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September 20, 2012 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for histories of medieval and Renaissance Italy.

Let's say from about 1300-1600 is my period of interest. People, cities, institutions civil and military...whatever you've got, I'm interested in. I spent some time looking for a one-volume overview of the time and place with no real luck and would be interested in such, but please don't restrict yourself to that. If you know of a really good book/resource with a somewhat narrow focus but applicable to the time period, fire away. Thanks!
posted by adamdschneider to Education (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
If fiction is helpful, you'll want to read I Promessi Sposi by Manzoni, My Life* by Casanova, and The Decameron by Boccacio. Vasari may also be helpful.

*C'mon, we all know a lot of that is fiction.
posted by bq at 11:18 AM on September 20, 2012


I am just finishing Venice, A Maritime Republic which is quite good, even though its a bit dated.
posted by shothotbot at 11:51 AM on September 20, 2012


Michael Baxendall was an art historian who focused primarily on the Italian Renaissance. You might find his book Painting and Experience in 15th century Italy; A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style to be of interest. I read it almost 20 years ago for an art history seminar, and I don't recall much of it, but it immediately sprung to mind when I read your question.
posted by kaybdc at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2012


I really enjoyed The Devil's Broker. While not massively detailed, it's a great place to start and will give you a lot of ideas on what to look for next.
posted by selfnoise at 12:31 PM on September 20, 2012


Jacob Burkhardt's The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy remains an extremely readable classic.
posted by yoink at 12:53 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am enjoying the autobiography of Pius II (1405-1464) immensely. It is interesting both for the social history aspect of the period but also for the glimpses into the political machinations that went with being one of the most powerful men around. He was so instrumental in the many political disputes of the time that it's been great to have a (necessarily skewed) witness report on major historical events - it's sort of refreshing after neutral academic books.

Seconding Burkhardt.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 1:20 PM on September 20, 2012


Maria Bellonci's The Life and Times of Lucrezia Borgia, about another woman terribly misunderstood and misrepresented by and in the popular culture.
posted by cool breeze at 1:41 PM on September 20, 2012


I like googling course syllabuses for this type of question. UT-Dallas's course on late medieval Italy, for example, uses Najemy's Italy in the Age of the Renaissance (OUP, 2004).
posted by dd42 at 4:25 PM on September 20, 2012


Thirding Burkhardt and also recommending Guicciardini, both were invaluable while I was a grad student in Florence studying art history...also, please read Cellini's autobiography. It's hilarious.
posted by shrimpsmalls at 7:43 PM on September 20, 2012


The Book in the Renaissance is supposed to be fabulous. I still have it sitting in my "to read" pile, unfortunately, so can't speak to the quality personally, but it sounds like a great one-volume introduction to technology, learning, the circulation of ideas, etc., all in the time period you want.
posted by lillygog at 6:19 AM on September 21, 2012


Waley The Italian City Republics Italian City Republics is quite learned but also very readable.
Hans Baron's Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance is an important one to read if you're interested in political history (well, it is important for understanding political histories, since I found quite a lot of books and articles used it as a starting point to argue with)
posted by Gomoryhu at 9:06 AM on September 21, 2012


Just wanted to point out that Burkhardt's The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy is a free download from Project Gutenberg.

A search of the Gutenberg site reveals some other interesting options, as well.

And searches for medieval Italy at archive.org and renaissance Italy at archive.org turns up:

Medieval Italy during a thousand years (305-1313) (or this copy)
Guelphs & Ghibellines: a short history of medieval Italy
Renaissance in Italy

plus a whole lot of other stuff.
posted by kristi at 3:57 PM on September 22, 2012


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