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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for History Buffs, 1 Oct 2013
By 
Kerry M (Gold Coast, Australia) - See all my reviews
If you are into medieval history or the history of the Vatican this book is a must read. The author has provided a chronological recollection of the papal period of 1450-1550's not just an account of the Borgia's. This is a really well researched book that looks at all the evidence for and against the supposed actions of this notorious family - and of all of the Popes of that period. This account leaves you questioning much of what we know from popular fiction and many history books in relation to the Borgia's. Whilst the book is an historical account it is so well written that it is easy to follow, flows and gives you a taste of the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the papacy, the Cardinals and the Borgia's in particular. Loved it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed history, 22 April 2013
By 
Keith Lawson (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Borgias: The Hidden History (Hardcover)
Like so many people I know the popular story and reputation of the Borgias (and have enjoyed the tv series). However, this researcher has revealed a less devious and immoral history than we have believed, but none the less fascinating. As with any history text, the book should be read alongside other references, even if only a chronological chart and comparative events (I recommend "Timetables of History" by Bernard Grun). The difficulty of reading an e-book, which is what I have, is the problem of going back to check something or to look at charts and pictures.

I do not think the book will be enjoyable if only purchased as a one-off visit to this period and location, as it will not deliver at a simple level (but what history text does?). A serious book for the person who is keen to learn the facts over the fiction. I found a balanced reading - taking breaks to find other sources (usually web-based) to bring me up to speed on the other characters- and sometimes going back to reread to check why I am failing to understand who is doing what to whom - was the key to getting the most of of this. I will keep it handy, as I am likely to want to re-read it in the future once I have found out more about this period of history.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 14 Aug 2013
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prepare to have any previous views on the notorious Borgias family very much changed. This insightful book offers a more unbiased approach to the family than I have read in other books, with a running commentary on other issues surrounding the time. I like how it put's the families actions and sometimes unorthodox decisions into the context of the time.

I did take the advice from a previous reviewer who suggested reading JH Plumb's Italian Renaissance in addition to this book in order to provide a more clear cut view of the Italian provinces around the time of the Borgias family. i have read this book purely for fun and enjoyed every page.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read, 21 Oct 2013
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This is a very interesting book and a great read. The reader should be aware that the author completely goes against the accepted orthodoxy regarding the Borgias. He argues that most of the accepted sordid stories about the Borgias are baseless and just propaganda. For example the author maintains that Cesare Borgia, Lucrezia Borgia, Giovanni Borgia were not the children of Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI. In fact the Borgias were no worse than their contemporaries and possibly were better.
Whether this is true or not is really one of the serious historians but overall the book was enjoyable to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and detailed retelling of the Borgias' story, 19 April 2014
A thorough and detailed recounting of the infamous Borgias and their place in history - a little hard to get through at times, and would benefit from a little judicious pruning, but overall good. I had the usual preconceived ideas about this family, having read about them many years ago and with vague memories of the rather old BBC TV series. However, this book serves to put them in context and attempts to explain why they acted as they did.

Reviewed in exchange for a preview Kindle copy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He Turbo-Cleans the Family, and Places Them in Their Era, 30 Mar 2013
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Borgias: The Hidden History (Hardcover)
"The Borgias: The Hidden History," comes to us from historian G.J. Meyer; it can function as a useful commentary/corrective to the current television series, which does not claim to be accurate, on this famous/infamous Renaissance family. The writer, an American now resident in England, is author of the much-praised The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty; and A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918.

This carefully researched new account of one of the most notorious dynasties in history ignores the slanders, gossip, and distortion that have followed these individuals for centuries. Meyer here gives us turbo-cleaned portraits of the two Borgia Popes, Calixtus III, and Alexander VI, elected by the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, and the much-maligned niece and nephew, Lucrecia and Cesare, of the second, Alexander, in their famous, well-documented and -remembered, milieu.

Twice, in a tumultuous, event-filled half-century, religious from the same obscure Spanish nobility were chosen as Rome-based popes. Rome was nearly in ruins, a dangerous city filled with murderous `noble' gangsters; the papal lands of the Romagna had been usurped by minor tyrants. The powerful city-states of Italy: Venice, Milan, Florence and Naples were nearly always at war, and frequently appealed to outside powers, notably Spain and France, to solve their quarrels. The Turks were threatening Europe, the Adriatic, and Venice. Every pope and warlord, every noble, wanted to be remembered by history, if not for his deeds, then for the art, architecture and music they commissioned. Every pope during this period had too long an agenda, and too little with which to address it, even as they dominated the age in which they lived and worked, the admirable, yet irredeemably bloody Italian Renaissance, covering mainly the 15th and 16th centuries. They could not opt out of the high-stakes diplomacy and wars in which the continent's kings and Italy's warlords kept continuously busy.

Still, five centuries after their abrupt fall from power, the Borgia remain symbols of evil. Rodrigo, who supposedly bought the papal crown and served as Alexander, while prostituting the Roman Church; Cesare, who became first a teenage cardinal and then, by popular agreement, the most handsome and treacherous villain of a villainous time; Lucrezia, reputed to be as immoral as she was beautiful.

According to his biographical material, in addition to the two popular works of history, THE TUDORS and A WORLD UNDONE, Meyer has authored, he has published Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America and The Memphis Murders, which was awarded an Edgar for nonfiction. He received an M.A. from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and later was awarded Harvard University's Nieman Fellowship in Journalism. He has taught at colleges in Des Moines, St. Louis, and New York, and now lives in Wiltshire, England. For this book, Meyer must be credited with exhaustive research, drawing on rarely examined original sources, to cast some daylight on the real Borgias within the malignant myth. He also shines a bright light on the historic circles in which the family moved and the era they helped shape, which reverberates to the present day. He is very good on the Italian landscape of the time, political, social and geographic.

Meyer gives us some interesting insights in this book. For instance, he describes Rome as the very unusual world city with no product, other than papal bulls. No manufacturing. Or banking, or advertising. Strictly administrative, going, in fact, back to the ancient days of its empire, when it was, also, strictly an administrative center. I studied Renaissance History at the excellent university I was lucky enough to attend, and quite enjoyed this book, in particular the author's insights. However, this book may not be easily accessible to readers not familiar with the period, and not encouraged to continue reading by a real interest in it. It has, seemingly, a cast of thousands, and a background of ever-shifting wars. I notice that my advance readers copy has a timeline, and allows for family trees and maps to come, and they had better be plentiful, to help with the confusion of it all. I further note that there is no allowance made for pictures to come, and this is a foolish oversight. It surely helps in visualizing a person to have a portrait of them, and there are portraits in existence of every pope and warlord. There are famous portraits of Isabella D'Este Gonzaga, and her sister, Beatrice D'Este Sforza, Isabella painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, and at France's famous Louvre Museum, no less. There's a well-known portrait of the family's still-famous contemporary, Cesare's great friend and confidant, Nicolo Machiavelli, who apparently used the soldier/politician as the model for his still in print book, The Prince. Well, regretfully, I can't recommend this book to everyone, but I liked it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the real Borgias please stand-up, 6 July 2013
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Borgias: The Hidden History (Hardcover)
No book can be everything. If G. J. Meyer had time to tell us all about the entire environment that the Borgias lived in we would not have the space to tell what they are like and what they did.

Be prepared to read about some not nice people.

Because you really should have the least some understanding of the history before you even start to tackle this book about the Borgias. I suggest you read "The Italian Renaissance," (1963) by J. H. Plumb.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even-handed but incomplete, 26 April 2013
This review is from: The Borgias: The Hidden History (Hardcover)
The first Borgia to become pope was Calixtus, a virtuous Borgia--the exception that confirms the rule--who mounted an army against the invading Turks, Turks that stole thousands of young boys who grew into ardent Moslem warriors. Thanks to heroic generals from Romania to Albania--given the credit they deserve, thanks to G.J. Meyer's book THE BORGIAS--the barbarians at the gates were defeated. Before and after the incredibly hard-working Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, his sexual peccadilloes--concerning both `'boys and girls, but mostly girls''--were largely dismissed as boys-will-be-boys joie de vivre. (Meyer's chapter entitled IL PAPA will keep you glued to your seat, such was the despicable history of many of these saint men.) Meyer's treatment of the Borgias--what they were supposed to have done or not done--is perfectly even-handed, very far way from authors who have Cesare in a hot tube (!!!) with a boy and Pope Alexander encouraging his son to perform insect on his sister by gently patting his behind.
Caro's fabulous life of LBJ, totaling so far around 3000 pages, makes Meyer's 430 a thin volume indeed in comparison, especially for this array of characters that absolutely defy the imagination. An example: In Christopher Hibbert's THE BORGIAS AND THEIR ENEMIES we read this: `'Cesar had fallen sick again of that illness of his. Now the flowers (as the syphilitic rashes were euphemistically known) are starting to bloom again.'' An anecdote among a 100,000 not in Meyer's book, one that Caro would not have missed. Hopefully some day another Caro will give the Borgias the space they deserve. Worst still: The death of Astori Manfredi, Prince of Faenza, at age 17, a boy described as the most beautiful in Italy (artists came from all around to paint him), was passed over with just a few words by Meyer, despite the fact that the boy had been imprisoned by Cesare (and was, moreover, the lad in the hot tub), then found drowned in the Tiber, bound to his young brother. All the rumors concerning his death were ignored by Meyer. My own books can be found on Amazon under Michael Hone.
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The Borgias: The Hidden History
The Borgias: The Hidden History by G. J. Meyer (Hardcover - 2 April 2013)
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