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The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  2,216 ratings  ·  130 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 MachiavelliBrunelleschi's Dome by Ross KingThe Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantThe House of Medici by Christopher HibbertThe Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Renaissance
4th out of 151 books — 68 voters
Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross KingThe Life of Elizabeth I by Alison WeirThe Prince by Niccolò MachiavelliThe House of Medici by Christopher HibbertThe Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
Best Books on the Renaissance
4th out of 166 books — 60 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Glenn Robinson
I have to believe that the family is more profound than this book lets on. The book does cover many centuries and covers one family member per chapter, so I do have to give it to the author for covering a wide area in just 300 pages. Bankers, soldiers, Cardinals and Popes. Murderers, thiefs and more. Of the good that the family did was fund the arts and sciences. Shielding Galileo, funding Michelangelo and others, the family had a great deal of art created. The book lacks a great deal, but again ...more
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

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
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
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
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.
Nicholas Whyte[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
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
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
Theresa Nardi
If you have ever been to Florence, want to go to Florence or dream of 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!
This book provides a very detailed and comprehensive history of the Medici family during the 15th through the 17th centuries. I really enjoyed it, but at times, the book is hard to follow. Hibbert references so many people and places throughout the book that it can be difficult to keep all of the people and places in the correct context. The Medici family starts a long, slow decline from the first generation forward, and never gets back its initial glory. Also, I felt the book could have had a b ...more
I usually love these kinds of books, but I am going to have to abandon this one - it is dry reading and I just can't get into it, as fascinated as I am about the topic.

Anyone else want it?

Florentine History is greatly influenced by this powerful banking family, in the Arts and culturally. The many successors of Medici span several centuries however the original first family suffers the arrows of envy and debauchery from the outside and in. The author brings to light how the Medici rose to prominence and how they celebrated life and shared this celebration with the populo minore, the citizens and common people of Florence. Passages describe lavish weddings in front of the Pitti Pa ...more
After reading G.J. Meyer's, The Borgias: The Hidden History, I was curious to learn more about the Medici family and Renaissance Italy. I felt like the book was a little hard to follow sometimes because it wasn't always written chronologically and often times seem to wander down rabbit holes that really didn't have much to do with the story. The Medici's were some of the most powerful people in Italy at the height of their influence and were interacting with most of the famous artists, writers a ...more
A nice overview of the family history, complete with the grand, the glorious, and the gross.
Brendan Mckenna
A fascinating book for readers of the Renaissance. The Medici family was monumental in the promotion and enablement of art and science during the Renaissance. Their influence was vast and many times complicated making the retelling of the story challenging. Hibbert presents facts and content within a smooth and interesting story. Although it is packed with information, I never felt like I was reading a textbook. I will be reading more Hibbert in the future.
Steven Gift
What can I say... The greatest family ever! Full of fools and ego but they changed the world. Great historical portrait.
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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
More about Christopher Hibbert...
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