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A History of Venice

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,443 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Traces the rise ot empire of this city from its 5th century beginnings all the way through until 1797 when Napolean put an end to the thousand year-old Republic. 32 pages of black and white photos, 4 maps and charts.
Paperback, 673 pages
Published June 18th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-natl-hist


I have always loved Venice, with an intense passion that I have never felt for any other place.
Venice is one of whose very few special cities where the soul of the receptive visitor can full immerse itself into the magic of almost two thousand years of Her proud and unique history, breath Her melancholic beauty and fall in love with Her special atmosphere; Venice is a special place, inviting introspective contemplation while aimlessly meandering, after dusk, in
A History of Venice, by John Julius Norwich, is an in-depth analysis of the history of the Republic of Venice from inception to its eclipse and demise. Venice came together around the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, as refugees from various Italian cities found themselves fleeing an onslaught of German and Hun invaders. As the Western Roman Empire crumbled, they found refuge amongst the lagoons of modern Venice, an ideal and strategic location that would serve the fledgling city we ...more
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-general
In this one of Professor Norwich's fairly early narratives, copywrited in 1982, he has written a very reader friendly look at the history of Venice, from its earliest beginnings as a place of refuge for people fleeing the collapse of the Western Roman Empire through to its ending at the hands of Napoleon. In telling the tale of Venice, the author focuses on the political/economic history of the City state that at one time boasted it ruled a quarter and a half of the Eastern Roman Empire.

In telli
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is another one of those books that I left on the shelf for an outrageous length of time, fearing that if I picked it up I might drop it and thus kill the cat. It's 673 pages long, including indices, and a close type at that. Once I finally ran out of new excuses for keeping it in my backlog, I basically inhaled the entire content in one, three-week-long draught. It just shows how expectations can confound. Norwich looks like the kind of work with which one beats off intruders, but it was, i ...more
Simon Jones
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If I could have super powers, I'd be able to read books as fast as Johnny Five from Short Circuit and write them as beautifully as John Julius Norwich. Loved every page of this sumptuous romp through a thousand years of history; effortlessly learning a great deal in the process. Venice is at the heart of a great many pivotal events of the Middle Ages and on the periphery of many more. To see the era from the Venetian perspective is to get a different take on it; one that is more hard nosed and p ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've not yet been to Venice and hope to remedy that situation this autumn. I read this work as background for the visit and found it surprisingly interesting and readable, not a bit dry or tedious. It's delightfully written and seems thorough without being pedantic. It focuses on political history without delving much into art or architecture, so it's best supplemented by other books in those areas to derive a full and rounded picture of Venice.

Over the years I've encountered frequent allusions
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
It's good, and it's thorough, but I found it a bit disappointing. However, I spent most of the book wondering why. Partly, I think, it is because there are very few personalities in the book. Norwich himself actually complains of this on two occasions—there's just very few places in Venetian history where you can say anything about the personality of someone.

However, I think the main problem is I was hoping for a history of the Venetian state, and the book is really a history of the city, though
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Disclaimer: This book took a long time to read. It is very dense, and covers the entire life of Venice, which is hundreds of years.

That said, this is one of the best history books I've ever read. Norwich's writing style - sometimes lyrical, sometimes conversational - lends itself well to such a large topic. He manages to cover the major points of Venice's history without going off on many tangents, yet he manages to give us little tidbits of information that you may not get in other history book
Czarny Pies
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History Buffs
Recommended to Czarny by: Lord Norwich is quite well known for his overall career as an historian.
Shelves: european-history
The reader will naturally have very high expectations on beginning Lord Norwich's History of Venice. At the time this book was published, John Julius Norwich had already established himself as an historian or the first rank with his two volume history of the Norman Kingdoms in southern Italy. The city of Venice was perhaps the greatest love of his live. For many years, he chaired the international Venice in Peril Fund which raises money to preserve the unique architecture of this city in a Lagoo ...more
Vilmos Kondor
Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I honestly cannot recall another book from my recent past that grabbed my interest by the throat (sorry for the image) and never let go of it. Mr. Norwich did a wonderful job with this uniquely European city. For me Venice represents everything that is good and noble and great in Europe. This city couldn't have been bigger. If you wanted to live there, you had to find your place in the community. Simple choice, it was. Mr. Norwich tells the story of this fabolous city in rich detail and with obv ...more
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If there's a more thorough and comprehensive history of Venice than this, then I would be the first to read it. However, I doubt there is. For an overview of Venice from its earliest settlement as a group of fishing communities to its fall as a grand republic and beyond, one couldn't do much better than read this work.
Al Maki
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A political history of Venice from its first settlement until the destruction of the Republic by Napoleon. Norwich is a fine writer and is able to make fourteen hundred years of 'and then ... and then' interesting. What I found particularly intriguing is Venice's survival as a republic for over a thousand years, a record for continuous self-government that has not been equalled anywhere to my knowledge - no revolutions, no conquests until Napoleon. How was this possible? Venetians were no more h ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you love Venice, you would love Norwich’s book. How I wish I had read it before I went there recently!

Venice is beautiful and unique, mostly because it has never been defeated until it surrendered to Napoleon. It is protected by the Lagoon which only the locals have knowledge to navigate; if you have travelled there from the airport by boat you would realise how treacherous the lagoon is.

Safe from greedy kings and princes, Venice developed the most democratic government. The Doge is not all
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una maravilla de la historia narrativa, se queda muy cerca de las obras de Runciman.
Bill Wallace
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An extended history like this one reads something like a biography, from brave youth through the prime years to decline and demise. The story of Venice is also a sort of mirror to the Europe of the corresponding eras, an ornate reflection of greater forces all around. Told with an occasional dry witticism and a deep love for the material, Norwich's description of Venice's past is rich and detailed. I was totally enthralled by this book but it covers so much time, so many complexities of politics ...more
I am relieved I finally finished this book. The main text is 639 pages of small print. Almost all of the history was new to me, so it took me a long time to digest the material, leading me to read it in small bites.

This is not sort of book I normally enjoy. The prose is excellent, but it is a very old-fashioned history text, full of treaties, battles, and successions of powerful men. Norwich emphasizes that Venice was a major economic power, but he does not put that in context. How much of Euro
John G
Jan 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Venice-bound history nerds
John Julius Norwich provides a wonderful overview of the rise, apex, and eventual stagnation of the most serene republic, from the ashes of the Western Roman Empire to Napoleon's unchallenged capture of the city. Norwich, best-known for his histories of Byzantium and Norman Sicily, expertly weaves regional and European history into the story. Fascinating and often hilarious details about the doges and various scoundrels provide a human touch to the saga. Best part was about how Venice acquired S ...more
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-italy
John Julius Norwich remains one of my favorite historians to read. Not quite as good as A Short History of Byzantium, but close.
Gumble's Yard
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
Excellent book on the history of Venice (but also covering much of the Byzantine Empire, the Papal State/Western Empire intrigues in Italy, Genoese republics, Norman Sicily and the rise of the Western and Balkan national states).

The rise of Venice is both implicitly and explicitly covered and appears due to a combination of geographical and social facts.

Geographically: the impregnability of the lagoon initially to barbarian ravages (which made it a multi-cultural refuge and led to its initial
Patrick Cook
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: venice, history
A solid and even beautifully written political history of the Venetian Republic. I have to admit that it took me a long time to finish. This was partly because of the vast number of names of Doges and other officials. But, in the end, I was more disappointed with what was left out that what was included. Norwich includes nothing about Venice after Napoleon and virtually no social or cultural history. Artistic and cultural figures are treated as peripheral actors at most. Yes, this is a history o ...more
leo i'm keeping this around, because norwich's prose is overall good, he's obviously got a lot of affection for his subject, and it's fine as a one-volume (if dates-and-names centric) overview of venice as a fully independent entity, but:

1. norwich in general tends to lean much more heavily on a combination of palace and military history than i prefer, and this isn't an exception. there's very little discussion of art history, of economics, or especially any kind of social or cultural histor
Edgar Lorenzo Matos
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
De entrada el libro me llamó mucho la atención, esperaba que por fin me aclarase detalles sobre la historia de la Serenísima. Incluso su tamaño me resultaba alentador, sonaba a que estarían todos los detalles y más allá.
Sin embargo, ha sido una experiencia algo agridulce. No pienso desmerecer el trabajo del autor, que es toda una hazaña, ni la forma en la que nos da la información, que es sumamente amena.
Pero lo que me ha resultado incómodo, es la forma anticuada (al más puro estilo historicist
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: european-history
The focus of the book is not what I had expected. It seemed to be very heavy in descriptions of wars.
As Venice is so beautiful, I had expected to read more about the parts of Venice that make it so unique. I did learn that Venice had a long history of being tolerant of others' ideas and religions, and that it was brought to its knees by Napoleon.
Maria Cerase
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A stunningly well written, passionate, accurate and entertaining account of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It wasn't light reading all the time but never would I have finished this book if it wasn't so well structured.
Kate Feline
Конец у истории грустный, но середина, которую читать совершенно невозможно, грустна не менее.
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it
I feel like this book deserves a review since I've spent almost a year reading it (interrupted by other books, of course). Why did I read it? I've never been to Venice, and it far from tops my list of places I want to go before I die. The easy answer is this: my best friend is a historian. He's gushed about this book forever. He left his copy at my house and demanded that I read it. The things one does for love.

It's an interesting book. The story of Venice is markedly different from that of oth
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Last summer I had the good fortune to live in Venice for a few months; while there, a friend gifted me a copy of John Julius Norwich’s A History of Venice. Sadly for me, I did not have the time to peruse its pages as I was busy cramming in as much touring as possible while taking classes at the Instituto Venezia’s Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti. This year, I finally had the chance to finish the book and I can safely say that it was a real treat. Norwich provides a thorough history of Venice that lea ...more
Charles Berteau
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
After Karen and I visited Venice over the summer, I grew interested in its history. This book covers its history from it's earliest founding until its fall into French hands in 1797. The Most Serene Republic of Venice had an amazing run: it existed as an entity - with a very secure, non-dynastic, political structure - from the late 7th century until Napoleon...more than 1100 years!

Venice is a beautiful city in a remarkable (and defensible) locale, but today it's hard to picture it at its height:
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is another prime example of why Lord Norwich is one of my favourite current popular historians, and though a smaller work, is just as much of an achievement as his monumental History of Byzantium. Even though his book runs to something a little less than a page for each year of the existence of Venice as an independent city state, he still manages to cover in detail the sometimes tortuous twists and turns of Venetian politics with clarity and skill - there is no confusion between the f ...more
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Norwich is the only child of the Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper and of Lady Diana Cooper, a celebrated beauty and society figure. Through his father, he is descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, Canada (as a wartime evacuee), at Eton College, and at the University of Strasbourg. He served in the Royal Navy
“The Patriarch Joseph, after agreeing with the Latins that their formula of the Holy Ghost proceeding FROM the Son meant the same as the Greek formula of the Holy Ghost proceeding THROUGH the Son, fell ill and died. An unkind scholar remarked that after muddling his prepositions what else could he decently do?' (Sir Steven Runciman, The Fall of Constantinople, pp. 17-18).” 6 likes
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