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The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  2,773 ratings  ·  148 reviews
It was a dynasty with more wealth, passion, and power than the houses of Windsor, Kennedy, and Rockefeller combined. It shaped all of Europe and controlled politics, scientists, artists, and even popes, for three hundred years. It was the house of Medici, patrons of Botticelli, Michelangelo and Galileo, benefactors who turned Florence into a global power center, and then l ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 19th 1999 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1974)
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The Prince by Niccolò MachiavelliThe Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantThe House of Medici by Christopher HibbertBrunelleschi's Dome by Ross KingThe Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Renaissance
3rd out of 163 books — 82 voters
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4th out of 182 books — 64 voters


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Community Reviews

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Kalliope



This has been a highly enjoyable read. Hibbert has written this book with great clarity and with more fluency and less dryness than I remembered in his George III: A Personal History. I have also enjoyed learning a fair amount about a family with whose name one is greatly familiar but about whom one really knows very little. That is the problem with fame. The glitz precludes us seeing its source.

The Medici were formidable, but as so often happens with these powerful clans, the source of excellen
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·Karen·
This was an ideal companion to Tim Parks’ Medici Money: Parks is good at explaining the workings of fifteenth century banking, but Hibbert is better at bringing the people to life. His approach is traditional: the biographies of the powerful, the concerns of those who have the say and little concern for lesser mortals. It’s lively and readable, takes the story right through to the Grand Dukes of the seventeenth century and is excellent on the shifting of loyalties and European coalitions. There ...more
Jonathan
I'm somewhat torn about this book. The writing is well done and the subject matter, the Medici, SHOULD be interesting. But the author seems to focus on the more trivial details of this family's life and times. So much detail goes in to describing what the Medici liked to eat, what they liked to wear, what they did for fun, it sometimes seems like this is the special Medici issue of USWeekly. The title of the book would seem indicate the focus of the book is HOW the Medici came to power and HOW t ...more
Sesana
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I probably wouldn't have read this book at all if it weren't for a video game. I'm a big fan of the Assassin's Creed series, and the second game introduced me to the Medici and features both the Pazzi conspiracy and Savonarola's bonfires of vanities as major plot points. In some ways, this was actually helpful, at least for part of the book. Running over the rooftops of Florence helped me visualize the world of Cosimo and Lorenzo Medici better tha ...more
Tisha
Mar 04, 2009 Tisha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Art History/Renaissance fans
I've always been intrigued by the Medici family primarily due to their large role as patrons of the arts in the Renaissance Era. Also, being such a wealthy and powerful family they played many roles throughout that whole range of history. I finally picked up this book, which had been on my shelf for a while, in preparation for my upcoming trip to Italy. It was a great book to get a grasp on the chronological history of the entire Medici family. I was pleased to see this non-fiction book was not ...more
Kelly
This is a pretty great all-purpose history of the Medici family as well as of Florence during (and immediately following) the Italian Renaissance. It’s a popular history, so it’s a quick and easy read – free from the pedantic ramblings of more scholarly books. It’s not, however, a particularly good source for art history (a general knowledge of the artistic achievements of the Renaissance might be a good prerequisite). There are fine anecdotes told in a quick, lively style. I recommend it highly ...more
Richard
I read this book as preparation for a trip to Florence, and I found it as helpful to understanding that great city as the numerous tour books we had perused. A very helpful introduction to renaissance Florence. The author is especially good in recounting the lives and influence of Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent. He also does well in recounting the time of Savonarola and the Medici popes. It does seem to loose steam when he discusses the Grand Dukes after Cosimo I. Still, a good rea ...more
Eileen Iciek
I have spent many years in the finance field and there is one opinion many of us share - that family businesses usually fail by the third generation. This feeling is one I'm sure the founders of the great Medici banking house would agree with, although the family lasted quite a bit longer than 3 generations - at least 11 from what I could tell from the family trees included in the book. Even so, the last few generations had clearly gone to seed and presented a grim contrast to their illustrious ...more
Dawn
This book is written mostly about the early Medici’s with the first third of the book being about the legendary Cosimo de’ Medici, the middle taking in another 40 years and 4 Medici’s and the end cramming in the last 200 years including 2 popes.

With my pre-existing (though sketchy) knowledge of 16th and 17th century Italian history, from Michelangelo and the Sistine chapel to Martin Luther and Galileo, this book really filled in and connected some people and kingdoms in a way I wasn’t aware of.
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GoldGato
The family that greeds together, stays together. The Medici were such an amazing clan, a group that did much to influence history. Though Italians, they also changed the culture of France, when Caterina de Medici became the Queen of France and brought Italian epicurean standards to the still-Gothic French.

If this family existed today, they would be all over the tabloids and probably have their own sitcom, but they were THE standard bearers for the Renaissance, so their successes and challenges c
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Steven Larter
Good brief history of Florence, the Renaissance and the Medici's; however, the book's subtitle is a bit misleading and doesn't do a very good job covering the rise of the Medici. The book really begins with Cosimo de Medici and only pays passing attention to his father Giovanni. Thus the book really picks up when the Medici family are exceedingly wealthy and their banking operations are well established. I would have been very interested to learn how the Medicis rose from obscurity, created thei ...more
Adrian
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 lif
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Misael Molina
The Medici Family has been revealed as one of the most sinister, pungent, and horrific family in the history of Europe, but they have their own back stories of happy, joyful, exotic ways of living or developing their own social background in the historical past in Europe. This book not only gives an entitled view of The Medici Family and how their family ruined their many affairs,but as well as a notable man who takes you threw this marvelous adventure of European aristocrats.The grade level sh ...more
Elaine
This was a very entertaining read about the Medici dynasty in Florence. It started in the 14th century and went through each generation detailing their accomplishments and failures. It was very detailed with interesting tidbits on their marriages and personal relationships in addition to their business and political lives. They were a very powerful and wealthy family that helped fund and foster the Renaissance period of art and culture. Over time the family fell on hard times and each generation ...more
Alex
Good overview of the Medici family's history, which makes it a good overview of the Italian Renaissance - at least from a political and social perspective. Not a ton of detail on the art and science of the time, unfortunately; I'll have to get that elsewhere. But I knew that going in.
Helen Wiant
I got this book because we were travelling to Florence and I wanted to become more familiar with all the Medicis to better understand the history, art and architecture of the city during the Renaissance. Initially I thought that the book had more detail than I wanted, but once we were in Florence visiting palazzos, museums, churches, and chapels, I realized how valuable it was in providing context and how much it helped me better assimilate what I was seeing and hearing. I particularly liked the ...more
Tom Dailey
I figure anyone who picks up this book knows they are in for a healthy dose of debauchery. But there was much less murder than I anticipated, more than made up for by gluttony and illness. How could people have such spectacular appetites when so ravaged by disease? Also a lot of political intrigue, much of it centered on the papacy. The author packs in plenty of color; one heir to throne “so apathetic that he declined to open any letter to avoid having to answer them.” Another, who ““after one p ...more
Kevin Vejrup
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Wright
The late medieval Medici bank was perhaps the original multinational financial organisation, of the type we hear rather too much of today. Out of its immense wealth grew political might; and from them grew a dynasty that spanned several generations, out of austerity, through strength, to eventual decadence and decline. The author tells his story with eloquence and vivacity, bringing to life the various colourful characters in and around, although giving the impression of being a little over cred ...more
Elaine

The good, the bad and the ugly history of the Medici family.

The first known Medici was Averado, a knight under Charlemagne.
The Medici are the first princely dynasty to win their status not by warfare, marriage or inheritance but through commerce. They come to Florence in the 12th century from the nearby countryside. Their ancestral home is in the Mugello valley.

During the next two centuries the family, amassing a fortune through banking and trade, begins also to play a prominent part in Florenc
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Eric Dontigney
You won't need a degree in history, or deep understanding of Renaissance Italy, to get something from Hibbert's well-written overview of the Medici family. Hibbert traces the rise to prominence of the banking family, from their early successes under Cosimo, to their later failures under a series of family leaders unequal to the task. He keeps the story of the Medici moving without falling prey to the recitation of minutia that bogs down so much historical work, which makes this book very accessi ...more
Cat
Aug 23, 2007 Cat rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fashionistas.
Well, reading about the Medici Popes certainly was eye opening. Hard to believe the Catholic church survived, but I guess they are a pretty resilient bunch.
I wanted to read about the Medici's because I'm interested in the origins of capitalism in Europe. I had the impression (wrongly, I now realize) that the Medici's were forerunners of the modern capitalist economy.

While it is true that the family got its start in banking, they quickly moved into the Church and full time Princehood. Whether the
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Kimberly
I read this book before leaving on my trip to Italy. I enjoyed learning more about the Medici family before arriving to Florence. The Italian renaissance and Florence can only be understood by knowing also about the Medici family. I loved all the details and facts as their role in Italian history is so interesting. I felt that it was accurate and well researched as well. It was a bit dry and not a real page-turner, but definitely a worthwhile read.
Val
Pretty good, but hard to follow at times because of all the family detail and the fact that all those Medicis had the same first names! They had their hands in everything - Donatello, Galileo, Michelangelo, Henry VIII (Medici was pope), Martin Luther (another Medici was pope). Anyway, interesting read that almost read like a novel, just a little too dense and technical in parts for a casual read.
Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/441389.html[return][return]Mid-70s volume on the famous Italian family who took over Florence and Tuscany and were (on some readings) responsible for the Renaissance. The best bit is the first section, on the rise to power of Cosimo de' Medici in the early fifteenth century; after that it all seemed to descend into a succession of biographical data including each family member's patronage of the arts. Disappointingly little context was given; I'd have liked to know a b ...more
Ned
fine, polished writing, clear exposition, the times and events and circumstances flow like liquid. But no textual footnotes! what are this author's sources? Sometimes sources are listed in the text, but now and then, almost conversationally. The bibliography is long and splits primary and secondary sources, but then, nothing. Why doesn't this author 'do' a regular apparatus? The notes that exist are extensive and deal only with the art and architecture, with lots of interesting notes from Vasari ...more
Carol
An older book but worth the read if you are interested in Italian history. I would actually give it 3.5 stars if I could. A quote: "This Visconti was widely believed to be mad and was certainly unbalanced. He had been known on summer days to strip the rich clothes from his grotesquely fat and dirty body and to roll about naked in his garden. So ugly that he refused to have his portrait painted, so weak on his deformed legs that he could not rise from his chair without leaning on a page; so nervo ...more
Davor K
I am glad that I first went to Florence and then read a book.
The book is rich with details about the buildings and places, and without seeing them it would probably be dull. This way I feel I learned a lot.
Also, while reading it I understood why was I totally confused there by all the unbelievable acomplishments of Cosimo and Lorenzo Medici. I mean, I understood even there that there were mor ethan one Cosimo and more than one Lorenzo, but only in reading this book I understood how many Cosimos
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Sue
Interesting general history of the Medicis. I would say that the book is more about their personal lives and their relationships with others rather than the rise and fall of their "house" but the stories of their love lives, gluttony and their patronage of the arts was interesting to read. I didn't know that they were patrons of DaVinci, Michelangelo and Raphael to name three of the most famous of the artists they supported.
Theresa Nardi
If you have ever been to Florence, want to go to Florence or dream of Florence...read this book. The characters a plentiful and overwhelming but the story is worth it. It would be shameful to see any of the architecture of Florence without the background of this book. At a mere 311 pages, well worth it!
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Christopher Hibbert, MC, FRSL, FRGS (5 March 1924 - 21 December 2008) was an English writer, historian and biographer. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of many books, including Disraeli, Edward VII, George IV, The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici, and Cavaliers and Roundheads.

Described by Professor Sir John Plumb as "a writer of the highest ability and in the N
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