history. He is the author of three books on the empires of the Mediterranean and its surroundings: Constantinople: the last great siege(2005), Empires of the Sea (2008) and City of Fortune: How Venice won and lost a naval empire(2011). His website address is www.rogercrowley.co.uk, where he blogs about history.

Product Description

Review

'Hugely readable, well-written and informative ... Crowley is excellent.' --Stella Tillyard, Daily Telegraph

'Roger Crowley makes a trustworthy and wonderfully eloquent guide ... Crowley is such a natural narrative historian, with such an eye for colourful but telling details and such a knack for dramatic character sketches, that he remains a constant joy to read.' --Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

'... the rise and fall of Venice's empire is an irresistible story and Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler. For centuries, he notes, the republic's sailors returned home with ''gold, spices, plague and grief''; and in this compelling book, like a scrupulous Venetian merchant, he weighs out full measures of each.' --Michael Prodger, Financial Times

'Roger Crowley makes a trustworthy and wonderfully eloquent guide ... Crowley is such a natural narrative historian, with such an eye for colourful but telling details and such a knack for dramatic character sketches, that he remains a constant joy to read.' --Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

'... the rise and fall of Venice's empire is an irresistible story and Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler. For centuries, he notes, the republic's sailors returned home with ''gold, spices, plague and grief''; and in this compelling book, like a scrupulous Venetian merchant, he weighs out full measures of each.' --Michael Prodger, Financial Times

Book Description

From the prize-winning author of Empires of the Sea comes an epic work of narrative maritime history.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History at its best 27 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am in awe of Mr Crowley. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed his first 2 books Constantinople 1453 and Empire of the sea.,I did not expect a third masterpiece in a row. Well, Venice, city of fortune ranks among the best history books I have ever read.
I have spent the best part of my last 20 summers touring around the Venetian lagoon;I never looked properly !I have learnt more from reading this wonderful book at home than from my unfortunately misguided visits.
The history of the rise anf fall of Venice as a great maritime power is an absolutely terrific story.The 4th crusade and the sacking of Constantinople, the response to the rebellion in Crete, the savage war against their bitter rivals from genoa,etc show the writer's prodigious ability to develop unforgettable,emotionally textured characters and stories.
And when you think that early on'' the city's prosperity rested on nothing tangible-no land holdings,no natural resources,no agricultural production or large population.There was literally no solid ground underfoot.''
Next time, Mr Crowley could end up writing about the most uninteresting topic, but I will be the first one to rush and buy it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hatrick of quality 30 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read Roger Crowley's two previous books on Constantinople and Empires of the Sea I was delighted to find that City of Fortune has maintained the excellent quality of his writing. Well researched, light enough for a holiday read and top quality maps to help the geographically puzzled to follow the rise and fall of Venice.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While there is no doubt that Crowley is a very good writer and that this book is well written and interesting, this is not a history of Venice. It is more a history of 200 years of Venetian naval warfare between 1300 and 1500. A lot of details about sea battles, a lot of details about the tactical disposition of armies and navies. So, great if you are interested in military history. Not so good if you want an idea of how the Venetian state was organised, day to day life, details on the economy and politics. Even Venice's expansion in Italy is ignored. And if you want to know anything about how the Venetian republic came into existence or indeed what happened after 1500, you need to get a different book.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
2011 is the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy; the secessionist Northern League instead claims it will be Italy's last celebration, as by 2061 their federal state, Padania, will finally have become a reality. Coincidentally, following on to his earlier studies on seafaring empires, Roger Crowley has published City of Fortune, on the Republic of Venice or the Serenissima Empire, waved by the red and yellow standard with the lion of St Mark's, a great past power which the separatists noisily announce fully as part their own history for the new state's future.

Crowley takes us on an enchanting historical journey from the decline of Byzantine Empire, to its substitution by Venice, concentrating exclusively on the political-economic history and staying clear of the traditional touristy histories of fine arts and buildings represented by RuskinThe Stones of Venice (1851-53). He treated in depth the capture of Constantinople in June 1204 by Doge Enrico Dandolo, during the Fourth Crusade, depicted four centuries later in Tintoretto's large canvass in the Doge's Palace; the consolidation of its outposts down the Adriatic and the Mediterranean as far as the Black Sea; the galley battles - the Battle of Chioggia in 1379-80 - fought against its principal commercial rival, Genoa, under the banner of St George (Britain's own St George!), a red cross on a white background, until the appearance of its real eastern enemy raised its head at the end of the Fourteenth century.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pettirosso 7 Sep 2011
Format:Hardcover
This is the first Roger Crowley book that I have read. I bought the book because I am an unashamed Venetophile. The book is absolutely brilliant - as readable and well written as it is meticulously researched. A 'must' for every lover of Venice and its history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on Venice 25 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a magnificent way to put Venice's extraordinary history in perspective, to understand its role in the development of commerce and the reasons of its conflict with Genoa! This is written brilliantly, and the book reads like a John Grisham novel. A fundamental book for anyone planning a visit to Venice. Roger Crowley brings to life the various protagonists and most of all Enrico Dandolo!
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read 24 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
i chose this rating because i learned a lot about venice that i didnt know before and i must visit again
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Roger Crowley clearly loves his subject and writes passionately about both the sea battles and the politics that made Venice what it is today. I came to this book with a similar enthusiasm for the city, the difference being that mine was based on ignorance and a few tourist visits while Mr Crowley knows his subject and loves the city warts and all.

As the story unfurled I found it far harder to forgive the city its mostly parasitic history. The beauty that I had wondered at on past visits will now always be a little tainted by the knowledge of how the jewels in the city's crown seem mostly to have been torn from their original owners in acts of cultural vandalism. I guess a similar statement could be made about London, Rome and Paris, but somehow I was never quite so naive about any of those cities and can still love them for what they are - Venice was a bit different and I feel a little betrayed. Still the book was an excellent read and I should thank Roger Crowley (although it is a little like thanking someone who tells you your wife is sleeping with another man).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Hyperbole
Very well researched book and nicely written story with the exception of the author's getting carried away and exaggerating frequently. Read more
Published 6 months ago by PhilipClarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, fantastic account of project management gone awry
Crawley's account of the sack of Christian Constantinople during the 4th Crusade made me tear up -- it's also made me a bit less bothered about how Venice is sinking, although the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by K. Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly superb book
I hesitate to call it a book - it is a "Work". The Wall Street Journal describes it as "Wordsworthian". I agree. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Alta lake
4.0 out of 5 stars Very easy and enjoyable read
A very good accessible book on the sea empire of Venice.
As one comment says, the book is more about some highlights of the history of Venice rather than a complete history. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Eric le rouge
5.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to Venetian History before the 15th century
An easy to read account of the rise of Venice as one of the major players in the trade with the Levant - also a good summary of the Fourth Crusade.
Published 9 months ago by Angharad Gask
5.0 out of 5 stars Roger does it again
Roger Crowley again takes me up and away in his discriptions of both historical events as in characters that made history happen !
Published 11 months ago by Pc Storm
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable if grim tale
Another highly readable story of a Mediterranean empire from the fluid pen of Roger Crowley. This is an unflinching account of the generally rather grim story of Venice's... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Pelagius
5.0 out of 5 stars Well up to par
Have read Roger Crowley's other books about the Mediterranean and this is well up to par; he writes in an unfussy style and I find this easy to read and re-read. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Richard Sewell
4.0 out of 5 stars Roger Rules
Roger Crowley is the undisputed king of contemporary history writting. His story-telling style is unsurpassed and he drags you into history as if it was a story. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jens Schwarz-Nielsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Love this book. It has a good pace, it is well written, Crowley combines a solid style with sustaining narrative. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Thomas164
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