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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Medici Money: Banking, metaphysics and art in fifteenth-century Florence
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on 28 March 2013
great book, interesting, lots of info,if you like this period in time you will love this book,love florence and the medici
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on 18 July 2017
Wonderful book. Beautifully written and documented.
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on 21 January 2012
I bought this book in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to read up on the family whose portraits form a centre piece of many of the rooms. I found it a fascinating and easy to read book on the early years of the Medici family. I wish I had read it before my trip to Florence as it would have given me more insight into the city. It is an 'easy' book but has led me to read further into the history of this family, in particular it only looks at the 100 years when the family ruled Florence and does not consider the later years of the dynasty. But it's a good holiday read for a trip to Florence.
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on 6 February 2006
If your knowledge of the Medici family begins and ends with their patronage of Renaissance artists, sharp-penned writer Tim Parks has some revelations to share. True, the Medicis used the wealth they amassed from their bank to turn Florence, Italy, into the Mecca of fifteenth-century culture. Yet, the Medici clan also perfected the arts of vanquishing foes and allying with the rich and powerful to gain a stranglehold on political power - all in bold-faced defiance of Catholic Church doctrine. The Vatican held that paying or collecting so much as a penny of interest was a mortal sin. Parks’ book shows you what the Medici made of that, and his arch, witty style is a joy to read. Perhaps the only caution is that this history is more a study of the spiritual and social history of Florence than a guide to the Medicis’ business successes and failures. We recommend this history to anyone interested in the intersection of money, politics and religion.
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VINE VOICEon 2 July 2009
Medici Money is, in the author's words, "a brief reflection on the Medici of the fifteenth century - their bank; their politics; their marriages, slaves and mistresses; the conspiracies they survived; the houses they built and the artists they patronized." And so indeed it is, 250 smoothly readable pages, informed by a mind that might seem cynical were it not expressed with an acerbic wit.

Take, for example, Tim Parks on an occasion when the public debt was running out of control. "The government announces that from now on, interest returns on tax loans will only be paid when and to the extent possible. As a result, disappointed lenders in need of ready cash start selling their debt bonds to those speculators who can wait. The Domicans says this is usury and the Franciscans say it is not. What do we have different religious orders for, if not for a second opinion?"

If the Medici didn't quite invent banking they worked hard to develop it. Not an easy task when the Roman church condemned lending money at interest as usury. Then there was the problem of moving money between branches established in other Italian cities and soon throughout Europe. To move money physically was too dangerous. The bankers became merchants, investing the money they held in commodities they could sell - they hoped - at a profit. The Letter of Credit was introduced, with cunning caveats to placate Rome - but nothing eased relations with the Pope more effectively than lending him money. The Medici were of necessity politicians, too, adept at manipulating power over Florence and relationships elsewhere.

Five generations of the Medici family ran the bank from inception to collapse over a period that is neatly bounded by the fifteenth century. They accumulated wealth in a manner that may not have been usury but was close enough, and spent much of it preparing heir path to heaven by lavishing it on churches and decorating them with great art. Parks doesn't ignore the metaphysical paradox. "Even today there are many who believe that art is necessarily on the right side, and do not ask which bank sponsored it."

Renaissance Italy is an overwritten area in European history, but there is always room for the work of a skilled story-teller. A light touch with serious subjects helps earn Medici Money an honourable place on a crowded shelf.
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on 28 April 2016
I came to this book off the back of Professor Raymond de Roover's "The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank", which is definitive, comprehensive, authoritative, dense, and dry as the Sahara. In some way, this is the "anti-Roover", dealing with a similar subject matter but in a very different style. In terms of content it's an interesting, even enlightening read. Parks joins the dots on the commerce and banking systems of the era with great insight, and is particularly good with his cool appraisal of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who is rightly said to be too often the object of hagiography. Some of the passages on metaphysics and philosophy are somewhat opaque, even after reading them twice (if I can't work out what someone's talking about after two tries, I'm never going to). Where for me the book falls down is the style of writing: it is choppy and staccato, constantly lurching from present to past tense and back again for no apparent reason. The short sentences sometimes dispense with verbs altogether, and I found rhetorical questions to be overused and irritating. The overall effect, I'm afraid, is that the author seems inordinately pleased with himself. Possibly best read in small doses.
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on 15 January 2014
Mostly fantastic although at times seems rushed and incoherent. Probably because of the vastness of the material. An enjoyable read nonetheless.
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on 26 September 2016
I loved this book. It helped to put lots of things into context: the origins of international trade and finance, the moral questioning of credit, the demonising of the Jews, the power struggles of Florence and larger Italy, Clear echoes of the banking crisis. The world we have today would not exist without trade and access to finance.
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on 23 February 2017
As with all of Tim Parks' books on Italy this is a very good read. It gives just the right amount of detail and it was perfect as background reading for a recent trip to Florence where the legacy of the Medici is everywhere.
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on 18 December 2015
An interesting overview of the subject, but without footnotes, so anyone intererested in a more in-depth approach has to look further.
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