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The Borgias: The Hidden History

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,905 ratings  ·  310 reviews
Forget everything you think you know about the most infamous family of the Italian Renaissance-here in every colorful detail is the real story of the Borgias and their indelible, tumultuous world, written by the gifted author of the acclaimed A World Undone and The Tudors and timed to coincide with the upcoming new season of the celebrated Showtime series, The Borgias.

Hardcover, 478 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Bantam (first published March 9th 2013)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  1,905 ratings  ·  310 reviews

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I become depressed when I don’t finish a book. I wonder what’s wrong with me. Is it me or is it the book? I don’t like criticizing books, and I want to be fair. The only way I can think of being fair is by explaining what happened as I read this book. At the start I was pleased, happy, viewed the book positively. As I reached the 40 percent mark, I was no longer happy. I wasn’t learning a thing anymore. My head was a blur, and nothing was sticking. I was wasting my time. I decided to quit.

The b
David Eppenstein
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nothing satisfies a hunger for intrigue, sexual excess, violence, and outright craziness than a dose of Church history and especially its history during the Renaissance. This book, while certainly sating my hunger, also delivered an unexpected surprise. The surprise? The Borgias were nothing like we were lead to believe by popular history and drama. What this book leads me to believe is that this author deals with his subject in a way never before attempted. He searched for proof of the facts an ...more
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
BAM Endlessly Booked
This author is the most vainglorious man I've yet run across! He runs across ONE historian, not even contemporary, and runs with whatever cockamamie theory he may support. It was absolutely ridiculous. I was close to suffering palpitations listening to this ludicrous mess of stuff. How could he possibly find his suppositions supportable? I'm stupefied. I returned this purchase.

2017 Lenten nonfiction Buddy Reading Challenge book #35
Jo Walton
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, whereas Meyer elides evidence (such as the dates of Vanozza's marriages, and the comment by the King of Naples that he didn't want to give his daughter to the Pope's son who was a cardinal) that didn't fit his argument that her children were not Rodrigo's children. I'm therefore unconvinced by his main thesis.

However, the background chapters in this book are brilliant and absolutely worth reading -- the best accounts of the papal conclaves before
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
Mary Ann
I am far from ignorant about Italian political and cultural history, but I confess to accepting the 500 years of assumptions characterizing the Borgias as the epitome of every conceivable evil. (And I admit to thoroughly enjoying the historically inaccurate Showtime series starring Jeremy Irons.) G. J. Meyer turns this popular history on its head by examining the historical evidence with painstaking and mind-boggling research of sources. He provides insight, not only into the individuals themsel ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Anyone who knows me personally, or at least via my reviews over the past few years, knows that I have an especially large soft spot for the Italian Renaissance. I’ve been drawn to the period ever since I started actively reading about history for pleasure, instead of just as part of the school curriculum, and the interest has remained even when my interest in other parts of history, like, say, ancient Egypt, waxed and waned according to various events in my life and shifts in personal interest. ...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
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
It's a good thing that this book was on my tablet, because I wanted it dead. I would listen to it and mutter..."I can not wait to tell people how much I hate you..."

I gave it two stars instead of the one it got in my head because there is some good historical information. And my hate/rage for this book shouldn't dissuade you from reading it if that's what you want to do. I wouldn't do it again, but I'm not you, I don't know your life.

Meyer's big WIN in this book is that he asserts that Lucrezia
This book has a completely different take on the Borgia family. Instead of agreeing with the accepted facts of this well known family, the author has dug a little deeper and come up with some believable theories. While even he admits that there will never be any way to prove his version or the universally believed version with definitiveness, he lays out his arguments in a very illuminating fashion.
While it has never been a surprise that many of the stories about the Borgia family were circulat
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, read-2013
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Moon Rose
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Moon Rose 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 murd
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
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
Snuggles  with Rainbows
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
All we ever seem to hear about the Borgia family are the perpetuated untruths established years ago. After reading a work of historical fiction (which portrays this family in typical notorious fashion), it was refreshing to read G.J. Meyer's work: The Borgias, which seeks to peel back the fiction and give the reader a more balanced perspective on this family.

Meyer begins by explaining the origins of the Borgia family's Spanish roots and how they led to the Vatican. Chapter by chapter, Meyer deft
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Bryan Alkire
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Refreshing look at a notorious family. The title is loaded with irony as the hidden history of this family is that they were far more normal than the monsters that they’ve been portrayed. The author sets out to understand what the sources said about the Borgias in their lifetimes and really, they don’t seem particularly monstrous. Scheming yes, harsh yes, conniving yes, sexual monsters no. In many ways, this biography repairs the life of Rodrigo and Lucrezia. Cesare is pretty much non-repairable ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 21st-century, 3-stars
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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, history
"Borgia Pope" is synonymous with every sin and corruption imaginable. The lurid stories have echoed through history of orgies in the Vatican, incest, fratricide, assassination by poison and strangulation, and of course nepotism, financial fraud, and ordinary war crimes. In The Borgias: The Hidden History G.J. Meyer does the most surprising thing, and offers a revisionist history of the Borgias that argues that Pope Alexander was an active church reformer, Cesare his nephew one of the great men o ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scholars and lovers of history
Clearly this week was a fine time to be reading and finishing a book about Popes and the underpinnings of Papal Renaissance history. As the events progressed to the election on the second ballot of Francis I on my television, I held in my hand a superb historical version of many of the same events and was able to learn much more about the history of the Papacy, other popes and the murky underside of at least that political scene vis-a vis politics of Rome.

Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexan
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2013 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: first-reads
I started the uncorrected proof I won in a goodreads giveaway in April and have had is classified as "currently reading" for the past eight months. It is time to admit I won't ever finish it. I did read about 1/3 thinking that any time now it would kick in for me, but that did not happen. I'm not sure if it is too academic or if G. J. Meyer just picked a topic that was too big for the general reader like myself. Meyer seems to have set out to prove that the Borgias were not quite as bad as portr ...more
H. P. Reed
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was not as good as I'd hoped. Someone else might truly love it but there was too much speculation for me. To be fair, some, but not much, of the book was devoted to offering theories about Alexander VI's papacy and family that absolved him of the scurrilous behavior usually ascribed to him. It was a worthy effort and fairly convincing. But in placing this pope, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, in his time and in the political world of the Italian states and the Vatican G.J. Meyer repeats ...more
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. ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting book and I learned a lot about the period but there was too much about other popes too little about the Borgias.
I quite enjoyed this book. I do not necessarily agree with this author on the Borgia reputation. However a very enjoyable and well paced read.
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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

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“Don Pedro Luis de Borja-Pierluigi Borgia to the Italians—was still in his mid-twenties when he became the first member of his family to be the most hated man in Rome. He did so not by behaving badly in any way of which a credible record has survived, but by carrying out an assignment that made him the enemy of some of the most badly behaved Romans of his time.” 0 likes
“He was rather statedly conservative in his religious beliefs-entirely comfortable with established dogma and no friend of theological or philosophical innovation-but he showed marked tolerance in dealing with those whose views were not as orthodox as his own, on one occasion making the lame joke that “the Lord requires not the death of the sinner, but rather that he pay and live.” Late in his career, when the Jews were being expelled from Spain, Rodrigo would annoy Ferdinand and Isabella by making the refugees welcome in Rome.” 0 likes
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