The Borgias: The Hidden History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Borgias: The Hidden History

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  361 ratings  ·  92 reviews
The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.
ebook, 512 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
If you're thinking this biography about the Borgias will be a titillating read, you might as well drop the book and go back to watching the Showtime series. If you want to read a fairly detailed history of this infamous family then this book is for you.

G.J. Meyer frequently states throughout his historical work that there is little to document the misdeeds that have so often been taken for fact about the Borgias. Though this is the opinion of the author he backs this up as much fact as can be pr...more
The most fascinating element of G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias: The Hidden History is not the Borgias themselves and their escapades. People everywhere know of the Borgia name and have heard at least one element of their notorious reputation. What is so fascinating is the fact that Mr. Meyer takes every commonly-held “fact” and belief about the first unofficial Mafia family and completely negates it all. His proof for his unique and solitary opinion is in the significant absence of any direct confirm...more
Not a fast read, to be sure. And not riveting, either. This book provides, not only a chronological history of the Borgias, but alternates with chapters providing historical background and other contextual information. But being more focused on the general chronology of the Borgias, with little in the way of discussion of what documentation is available for many of his conclusions, is what made this book a bit of a job to finish.

A distinct lack of any footnotes reduced the visual clutter, and th...more
Snuggles with Rainbows
Feb 25, 2013 Snuggles with Rainbows rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Nonfiction loves, true inspiration, people, monkeys
In the midst of all the hoopla of THE OSCARS, I was happily ensconced in Renaissance Italy. Meyer takes you on this wild ride into one of the most prestigious and infamous families. It was a bit unbelievable that one family could have such power and wield this level of influence over the Vatican and by extension the rest of Europe. Before I launch away into full gushing mode and this review gets unruly…let’s break it down into numerical order.

1. Don’t be scared of Non-fiction

I know, this book is...more
Gerry Germond
One of the things I appreciate about t.v. shows on historical subjects is the curiosity they inspire. So, when Showtime's The Borgias made its debut two years ago, I watched it and wanted to know about these guys. This book provides the answers and attempts to set the record straight. Author Meyer examines the original source material and evaluates it. He finds much of what was written about the Borgias was done so by their enemies and is likely false, but this book is not a whitewash job. Murde...more
May 23, 2013 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: European History Buffs
I actually really liked this book but it was soooooo dry. Considering the dynamics of pre-Renaissance Italy, the creative initiative poised to erupt, I found it, well, colorless. BUT it did strike me as a legitimate, fact based chronicle, siting specific eye witness accounts of the life and times of the Borgia Family. For example, did you know they are actually Spaniards who retained this cultural heritage throughout more than one hundred years that they habitated in Italy? There's lots and lots...more
☽ Moon ☯ 佛月球 Будда Луны
May 17, 2013 ☽ Moon ☯ 佛月球 Будда Луны rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☽ Moon ☯ by: Kindle Store New Releases
To delve into history is to be thrown into the obscurity of Time.

It is evident in G.J. Meyer′s meticulous reconstruction of the decrepit House of Borgia how different it would stand from the contemporary viewpoint as seen through an unbiased logical abstraction teeming with circumstantial evidence from the events that shaped their lives versus the infamous House it came to regard in history filled with suspicions of many crimes, including adultery, simony, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murde...more
After some three (maybe slightly less) weeks of reading I finally finished The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer. Not being a regular reader of history or even non-fiction (which I hope to change in the future) I can’t really compare it to anything else I’ve read, and what is a review but a comparison to previous works be they better or worse. So I’ll just try to express my thoughts about it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why did I pick up this book? The Showtime TV series made the Borgia...more
Despite a deep love for history, somehow I've managed to make it into my 40s without exploring the infamous Borgia clan. Perhaps the notorious debaucheries of the Caesars slaked my appetite for lurid tales of royal excess, but I had never had that much interest in the family that, according to legend, took the papacy into the uttermost depths of depravity during the Renaissance.

G.J. Meyer's take on the Borgias promised to be a fresh, sober analysis of the family and its actual conduct rather tha...more
Some impressions:

The book got a little hard to follow in Cesare's section, with a whole bunch of names and battles and dates being thrown around willy-nilly. I did highly enjoy the author's thinly-veiled Cesare/Machiavelli OTP though.

I wish he'd spent more time on Lucrezia. She arguably left just as much impression as her brother and father/uncle/patron, whatever he was, yet she got barely a mention or two in the book.

I did like that the author went to such great effort to support the assertions...more
Melisende d'Outremer
Rather well written account of history's most notorious Renaissance family. A lot more detail in the family background and the politics of the day (both papal and civil). A nice addition to anyone's Borgia collection.
As a history of renaissance Italy, this book is fantastic. It's detailed, interesting, and does an excellent job of explaining the complicated intricacies of Italian politics of the time (not an easy thing to do!). But as a history of the Borgia family, this book is not so great. Not because it's lacking in any detail or anything like that - I have no complaints in that regard- but because the author has an impossible agenda: to prove wrong everything bad everyone has ever said about the Borgia...more
Lolly's Library
Before going into the book, I was well aware of the stories about the Borgia family. I've been interested in their history for years and have always been an ardent Lucrezia defender, having decided early on that the stories of her being a murderer, a poisoner, the most dangerous woman in Italy were utterly false. However, I've never doubted any of the stories about the rest of her family; after all, they've been repeated, over and over ad nauseum, for centuries, ever since Pope Alexander VI took...more
The Borgias were a 15th Century family that emigrated from Spain to Italy and were active within the Papacy and Italian politics for three generations. Two Popes came from this family. A large number of family members married into the Italian ruling families. Their descendents can be found in most of the European royal bloodlines even today. In a rough and brutal period, they were quite successful.

Their success resulted in many enemies. After the decline of the family's fortunes, many stories we...more
The name Borgia is practically synonymous with everything bad. The family has been accused of several evil deeds, including murder, incest and orgies. Lucretia is supposedly famous for all sorts of nasty wrongs.

I felt rather sorry for G. J. Meyer because he set out to restore the reputation of the Borgias in this book, and it obviously involved a hell of a lot of research and reading to find the truth. It turns out that many of the allegations are a lot of rubbish. Pope Alexander VI, for example...more
Joan Adamak
A New Look at Old Myths

This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn more about how the office of the Pope commenced and continued through certain centuries. It contains the histories of Popes, their families, their weaknesses, their strengths and the horrific conditions that often ensued because of the less than spiritual nature of these men. But the purpose of this author is to erase or at least place in doubt the tales of the debauchery and ruthlessness of Rodrigo Borgia, who became...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harry Allagree
"Alexander [VI] was far from guiltless...but it is not even necessary to consider the historical context to find more in him to admire than to deplore. In context -- and especially in comparison with many of his predecessors and successors -- he can seem, in some ways, an almost heroic figure." (p. 416) I personally wouldn't go so far as to say he was a "heroic figure"; he was not saint, for sure...but equally for sure I believe he was no demon. It's rare that a book completely changes your way...more
3.5 stars, rounded up.

I really enjoyed this new biography of one of history's most famous families - so much so that it only took a day or so for me to read. The author has a clear and engaging writing style that makes it easy to read and connect to Alonso, Rodrigo, and Cesare and all the rest. It is obviously well-researched and definitely gave some food for thought.

I had three small quibbles about this book. Most important, I thought the author probably went a little too far in trying to exone...more
I've made a point of reading just about every Borgia book I can get my hands on. This has included some that were so old that some of the information presented should not be taken seriously under any circumstances. Since we are always gathering additional historical evidence, naturally I wanted to read Meyer's book as soon as I heard it was an updated history of the Borgias. Also, I was hoping to gather some information I could use for the Borgia novels I'm working on.

As a history book, it ranks...more
Meyer takes a fresh look at historical materials and comes out of it thinking that we got the Borgias mostly wrong, and that they are victims of some grade A historical revisionism, slander and perhaps some lazy scholarship.

They certainly lived in interesting times. With Meyer's research and re-reading, none of the children reported to be those of Pope Alexander are his, Cesar is definitely a man of the world and not of the cloth, but he leaves the church on pretty good terms, and Lucrecia wasn'...more
If you are into medieval history or the history of the Vatican this book is a must read. The author has provided a chronological recollection of the papal period of 1450-1550's not just an account of the Borgia's. This is a really well researched book that looks at all the evidence for and against the supposed actions of this notorious family - and of all of the Popes of that period. This account leaves you questioning much of what we know from popular fiction and many history books in relation...more
Pretty dense history, what with the constant Italian-French-Spanish wars and plotting and skullduggery and whatnot. Not as lurid as the current tv series, because Meyer did research to find actual, you know, facts. The Borgias weren't saints by any means, but it seems that they weren't much worse than anyone else during that time. Nepotism, whee! Not to mention the number of churchmen whose vows of celibacy were rather, um, flexible. You could probably populate an entire country with descendants...more
Wow! This was fascinating and fun. If you know anything about the Borgias, you probably think they were bad boys and naughty girls, right? I sure did, at least until I learned a lot more about them. And still G.J. Meyer surprised me with a new reappraisal of the Borgia family and their place in history. It seems that, while acknowledging their ruthless approach to the acquisition of wealth and power, Meyer says there is no real documentary evidence of Borgia complicity in many of the crimes attr...more
Larry Bartal
Not a Big Fan of This Book

I'm not a big fan of the author's rendition of the saga of the Borgiia family's rise and fall in Renaissance Italy. He seemed to be one-sided in his treatment of this thuggish family, depicting the members, one and all, as true examples of the best of the Renaissance, while at the very same time depicting all their contemporary antagonist as brutish, insane, or incompetent no counts. Case in point (and there are many throughout this book --to be sure) -- Caterina Sforza...more
M.L. Brennan
So much useful background on 15th century Italy! Massively researched, excellent stuff.
This review originally appeared on my blog,

I fully admit that I might have liked THE BORGIAS more if I had been in the proper mood to read it. However, I must also say that it wasn’t the book I was expecting. From the summary and title, I expected a book on the Borgia family. But THE BORGIAS is not just a book about the Borgia family: it’s a book about the history of Rome and Italy, the papal system, and a lot of other information.

Now, as a reader with a history background, I nor...more
I will have to admit that I am not as familiar with Renaissance and Italian history as I am with American and English history although that was part of the reason I enjoyed reading this book so much. I was able to learn a lot because Meyer not only focuses on the history regarding the Borgias but also mentions other important events happening by giving little sections of background after each chapter. The book begins with the election of Alonso de Borgia as pope beginning a new path for the Borg...more
In the introduction to G.J. Meyer's "The Borgias: The Hidden History" he goes to great pains to describe how the family has been maligned throughout history unfairly. And he tries to set himself up as the lone historian to set the record straight. As I had read Christopher Hibbert's 2009 book "The Borgias", which was quite good and balanced, I found this stance to be utter hubris. Not a good start. And it did not get much better. Meyer seems to fall into the same trap he accuses previous histori...more
It’s always nice to read a history book that covers a place and time with which I’m almost completely unfamiliar. That the place and time was a non-stop series of interesting events made this an exciting read indeed.

This could either have been titled “The Borgias” as it was, or “History of the Papacy in the 15th Century”. The papacy isn’t an obviously enthralling topic but at this time the pope was more like a head of state, commanding an army and controlling vast swathes of Italy (Papal Lands)....more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times
  • The Tigress of Forlì: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici
  • Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married
  • Tudor: The Family Story
  • The Children of Henry VIII
  • Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood
  • The Borgias and Their Enemies: 1431-1519
  • The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin
  • Bolivar: American Liberator
  • Blood Sisters:  The Women Behind The War Of The Roses
  • The Forbidden Queen
  • Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope
  • Murder of a Medici Princess
  • Venice: A New History
  • The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily
  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England
  • Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery
  • The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, The True Story
G. J. Meyer is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow with an M.A. in English literature from the University of Minnesota, a onetime journalist, and holder of Harvard University’s Neiman Fellowship in Journalism. He has taught at colleges and universities in Des Moines, St. Louis, and New York. His books include A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, Executive Blues, and The Memphis Murders, winner o...more
More about G.J. Meyer...
The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America The Memphis Murders

Share This Book