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The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  5,016 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
At its height, Renaissance Florence was a center of enormous wealth, power, and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family's huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Flore ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 19th 1999 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1974)
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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
Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
Gossipy, broad overview of Italian history. Not much political analysis but a lot of description and colorful anecdotes. It's a good introduction. I'll look at more narrowly-focused histories to learn about areas that interested me.
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Zoe Radley
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really good introduction to understanding Florence and its long relationship (Love/hate/love/hate/love) with the Medici Dynasty. A real fascinating look into their life and how they gave Florence a name for art and culture and philosophy. I do feel that I need to read a bit more into this family. Cannot get enough of them.
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Kevin Vejrup
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eileen Iciek
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, spring, royalty
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
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
J.M. Briggs
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A great history of the Medici family that provides a lot of information, but isn't as dry as your usual history book. Hibbert does a great job of providing a lot information on the different family members, the events that they influenced as well as exploring their impact on the Renaissance. If you are interested in learning more about the Medici family then this is a good source to turn to. There are a lot of extra details provided about different people that most authors wouldn't usually explo ...more
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
Lots of facts and information but very little of it integral to understand the reasons for the families rise and fall.
Lorina Stephens
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Christopher Hibbert has written a comprehensive history of the Medici dynasty, painstakingly researched. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in this illustrious and often infamous family who influenced princes and kings, religious leaders, artists, scientists and political theorists. They were the patrons of the Illuminati of centuries, and left a legacy which remains to this day.

My only complaint is Hibbert's often ponderous prose, and the lack of a proofreader of his prodigious wor
Blake Charlton
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
solid, interesting history of a fascinating family
Misael Molina
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
As someone who read this knowing next to nothing of the Medici, and with no way of assessing the historical accuracy of this work, I find myself conflicted over what to think, as some qualities of the book work both for and against its favour. On the one hand, the author captures a lot of content in relatively few pages; on the other, too much stuff happens and it's hard to keep track of all the "characters" and what's happening.

I was torn between wanting more detail and less detail; overall I f
Tom Dailey
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Helen Wiant
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
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
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
So much for this book being a good bedside read while preparing to doze off.
I was amazed at the links between this past and our present, from development of handwriting to the banking system to the tendencies of ruling families to fall apart in later generations.
The writing was very good; such a welcome change from some of the stuff I've encountered recently.
It contains enough amazing, amusing anecdotes of incredible personalities and events to keep dryness at bay, and, although I constantly h
Glenn Robinson
Aug 24, 2014 rated it liked it
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
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure I would have read this book if I hadn't already been to Florence. But I am sure that I would not have enjoyed it as much as I did. Several reviewers are right in that the title is misleading. I don't really feel that this actually covers the rise and fall of the Medici, and certainly not the "how" of any of it. But, I did enjoy it as a reference point of things you will see while visiting Florence. Now that I have read the book, I would like to re-visit the city and take this book a ...more
Oct 27, 2015 rated it liked it
After having just returned from a visit to Florence, this book came alive for me in a way that it probably wouldn't have otherwise. In fact, I took at stab at reading it before my trip and I just didn't get hooked. It's a dry read, replete with historical details and facts. Each chapter pretty much covers a different member of the family. As a result, it feels like the author is giving a play by play of each Medici's activities and misses an opportunity to communicate an overarching narrative ab ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I made it through 200 pages in almost two months and now I'm just giving up tbh (which is something I almost never do). This was probably the most mindnumbingly boring book I've ever attempted to read. It read like a text book; actually, no, scratch that, I've read textbooks that were more fascinating than this. It takes a special kind of talent to make a tale about politics and murder and scandal so incredibly boring so ... good job I suppose. Just ... stay away from this book, read the wikiped ...more
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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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“I f you sound your trumpets, we will ring our bells.” 2 likes
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