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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 1 October 2008
A superb account of one of the most famous and influential dynasties in European history.
Beginning with an overview of Medieval Florece, Christopher Hibbert takes us back to a sumptuous world of arts, merchants and an advanced democratic civilization. It begins with the story of Cosimo, the brilliant banker, who through his connections to the Papacy, becomes a major powerbroker in Italian affairs, much to the annoyance of Florences ruling Signoria, who unable to decide on his fate, place his life or death to a plebescite, which results in temporary banishment, only to return and establish a wealthy and cultured dynasty.
Lorenzo il Manifico is the definite star, the patro of the arts who oversaw Florence's golden age. However, the most interesting part of the account is the rise of the Dominican Monk Savaronola and Florence's descent into a deranged theocracy.
By the time the book speaks of the passing of Anna Maria, one has a sense of sadness that such a great dynasty has reached its end, and such a sadness was felt in Florence at the time.
On the whole a superb book, one of the best historical accounts I have read this year.
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on 10 May 1999
I read this book when I was writing my dissertation around the subject. It was a pleasant surprise after absorbing so many dry text books - it reads like a story. The carnivals, artists and daily trials of life in Renaissance Florence are vividly described in this book. A detailed history and a fascinating insight into one of the richest areas of Italian history.
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on 15 August 1998
Seeing Lorenzo il magnifico's mean face around Florence, I thought he would be one of the bad guys in the Medici family. He was not. Hibbert makes the history and politics behind the busts and paintings of cinquecento Florence come to life. His story about the House of Medici explains this ruling family's extinction along with the odd fact that their name is still plastered all over Florence, and Fiesole, too, centuries later. The great storyteller, Hibbert portrays the survivalist instinct of a few individuals that did not allow the Medici name to become extinct along with its people.
Hibbert describes another time and another Italy, before, during and after the Renaissance (cinquecento). People die suddenly. Florence is a seat of world power. Members of an early merchant family, the Medici personages from numerous generations take key actions. Hibbert gives us the context of their cirsumstances. They almost all get gout, too. Wealth was a sin. The Vatican had an army. At this time, new thinkers were put before the inquisition. However, the Medicis had a hand in protecting and promoting the discussion and dissemination of new ideas. The Medicis, and Florence, deserve to be remembered for their shelter of the people with the new ideas that became known as the Renaissance.
Good novel quality.
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on 6 June 2000
Why has it taken me over 20 years to discover this book? Erudite, factual, witty, entertaining, this is a must for anyone with the slightest interest in Florence, the Renaissance, art, history. Better than any guidebook, Chapter 10 should be read by every tourist who wants to understand the very convoluted history of Florence.
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on 9 July 2010
It is almost impossible for the modern visitor to Florence, with its churches, buildings, museums and art galleries located alongside the river Arno in the Tuscan countryside, to imagine the bloody scenes it has witnessed over the centuries. The streets and squares now invaded by tourists were previously invaded by Venetians, Lombards, Neapolitans, Romans, French, Austrians, Germans, Swiss and Turks and have been awash with oceans of blood as the Florentines fought off the foreigners or slaughtered each other in civil conflicts or public executions.

Renaissance Italy was a constant battleground yet literature and the arts flourished and capitalism and banking developed amidst the chaos and carnage. The debt modern Europe owes to Italy is incalculable.

What is now a major tourist attraction was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful of the states which ruled Italy before unification. The Medici family was one of the mercantile dynasties which shaped the state's history for 300 years from the 1430 to 1737 when the last of the line died out.

Christopher Hibbert was once aptly described as "perhaps the most gifted popular historian we have" and this is the kind of book one expects. Hibbert's history is never dry - boring dates and dusty old treaties are cast aside in favour of colour, characters, love affairs, treachery, intrigue and adventure.

The story of the Medici family provides ample ammunition for his pen. However, enjoyable as the book is, Hibbert might have been better concentrating on one or two of the more prominent members of the family, such as Cosimo or Lorenzo.

His comprehensive coverage asks too much of the reader who can become a bit confused and tired as chapter after chapter repeats the same formula of a new head of the Medici appears, his (successful or failed) marriage and how he ran his administration.

Otherwise, this book is highly recommended.
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on 27 August 1999
Hibbert's treatment of the Medici is superb. He brings individual figures to life with well-chosen detail without losing sight of the "big picture" of social change in Medici Florence.
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on 22 April 2016
A beautifully bound and written book. Unfortunately the binding is backwards, so I have to hold the book upside-down and read back to front in relation to the cover, and place the book with its writing upside down if I want the cover the right way up on the bookshelf. Nevertheless, this is a minor detail of no notable irritation, lends a strange charm to my copy and may even make the book more valuable should I wish to sell it in later years.
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on 8 July 2007
This book focuses on a fascinating period, but the camera (i.e. Historian Christopher Hibbert) is a polaroid camera, so the image is not particularly sharp and enchanting.
As I read this book I realised that it could have been written by almost anyone in a university history department. It didn't have a disntinctive style or anything particular to say. It just ran through the gamut of the subject in an entirely predicatable way -- the rise of the city state, trade more important than before, new ways of thinking but respect for the ways of the Church, the rise of the 'new man' and the threat this posed to the putative democracy of the city state, the fate of the Medici tied to the varying abilities of different members, an interest in the arts, the gradual co-opting of the Medici to the old nobility, etc. etc.

The phrase 'scissors and paste attempt' kept running through my mind as I turned the pages, a thought further emphasised by the poor quality of the paper on which the book was printed and the cover, which soon curled up even though I had read it quickly and only once.
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on 7 May 2013
I bought this on my Kindle while visiting Florence and there is no doubt that the book was enhanced by having visited the churches and palaces built during the heyday of the Medicis. Any history of the Italian states in the 13th-16th centuries is complex, as is any history of the Papacy and this history was no exception. At times the details of all the factions within Florence and relations with the other Italian states, France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire could be overwhelming and I have to admit a bit of fast forwarding to get to bits that I found more interesting. However Christopher Hibbert's great ability to tell a story shone through and made the book enjoyable.
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on 21 October 2013
The first half of this book was a good read and I would give this 4 out of 5 stars. The reason being is that the early Medici's, especially the first 3 or 4 were the most interesting and really put the Medici's on the map. The second half of the book about the later Medicis was not very interesting because these Medicis were really just resting on the achievements of their more Illustrious predecessors and did not really achieve much in their own right. I would give the second half of the book 3 out of 5 stars.

I was also disappointed that although Catherine Medici was mentioned and her marriage into the French Royal family, nothing more was mentioned. She led a very interesting life and had to deal with a cut throat French Court during the reigns of her various sons.
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