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Good Borgia histories?
September 3, 2012 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Recommend to me biographies/histories of the Borgia Pope and family?

I've really enjoyed reading biographies/histories surrounding the Tudor era of England, especially but not limited to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The books were by Alison Weir, Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, etc. The best parts for me were that they were written by historians who were presenting research, i.e. sources cited, explanations of how they came to their conclusions, consideration of other historians' work while also being very readable.

So now I'm hoping to find recommendations for similar kinds of history/biography books on the Borgia family. I expect most such will focus on Pope Alexander VI, but books about his children, his mates, and so on are welcome too. I searched on this and am kind of surprised I came up empty-handed.
posted by asciident to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is a TV show on Showtime all about the Borgias . So far there is two seasons worth of exciting treachery, lechery, and all kinds of fun.
posted by empatterson at 7:13 AM on September 4, 2012


If TV shows are OK, then the French-German series Borgia is relatively lot more authentic than the Showtime series.
posted by Gyan at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got this book in my to-be-read pile: Lucrezia Borgia, by Maria Bellonci. And I started this one, The Borgias and Their Enemies: 1431-1519 but didn't get a chance to read much of it before I had to return it. So I can't really vouch fully for either book. Still, maybe they will give you a good starting point?
posted by Janta at 7:38 AM on September 4, 2012


I've watched both Borgia and The Borgias and enjoyed them both (as well as played and enjoyed the Assassin's Creed series), but I'm specifically looking for nonfiction.

Janta, thanks, I will take a look at both of those! I'll leave this open for a while longer in case anyone else has suggestions.
posted by asciident at 3:02 PM on September 4, 2012


You're right, my goodness what a lot of dreck out there. To weed out the crap Amazon kept throwing at me, I looked at a good research library's catalog and Worldcat and picked out books that matched your requirements as much as possible.

The Burning of the Vanities: Savonarola and the Borgia Pope has a good bit of background on both Savonarola and Alexander VI. If you like that idea, it looks like there are a number of books about Savonarola and tangentially or specifically about Alexander VI.

The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped looks quite good. Publisher's Weekly notes that 'Despite the convoluted title, this latest from award-winning British novelist and historian Strathern (Napoleon in Italy) is simply a good, straightforward history of Renaissance Italy during the turbulent decade around 1500, with emphasis on several important players. Pope Alexander VI, though not in the title, is the central player. Famously corrupt and ambitious, Alexander aimed to enlarge the Papal States and his family's influence, and his son, Cesare Borgia, led papal armies in three cruelly successful campaigns.'

Then you've got The Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition, and Everyday Life in the Court of a Borgia Prince, which has some pretty rigorous sourcing and history but still seems to be readable (caveat: haven't read it myself!). It's actually about the extended Borgia family (a son of Lucrezia's and his role in the church).

If you want to delve into primary sourcing, try At the court of the Borgia, being an account of the reign of Pope Alexander VI, written by his master of ceremonies, Johann Burchard. It is cited through today, though I'd certainly view it a bit askance.

Sarah Bradford kept coming up (she wrote a book about Lucrezia and a book about Cesare) but she was compared unfavorably to Antonia Fraser so I left her out. Just fyi if you really get into the topic.
posted by librarylis at 9:44 PM on September 4, 2012


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