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The Borgias: The Hidden History

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,348 Ratings  ·  248 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 March 9th 2013)
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Bw Palm It was definitely boring in some parts. I still enjoyed it, however!!
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BAM The Bibliomaniac
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
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Snuggles  with Rainbows
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, read-2013
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Feb 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
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 murde
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
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
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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  ·  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
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lauren (galacticake)
I don't know about this one.

You expect murder, scandal, and sordid affairs, but Meyer basically bled all of those out of the narrative to present a 'truly historical' view of this infamous family. If Meyer is to be believed, even the Wikipedia article on Rodrigo Borgia is wrong-- Lucretia and Cesare Borgia are not his children, and he was really a decent Pope. I occasionally got tired of his attitude which veered into condescension to anyone who believed those "lurid Borgia tales". And frankly
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.
Interesting book and I learned a lot about the period but there was too much about other popes too little about the Borgias.
Erika Williams
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Charles Inglin
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little intimidating at first, due to the length, but the author writes with a very good, very readable style and it was very enjoyable. The Borgias, Rodrigo, who became Pope Alexander VI, Cesare and Lucrezia have become infamous for numerous alleged crimes, from nepotism to sexual perversity to murder and incest. The author examines the historical record and comes to a very different conclusion. The Borgia popes, Alonso, Rodrigo's uncle who became Pope Calixtus III, and Rodrigo, ...more
Harry Allagree
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Apr 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this book I knew basically nothing about the Borgia's other than their name was synonymous with bad things and people who poisoned other people. What Meyer does in this book is go back to original and contemporary materials and also looking at the popular myths and the plausibility of them as a means of reexamining everything we think we know about the Borgia's. The book focuses almost as much if not more on the Renaissance papacy and the history of feudal Italy in the mid 1400s t ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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