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The Borgias and Their Enemies, 1431-1519 [Paperback]

Christopher Hibbert
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2009
The first major biography of the Borgias in thirty years, Christopher Hibbert's latest history brings the family and the world they lived in--the glittering Rome of the Italian Renaissance--to life. The name Borgia is synonymous with the corruption, nepotism, and greed that were rife in Renaissance Italy. The powerful, voracious Rodrigo Borgia, better known to history as Pope Alexander VI, was the central figure of the dynasty. Two of his seven papal offspring also rose to power and fame -- his daughter Lucrezia and her brother Cesare, who murdered Lucrezia's husband and served as the model for Machiavelli's "The Prince." The Borgias were notorious for seizing power, wealth, land, and titles through bribery, marriage, and murder. The story of the family's dramatic rise from its Spanish roots to the highest position in Italian society is an absorbing tale.

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The Borgias and Their Enemies, 1431-1519 + The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici + The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1 edition (1 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547247818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547247816
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.6 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Hibbert wrote more than fifty acclaimed books, including The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici and Rome: The Biography of a City. A leading popular historian whose works reflect meticulous scholarship, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He died in December 2008.

Product Description


PRAISE FOR CHRISTOPHER HIBBERT "[A] superbly scrupulous and sympathetic interpreter."--"The Boston Globe" "Simply unputdown-able."--"The New York Times Book Review"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but not great. 11 Aug 2009
Christopher Hibbert is a very good popular historian who has covered a range of topics related to this book; such as Italian cities etc.. If you want a lively overview of the Borgias at the height of their powers then this is the book for you. There is inevitably some emphasis on the more 'tabloid', sensationalist aspects of the Borgias, but this is the popular perception of the family and Hibbert does have to consider a broad audience. He selects the key events you would expect, but in a very condensed fashion. If you are looking for more depth I would recommend Sarah Bradford's boigraphies of Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia over this book if I am honest, but that is because I wanted more detail, which isn't for everyone. Like Hibbert, these are 'popular' history books, which manage to dispell many of the Borgia myths, whilst still giving a fascinating and lively insight into the Borgia family.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It needs to said at the start what sort of book this is and what it is not. It is a narrative, told very much in bitesize chunks, scattered with quotations from the original sources. It is not an analytical review of the period. It details the corruption in the catholic church during the late 15 and early 16th centuries, though never in a polemic way. Hibbert is always measured in his approach and where events are disputed or appear to have been created out of speculation, he is quick to say so and does not draw judgement on their veracity; this is mainly in relation to the rumours of incest. Though even if we set those aside, there is no room for doubt left that the reign of the Borgias was nepotistic, bloody, ruthless and fuelled by greed and lust.

The story is told in roughly chronological order, though as each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the history, there is a little jumping around, so there is no single timeline running throughout. Hibbert's scholarship is evident, though not totally transparent; while he states certain facts and at the end gives a list of further reading, the two are not married up, so that I was left frequently asking "where's the justification or the evidence for that statement" and Hibbert doesn't provide the answer. There is also a seeming lack of questions being asked. I was expecting more context and at attempt to understand the importance of the Borgias both at the time and their lasting on impact on catholicism, italian politics and the wider world; unfortunately there was none of this.

Instead, what we have is a step by step case of "this happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. And then this happened" whilst all the time leaving the reader to do all the analysis with only the narrative as a guide.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A useful introduction 7 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
OVERVIEW: I watched the recent (2011) mini-series on the Borgias as a guilty pleasure. However, I was aware of how fictionalised history is primarily entertainment and I wanted an accessible history of the real events: a Herodotus, not a Homer. I think this book provided it. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it as a short introduction to the period.

THE BOOK: I cannot comment on the e-book version but as a physical book it is of a manageable size, but smaller than it seems. The book has generous line spacing giving 28 lines per page, which is less than many other paperbacks. Additionally, the chapters are numerous and short, 29 in all, plus 313 pages of text and 4 pages of suggested further reading. There is also an 8 page index. Unfortunately there are no maps or illustrations. There are no separate notes, but the text contains frequent quotations and their sources.

THE STORY: The story begins with pope Callixtus III, originally Alfonso de Borja, who appointed Rodrigo de Borja (Borgia in Italian) as a cardinal. This is a position Rodrigo acquired literally by nepotism as he was the nephew of Callixtus. The English word nepotism comes from the Italian "nepote" meaning nephew. In this case he really was the nephew and not the pope's son, as these appointments often were. Four popes later, the current pope dies and Rodrigo buys his way to the papacy. In this he seems simply to be better at his corruption than the other cardinals.

It continues with the story of Rodrigo and four of his children: Juan, Cesare, Lucrezia and Jofre. Juan is removed from the story early with his murder, possibly by his jealous elder brother Cesare, possibly not.
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By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written and entertaining account of the Borgia's: Rodrigo who became Pope Alexander VI, and his children of whom the most famous were his son Cesare, and his daughter Lucretia.

As well as providing a fascinating account of the Borgia family, their pursuit of power and extravagant lifestyles, Christopher Hibbert almost brings to life through his writing the wider elite of Renaissance Italy; decadence, the patronage of outstanding art, treachery, corruption, religious devotion and the exploitation of the faithful were frequent features of the life of the powerful of the time The misuse of high religious office for the pursuit of wealth and earthly power is a constant theme - although many of the same people also undertook good works, particularly patronage of the arts, which we continue to benefit from to this day

As well as the Borgias this era (and these pages) includes Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, Machiavelli, Erasmus....these were fascinating times, which are beautiful described in this very enjoyable book.

However, the book is not perfect - it is quite short at just over 300 pages but the line spacing is what gets it there - it would be more like 200 pages otherwise, and the last two chapters which outline what happened to the Borgia family lines after the death of the main characters seem rushed and certainly lack the colour of the previous chapters.

Worth reading though
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