Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Book 13: The House of Medici

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert

After my trip to Florence, I decided to read a few books about the place. It should probably go the other way around, but I mean obviously I knew about the Medici and Michelangelo before going, I just didn't know all the details.

There are two things that I would have found incredibly helpful while reading this: a family tree and maybe a time line (although a family tree with dates probably would have solved the time line issue as well). It was originally written in the '70s so maybe they had a different idea or approach to history (there were no actual foot notes - there were notes which then gave further explanation on the art, but he didn't cite where his sources came from throughout; once again, I'm sure a lot of this is common knowledge and therefore doesn't need citations and different ideas for writing in the '70s vs. now), but when writing about a family that tends to use the same name over and over again, it would be helpful to know when which one died to make sure they're still talking about the same one.

Having said that, I think it was a good general over view of the family and its history. Of course the first thing that comes to mind upon thinking about the Medici is the Renaissance, arts and incredible riches. They also had two popes (one of them was actually the one that didn't grant Henry VIII his divorce because Spain had him surrounded by armies). The Medici family actually wasn't that rich for that long - Lorenzo the Magnificent wasn't that great at the banking business so he lost much of the family fortune. By the end of the Medicis reign, Florence was rather impoverished compared to its former glories.

There were quite a few political intrigues although I did kind of lose track a few times of what exactly was happening at what time. For example, in one chapter he discussed Lorenzo's marriage and his wife's death, but then in the next chapter he backtracked and she was still alive. Obviously, the author divided some things more by themes than going for a straight line narrative, which makes sense but it would have been simpler to grasp if he had included dates more often in the narrative.

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