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Apologetic Writings
Girolamo Savonarola
Harvard University Press, 2015

First brought to Florence by Lorenzo de’ Medici as a celebrity preacher, Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), a Dominican friar, would ultimately play a major role in the events that convulsed the city in the 1490s and led to the overthrow of the Medici themselves. After a period when he held close to absolute power in the great Renaissance republic, Savonarola was excommunicated by the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, in 1497 and, after a further year of struggle, was hanged and burned in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria in 1498.

The Latin writings brought together in this volume consist of various letters, a formal apologia, and his Dialogue on the Truth of Prophecy, all written in the last year of his life. They defend his prophetic mission and work of reform in Florence while providing a fascinating window onto the mind of a religious fanatic. All these works are here translated into English for the first time.


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The Art of the Network
Strategic Interaction and Patronage in Renaissance Florence
Paul D. McLean
Duke University Press, 2007
Writing letters to powerful people to win their favor and garner rewards such as political office, tax relief, and recommendations was an institution in Renaissance Florence; the practice was an important tool for those seeking social mobility, security, and recognition by others. In this detailed study of political and social patronage in fifteenth-century Florence, Paul D. McLean shows that patronage was much more than a pursuit of specific rewards. It was also a pursuit of relationships and of a self defined in relation to others. To become independent in Renaissance Florence, one first had to become connected. With The Art of the Network, McLean fills a gap in sociological scholarship by tracing the historical antecedents of networking and examining the concept of self that accompanies it. His analysis of patronage opens into a critique of contemporary theories about social networks and social capital, and an exploration of the sociological meaning of “culture.”

McLean scrutinized thousands of letters to and from Renaissance Florentines. He describes the social protocols the letters reveal, paying particular attention to the means by which Florentines crafted credible presentations of themselves. The letters, McLean contends, testify to the development not only of new forms of self-presentation but also of a new kind of self to be presented: an emergent, “modern” conception of self as an autonomous agent. They also bring to the fore the importance that their writers attached to concepts of honor, and the ways that they perceived themselves in relation to the Florentine state.


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Avant-Garde Florence
From Modernism to Fascism
Walter Adamson
Harvard University Press, 1993

They envisioned a brave new world, and what they got was fascism. As vibrant as its counterparts in Paris, Munich, and Milan, the avant-garde of Florence rose on a wave of artistic, political, and social idealism that swept the world with the arrival of the twentieth century. How the movement flourished in its first heady years, only to flounder in the bloody wake of World War I, is a fascinating story, told here for the first time. It is the history of a whole generation’s extraordinary promise—and equally extraordinary failure.

The “decadentism” of D’Annunzio, the philosophical ideals of Croce and Gentile, the politics of Italian socialism: all these strains flowed together to buoy the emerging avant-garde in Florence. Walter Adamson shows us the young artists and writers caught up in the intellectual ferment of their time, among them the poet Giovanni Papini, the painter Ardengo Soffici, and the cultural critic Giuseppe Prezzolini. He depicts a generation rejecting provincialism, seeking spiritual freedom in Paris, and ultimately blending the modernist style found there with their own sense of toscanità or “being Tuscan.”

In their journals—Leonardo, La Voce, Lacerba, and L’Italia futurista—and in their cafe life at the Giubbe Rosse, we see the avant-garde of Florence as citizens of an intellectual world peopled by the likes of Picasso, Bergson, Sorel, Unamuno, Pareto, Weininger, and William James. We witness their mounting commitment to the ideals of regenerative violence and watch their existence become increasingly frenzied as war approaches. Finally, Adamson shows us the ultimate betrayal of the movement’s aspirations as its cultural politics help catapult Italy into war and prepare the way for Mussolini’s rise to power.


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Botticelli Blue Skies
An American in Florence
Merrill Joan Gerber
University of Wisconsin Press, 2002

When writer Merrill Joan Gerber is invited to join her husband, a history professor, as he takes a class of American college students to study in Florence, Italy, she feels terrified at the idea of leaving her comforts, her friends, and her aged mother in California. Her husband tries to assure her that her fear of Italy—and her lack of knowledge of the Italian language—will be offset by the discoveries of travel. "I can’t tell you exactly what will happen, but something will. And it will all be new and interesting." Botticelli Blue Skies is the tale of a woman who readily admits to fear of travel, a fear that many experience but are embarrassed to admit. When finally she plunges into the new adventure, she describes her experiences in Florence with wit, humor, and energy.
Instead of sticking to the conventional tourist path, Gerber follows her instincts. She makes discoveries without tour guides droning in her ear and reclaims the travel experience as her own, taking time to shop in a thrift shop, eat in a Chinese restaurant that serves "Dragon chips," make friends with her landlady who turns out to be a Countess, and visit the class of a professor at the university. She discovers a Florence that is not all museums and wine. With newfound patience and growing confidence, Gerber makes her way around Florence, Venice, and  Rome. She visits famous places and discovers obscure ones—in the end embracing all that is Italian. Botticelli Blue Skies (accompanied by the author’s own photographs) is an honest, lyrical, touching account of the sometimes exhausting, often threatening, but always enriching physical and emotional challenge that is travel.


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The Development of Florentine Humanist Historiography in the Fifteenth Century
Donald J. Wilcox
Harvard University Press, 1969

Presenting a new interpretation of humanist historiography, Donald J. Wilcox traces the development of the art of historical writing among Florentine humanists in the fifteenth century. He focuses on the three chancellor historians of that century who wrote histories of Florence—Leonardo Bruni, Poggio Bracciolini, and Bartolommeo della Scala—and proposes that these men, especially Bruni, had a new concept of historical reality and introduced a new style of writing to history. But, he declares, their great contributions to the development of historiography have not been recognized because scholars have adhered to their own historical ideals in judging the humanists rather than assessing them in the context of their own century.

Mr. Wilcox introduces his study with a brief description of the historians and historical writing in Renaissance Florence. He then outlines the development of the scholarly treatment of humanist historiography and establishes the need for a more balanced interpretation. He suggests that both Hans Baron’s conception of civic humanism and Paul Oscar Kristeller’s emphasis on the rhetorical character of humanism were important developments in the general intellectual history of the Renaissance and, more specifically, that they provided a new perspective on the entire question of humanist historiography.

The heart of the book is a close textual analysis of the works of each of the three historians. The author approaches their texts in terms of their own concerns and questions, examining three basic elements of their art. The first is the nature of the reality the historian is recounting. Mr. Wilcox asks, “What interests the writer? What is the substance of his narrative?… What does he choose from his sources…and what does he ignore? What does he interpolate into the account by drawing on his own understanding of the nature of history?” The second is the various attitudes—moral judgments, historical conceptions, analytical views—with which the historian approaches his narrative. And the third is the aspect of humanist historiography to which previous scholars have paid the least attention: the historian’s narrative technique. Mr. Wilcox identifies the difficulties involved in expressing historical ideas in narrative form and describes the means the historians developed for overcoming those difficulties. He emphasizes the positive value of rhetoric in their works and points out that they “sought by eloquence to teach men virtue.”

He devotes three chapters to Bruni, whom he considers the most original and important of the three historians. The next two chapters deal with Poggio, and the last with Scala. Throughout the book Mr. Wilcox exposes the internal connections among the three histories, thus illustrating the basic coherence of the humanist historical art.


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Echoes of Women's Voices
Music, Art, and Female Patronage in Early Modern Florence
Kelley Harness
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Aristocratic women exerted unprecedented political and social influence in Florence throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. During this period, female members of the powerful Medici family governed the city for the first and only time in its history. These women also helped shape the city's artistic life, commissioning works of music, art, and theater that were inscribed with their own concerns and aspirations. Echoes of Women's Voices examines the patronage of individuals and institutions, particularly convents, which have remained, until now, largely neglected by scholars.

Through commissions, patrons sought to promote a vision of the world and their place in it. The unique social norms, laws, educational backgrounds, and life experiences of female patrons meant the expression of a worldview that differed significantly from that of their male counterparts. Joining exceptional archival research with telling analysis of significant examples of music, art, and drama, Kelley Harness challenges the prevailing view that Florence saw a political and artistic decline during this period. She argues convincingly that the female domination of these years brought forth artistic patronage that was both continuous and well-conceived.

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Essays and Dialogues
Bartolomeo ScalaTranslated by Renée Neu WatkinsIntroduction by Alison Brown
Harvard University Press, 2008

From humble beginnings, Bartolomeo Scala (1430–1497) trained in the law and rose to prominence as a leading citizen of Florence, serving as secretary and treasurer to the Medicis and chancellor of the Guelf party before becoming first chancellor of Florence, a post he held for fifteen years. His palace in Borgo Pinti, modeled on classical designs, was emblematic of his achievements as a humanist as well as a public official. Along with his professional writings as chancellor, Scala’s personal treatises, fables, and dialogues—widely read and admired by his contemporaries—were deeply indebted to classical sources. This volume collects works from throughout his career that show his acquaintance with recently rediscovered ancient writers, whose works he had access to through the Medici libraries, and the influence of fellow humanists such as Marsilio Ficino, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II), and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Perhaps the most significant is the Defense against the Detractors of Florence, a key document in the development of modern republicanism.

This volume presents fresh translations by Renée Neu Watkins of five of the texts based on Latin editions by Alison Brown, who also contributes an introduction to Scala’s life and works.


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Flood in Florence, 1966
A Fifty-Year Retrospective
Paul Conway and Martha O’Hara Conway
Michigan Publishing Services, 2018
On November 4, 1966, the Arno River in Florence, Italy, flooded its banks, breaching the basements and first floors of museums, libraries, and private residences and burying centuries of books, manuscripts, and works of art in muck and muddy water. Flood in Florence, 1966documents a symposium held to mark the 50th anniversary of a natural disaster that served as an impetus for the modern library and museum conservation professions. The proceedings feature illustrated, first-person remembrances of the flood; papers on book conservation, the conservation of works of art, disaster preparedness and response, and the continuing needs for education and training; and a keynote that points toward a future where original artifacts and digital technologies intersect. Providing new insights on a touchstone event by three generations of preservation and conservation professionals, the proceedings deepen our understanding of major advances in conservation practice and shed light on some of the most important lessons from those advances for future generations and the digital age.

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A Portrait
Michael Levey
Harvard University Press, 1996
Nestled in the Apennines, cradle of the Renaissance, home of Dante, Michelangelo, and the Medici, Florence is unlike any other city in its extraordinary mingling of great art and literature, natural splendor, and remarkable history. Intimate and grand, learned and engaging, Michael Levey's Florence renders the city in all of its madness and magnificence.

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Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, 1527-1800
A History of Florence and the Florentines in the Age of the Grand Dukes
Eric Cochrane
University of Chicago Press, 1976
The city of Florence has long been admired as the home of the brilliant artistic and literary achievement of the early Renaissance. But most histories of Florence go no further than the first decades of the sixteenth century. They thus give the impression that Florentine culture suddenly died with the generation of Leonardo, Machiavelli, and Andrea del Sarto.

Eric Cochrane shows that the Florentines maintained their creativity long after they had lost their position as the cultural leaders of Europe. When their political philosophy and historiography ran dry, they turned to the practical problems of civil administration. When their artists finally yielded to outside influence, they turned to music and the natural sciences. Even during the darkest days of the great economic depression of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, they succeeded in preserving—almost alone in Europe—the blessings of external peace and domestic tranquility.

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Florentine Essays
Selected Writings of Marvin B. Becker
Marvin B. Becker
University of Michigan Press, 2002
James Banker and Carol Lansing have shaped a collection of the works of Marvin B. Becker, a respected scholar in Florentine and Renaissance history. Becker began his work in 1953 when he arrived in Florence as a Fulbright Scholar, only eight years after the end of World War II. Italy was still struggling with the turbulent wake of the war's end. In those chaotic circumstances, Becker commenced his study of the tumultuous past of Florentine society, producing a rich amount of scholarly work to enhance the field.
In the capital of humanism, he initiated what was to be a lifelong examination of the Western civil tradition. In Florence he could study the interplay of ideas and action in what he was to call the "public world." The rise of this world out of the private, feudal and corporate structures of the medieval commune, its functioning and its eventual subversion by the authoritarian structures of the early modern state were, he thought, valuable information for modern political cultures. In the 1950s and 1960s, Becker produced approximately twenty papers dealing with a wide variety of themes and issues raised by the work of other scholars such as Davidson, Salvemini, Ottokar, Panella, Rodolico, Barbadoro, Baron, and others. He also introduced his own formulations on a range of subjects including the political role of Florence's minor guilds, usury, taxation, public debt, popular heresy, church-state relations, the city's chroniclers, the influence of "new men" upon Florentine government and changing mentalities.
These papers, in their originality, their richness of documentation and their suggestiveness, are still relevant for current scholarship. The editors of this volume have chosen the papers for the convenience of readers who may know Becker only through his books, or from the myriad of footnotes of other scholars who have drawn so much from his work. This volume will be of interest to scholars, students, and others interested in Renaissance history, whether it be social or political.
Marvin B. Becker is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, University of Michigan. James Banker is Professor of History, North Carolina State University. Carol Lansing is Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Florentine Painting and Its Social Background
The Bourgeois Republic before Cosimo de’ Medici’s Advent to Power, XIV and Early XV Centuries
Frederic Antal
Harvard University Press, 1986
An eminent art historian gives us here a full account of the history of Florentine art in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries as well as a stimulating exploration of questions about the social content of art. Frederick Antal sketches a portrait of Florence in this richly productive period—the economic and social conditions as well as religious tenets and intellectual controversies. He traces the course of painting and sculpture from Giotto to Brunelleschi and Masaccio, and shows how major stylistic developments are related to changing economic and social structures. His analysis is fully illustrated by 210 halftones.

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Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court
Music and the Circulation of Power
Suzanne G. Cusick
University of Chicago Press, 2009
A contemporary of Shakespeare and Monteverdi, and a colleague of Galileo and Artemisia Gentileschi at the Medici court, Francesca Caccini was a dominant musical figure there for thirty years. Dazzling listeners with the transformative power of her performances and the sparkling wit of the music she composed for more than a dozen court theatricals, Caccini is best remembered today as the first woman to have composed opera. Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court reveals for the first time how this multitalented composer established a fully professional musical career at a time when virtually no other women were able to achieve comparable success.

Suzanne G. Cusick argues that Caccini’s career depended on the usefulness of her talents to the political agenda of Grand Duchess Christine de Lorraine, Tuscany’s de facto regent from 1606 to 1636. Drawing on Classical and feminist theory, Cusick shows how the music Caccini made for the Medici court sustained the culture that enabled Christine’s power, thereby also supporting the sexual and political aims of its women.

In bringing Caccini’s surprising story so vividly to life, Cusick ultimately illuminates how music making functioned in early modern Italy as a significant medium for the circulation of power.


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Friendship, Love, and Trust in Renaissance Florence
Dale Kent
Harvard University Press, 2009

The question of whether true friendship could exist in an era of patronage occupied Renaissance Florentines as it had the ancient Greeks and Romans whose culture they admired and emulated. Rather than attempting to measure Renaissance friendship against a universal ideal defined by essentially modern notions of disinterestedness, intimacy, and sincerity, in this book Dale Kent explores the meaning of love and friendship as they were represented in the fifteenth century, particularly the relationship between heavenly and human friendship.

She documents the elements of shared experience in friendships between Florentines of various occupations and ranks, observing how these were shaped and played out in the physical spaces of the city: the streets, street corners, outdoor benches and loggias, family palaces, churches, confraternal meeting places, workshops of artisans and artists, taverns, dinner tables, and the baptismal font.

Finally, Kent examines the betrayal of trust, focusing on friends at moments of crisis or trial in which friendships were tested, and failed or endured. The exile of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1433 and his recall in 1434, the attempt in 1466 of the Medici family’s closest friends to take over their patronage network, and the Pazzi conspiracy to assassinate Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici in 1478 expose the complexity and ambivalence of Florentine friendship, a combination of patronage with mutual intellectual passion and love—erotic, platonic, and Christian—sublimely expressed in the poetry and art of Michelangelo.


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The Fruit of Liberty
Political Culture in the Florentine Renaissance, 1480-1550
Nicholas Scott Baker
Harvard University Press, 2013

In the middle decades of the sixteenth century, the republican city-state of Florence--birthplace of the Renaissance--failed. In its place the Medici family created a principality, becoming first dukes of Florence and then grand dukes of Tuscany. The Fruit of Liberty examines how this transition occurred from the perspective of the Florentine patricians who had dominated and controlled the republic. The book analyzes the long, slow social and cultural transformations that predated, accompanied, and facilitated the institutional shift from republic to principality, from citizen to subject.

More than a chronological narrative, this analysis covers a wide range of contributing factors to this transition, from attitudes toward office holding, clothing, and the patronage of artists and architects to notions of self, family, and gender. Using a wide variety of sources including private letters, diaries, and art works, Nicholas Baker explores how the language, images, and values of the republic were reconceptualized to aid the shift from citizen to subject. He argues that the creation of Medici principality did not occur by a radical break with the past but with the adoption and adaptation of the political culture of Renaissance republicanism.


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A Great and Wretched City
Promise and Failure in Machiavelli’s Florentine Political Thought
Mark Jurdjevic
Harvard University Press, 2014

Like many inhabitants of booming metropolises, Machiavelli alternated between love and hate for his native city. He often wrote scathing remarks about Florentine political myopia, corruption, and servitude, but also wrote about Florence with pride, patriotism, and confident hope of better times. Despite the alternating tones of sarcasm and despair he used to describe Florentine affairs, Machiavelli provided a stubbornly persistent sense that his city had all the materials and potential necessary for a wholesale, triumphant, and epochal political renewal. As he memorably put it, Florence was "truly a great and wretched city."

Mark Jurdjevic focuses on the Florentine dimension of Machiavelli's political thought, revealing new aspects of his republican convictions. Through The Prince, Discourses, correspondence, and, most substantially, Florentine Histories, Jurdjevic examines Machiavelli's political career and relationships to the republic and the Medici. He shows that significant and as yet unrecognized aspects of Machiavelli's political thought were distinctly Florentine in inspiration, content, and purpose. From a new perspective and armed with new arguments, A Great and Wretched City reengages the venerable debate about Machiavelli's relationship to Renaissance republicanism. Dispelling the myth that Florentine politics offered Machiavelli only negative lessons, Jurdjevic argues that his contempt for the city's shortcomings was a direct function of his considerable estimation of its unrealized political potential.


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History of the Florentine People
Leonardo BruniEdited and translated by James Hankinswith D. J. W. Bradley
Harvard University Press, 2001

Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), the leading civic humanist of the Italian Renaissance, served as apostolic secretary to four popes (1405-1414) and chancellor of Florence (1427-1444). He was famous in his day as a translator, orator, and historian, and was the best-selling author of the fifteenth century. Bruni's History of the Florentine People in twelve books is generally considered the first modern work of history, and was widely imitated by humanist historians for two centuries after its official publication by the Florentine Signoria in 1442.

This third volume concludes the edition, the first to make the work available in English translation. It includes Bruni's Memoirs, an autobiographical account of the events of his lifetime, and cumulative indexes to the complete History.


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History of the Florentine People
Leonardo BruniEdited and translated by James Hankins
Harvard University Press, 2001
Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), the leading civic humanist of the Italian Renaissance, served as apostolic secretary to four popes (1405-1414) and chancellor of Florence (1427-1444). He was famous in his day as a translator, orator, and historian, and was the best-selling author of the fifteenth century. Bruni's History of the Florentine People in twelve books is generally considered the first modern work of history, and was widely imitated by humanist historians for two centuries after its official publication by the Florentine Signoria in 1442. This edition makes it available for the first time in English translation.

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History of the Florentine People
Leonardo BruniEdited and translated by James Hankins
Harvard University Press, 2001
Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), the leading civic humanist of the Italian Renaissance, served as apostolic secretary to four popes (1405-1414) and chancellor of Florence (1427-1444). He was famous in his day as a translator, orator, and historian, and was the best-selling author of the fifteenth century. Bruni's History of the Florentine People in twelve books is generally considered the first modern work of history, and was widely imitated by humanist historians for two centuries after its official publication by the Florentine Signoria in 1442. This edition makes it available for the first time in English translation.

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Knots, or the Violence of Desire in Renaissance Florence
Emanuele Lugli
University of Chicago Press, 2023
An interdisciplinary study of hair through the art, philosophy, and science of fifteenth-century Florence.

In this innovative cultural history, hair is the portal through which Emanuele Lugli accesses the cultural production of Lorenzo il Magnifico’s Florence. Lugli reflects on the ways writers, doctors, and artists expressed religious prejudices, health beliefs, and gender and class subjugation through alluring works of art, in medical and political writings, and in poetry. He considers what may have compelled Sandro Botticelli, the young Leonardo da Vinci, and dozens of their contemporaries to obsess over braids, knots, and hairdos by examining their engagement with scientific, philosophical, and theological practices.
By studying hundreds of fifteenth-century documents that engage with hair, Lugli foregrounds hair’s association to death and gathers insights about human life at a time when Renaissance thinkers redefined what it meant to be human and to be alive. Lugli uncovers overlooked perceptions of hair when it came to be identified as a potential vector for liberating culture, and he corrects a centuries-old prejudice that sees hair as a trivial subject, relegated to passing fashion or the decorative. He shows hair, instead, to be at the heart of Florentine culture, whose inherent violence Lugli reveals by prompting questions about the entanglement of politics and desire.

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The Letters of Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
University of Chicago Press, 1988
This collection of the most brilliant and characteristic letters of Niccolò Machiavelli displays the vital and penetrating mind of the man who wrote the first work of modern political science. These letters, which reveal Machiavelli's critical intelligence, sense of humor, and elegant sense, are our chief source of information about his personal life. As such, they will serve as a vivid introduction to the personalities and events of the most turbulent period of the Renaissance, and they will also enlighten people who have been fascinated by the political thinker who wrote The Prince and The Discourses on Livy.

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Letters to Francesco Datini
Margherita Datini
Iter Press, 2012
The letters of Margherita Datini to her husband, “the merchant of Prato,” are virtually impossible to put down. Margherita is never obsequious, and never holds her tongue as she chastises Francesco for staying up too late, asks about a case before the Eight of Florence, beseeches him to help friends in prison, worries over financial transactions, and updates him on his business, the harvests, and his illegitimate child (whom she cares for) when he is away. Rich in emotional life and historical particulars, the letters are a unique window into late medieval Tuscany and women’s “work.” Thanks to Carolyn James and Antonio Pagliaro for their illuminating introduction and equally luminous translation.
—Jane Tylus
Professor of Italian Studies and vice provost for academic affairs, New York University

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Letters to Her Sons, 1447–1470
Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi
Iter Press, 2016

The seventy-three surviving letters written by Florentine widow, Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi (c.1406–1471), to her distant sons first appeared in print well over a century ago, but are here translated into English in their entirety for the first time. Whether for the professional historian or for the general reader interested in Renaissance Florence, they constitute a most precious testimony regarding both private and public life in the mid-fifteenth century, with themes ranging from familial relations, motherhood, marriage, and aspects of material culture to the harsh realities of political exile meted out by the Medici to their perceived opponents, these latter including her husband and, subsequently, her sons.


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A Portrait
Christopher S. Celenza
Harvard University Press, 2015

“Machiavellian”—used to describe the ruthless cunning of the power-obsessed and the pitiless—is never meant as a compliment. But the man whose name became shorthand for all that is ugly in politics was more engaging and nuanced than his reputation suggests. Christopher S. Celenza’s Machiavelli: A Portrait removes the varnish of centuries to reveal not only the hardnosed political philosopher but the skilled diplomat, learned commentator on ancient history, comic playwright, tireless letter writer, and thwarted lover.

Machiavelli’s hometown was the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century, a place of unparalleled artistic and intellectual attainments. But Florence was also riven by extraordinary violence. War and public executions were commonplace—Machiavelli himself was imprisoned and brutally tortured at the behest of his own government. These experiences left a deep impression on this keen observer of power politics, whose two masterpieces—The Prince and The Discourses—draw everywhere on the hard-won wisdom gained from navigating a treacherous world. But like many of Machiavelli’s fellow Florentines, he also immersed himself in the Latin language and wisdom of authors from the classical past. And for all of Machiavelli’s indifference to religion, vestiges of Christianity remained in his thought, especially the hope for a redeemer—a prince who would provide the stability so rare in Machiavelli’s worldly experience.


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The Medicean Succession
Monarchy and Sacral Politics in Duke Cosimo dei Medici’s Florence
Gregory Murry
Harvard University Press, 2014

In 1537, Florentine Duke Alessandro dei Medici was murdered by his cousin and would-be successor, Lorenzino dei Medici. Lorenzino's treachery forced him into exile, however, and the Florentine senate accepted a compromise candidate, seventeen-year-old Cosimo dei Medici. The senate hoped Cosimo would act as figurehead, leaving the senate to manage political affairs. But Cosimo never acted as a puppet. Instead, by the time of his death in 1574, he had stabilized ducal finances, secured his borders while doubling his territory, attracted an array of scholars and artists to his court, academy, and universities, and, most importantly, dissipated the perennially fractious politics of Florentine life.

Gregory Murry argues that these triumphs were far from a foregone conclusion. Drawing on a wide variety of archival and published sources, he examines how Cosimo and his propagandists successfully crafted an image of Cosimo as a legitimate sacral monarch. Murry posits that both the propaganda and practice of sacral monarchy in Cosimo's Florence channeled preexisting local religious assumptions as a way to establish continuities with the city's republican and renaissance past. In The Medicean Succession, Murry elucidates the models of sacral monarchy that Cosimo chose to utilize as he deftly balanced his ambition with the political sensitivities arising from existing religious and secular traditions.


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The Medici
Citizens and Masters
Robert Black
Harvard University Press
The Medici controlled fifteenth-century Florence. Other Italian rulers treated Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449–1492) as an equal. To his close associates, he was “the boss” (“master of the workshop”). But Lorenzo liked to say that he was just another Florentine citizen. Were the Medici like the kings, princes, and despots of contemporary Italy? Or were they just powerful citizens? The Medici: Citizens and Masters offers a novel, comparative approach to answering these questions. It sets Medici rule against princely states such as Milan and Ferrara. It asks how much the Medici changed Florence and contrasts their supremacy with earlier Florentine regimes. Its contributors take diverse perspectives, focusing on politics, political thought, social history, economic policy, religion and the church, humanism, intellectual history, Italian literature, theater, festivals, music, imagery, iconography, architecture, historiography, and marriage. The book will interest students of history, Renaissance studies, Italian literature, and art history as well as anyone keen to learn about one of history’s most colorful, influential, and puzzling families.

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The Merchant of Prato's Wife
Margherita Datini and Her World, 1360-1423
Ann Crabb
University of Michigan Press, 2015
Although the fourteenth-century Italian merchant Francesco Datini has received attention from business historians, there has previously been no full study of his wife, Margherita Datini. Drawing on a sizable trove of Margherita’s correspondence held in the Archivio di Stato di Prato, including hundreds of letters she exchanged with Francesco, Ann Crabb investigates the social and economic importance of women’s roles as wives and mothers, early modern European views on honor, and the practice of letter writing in Margherita’s world.

Margherita’s often colorful comments demonstrate her attitudes toward her rather unhappy marriage and her inability to have children, along with other aspects of her life. Her letters reveal the pride she felt in carrying out her many responsibilities as a wife and, later, a widow: in scribal letter writing, in business, in household management, and in farming. Crabb emphasizes that the role of a wife was a recognized social position, beyond her individual relations with her husband, and provided opportunities beyond what restrictive laws or restrictive views of female honor would suggest. Further, Crabb considers Margherita’s successful efforts, on her own initiative and in her late thirties, to learn to read and write at a literate level.

This book will be of interest to both scholars and general readers of women’s history. In addition, historians of early modern Italy and, more generally, of early modern Europe will find this book valuable.

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Music in Golden-Age Florence, 1250–1750
From the Priorate of the Guilds to the End of the Medici Grand Duchy
Anthony M. Cummings
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A comprehensive account of music in Florence from the late Middle Ages until the end of the Medici dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century. 

Florence is justly celebrated as one of the world’s most important cities. It enjoys mythic status and occupies an enviable place in the historical imagination. But its musico-historical importance is not as well understood as it should be. If Florence was the city of Dante, Michelangelo, and Galileo, it was also the birthplace of the madrigal, opera, and the piano. Music in Golden-Age Florence, 1250–1750 recounts Florence’s principal contributions to music and the history of how music was heard and cultivated in the city, from civic and religious institutions to private patronage and the academies. This book is an invaluable complement to studies of the art, literature, and political thought of the late-medieval and early-modern eras and the quasi-legendary figures in the Florentine cultural pantheon.

front cover of Network and Migration in Early Renaissance Florence, 1378-1433
Network and Migration in Early Renaissance Florence, 1378-1433
Friends of Friends in the Kingdom of Hungary
Katalin Prajda
Amsterdam University Press, 2018
This book explores the co-development of political, social, economic, and artistic networks of Florentines in the Kingdom of Hungary during the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg. Analyzing the social network of these politicians, merchants, artisans, royal officers, dignitaries of the Church, and noblemen is the primary objective of this book. The study addresses both descriptively the patterns of connectivity and causally the impacts of this complex network on cultural exchanges of various types, among these migration, commerce, diplomacy, and artistic exchange. In the setting of a case study, this monograph should best be thought of as an attempt to cross the boundaries that divide political, economic, social, and art history so that they simultaneously figure into a single integrated story of Florentine history and development.

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Niccolò di Lorenzo della Magna and the Social World of Florentine Printing, ca. 1470–1493
Lorenz Böninger
Harvard University Press, 2021

A new history of one of the foremost printers of the Renaissance explores how the Age of Print came to Italy.

Lorenz Böninger offers a fresh history of the birth of print in Italy through the story of one of its most important figures, Niccolò di Lorenzo della Magna. After having worked for several years for a judicial court in Florence, Niccolò established his business there and published a number of influential books. Among these were Marsilio Ficino’s De christiana religione, Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria, Cristoforo Landino’s commentaries on Dante’s Commedia, and Francesco Berlinghieri’s Septe giornate della geographia. Many of these books were printed in vernacular Italian.

Despite his prominence, Niccolò has remained an enigma. A meticulous historical detective, Böninger pieces together the thorough portrait that scholars have been missing. In doing so, he illuminates not only Niccolò’s life but also the Italian printing revolution generally. Combining Renaissance studies’ traditional attention to bibliographic and textual concerns with a broader social and economic history of printing in Renaissance Italy, Böninger provides an unparalleled view of the business of printing in its earliest years. The story of Niccolò di Lorenzo furnishes a host of new insights into the legal issues that printers confronted, the working conditions in printshops, and the political forces that both encouraged and constrained the publication and dissemination of texts.


front cover of Orpheus in the Marketplace
Orpheus in the Marketplace
Jacopo Peri and the Economy of Late Renaissance Florence
Tim Carter and Richard A. Goldthwaite
Harvard University Press, 2013

The Florentine musician Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) is known as the composer of the first operas--they include the earliest to survive complete, Euridice (1600), in which Peri sang the role of Orpheus. A large collection of recently discovered account books belonging to him and his family allows for a greater exploration of Peri's professional and personal life. Richard Goldthwaite, an economic historian, and Tim Carter, a musicologist, have done much more, however, than write a biography: their investigation exposes the remarkable value of such financial documents as a primary source for an entire period.

This record of Peri's wide-ranging investments and activities in the marketplace enables the first detailed account of the Florentine economy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and also opens a completely new perspective on one of Europe's principal centers of capitalism. His economic circumstances reflect continuities and transformations in Florentine society, and the strategies for negotiating them, under the Medici grand dukes. At the same time they allow a reevaluation of Peri the singer and composer that elucidates the cultural life of a major artistic center even in changing times, providing a quite different view of what it meant to be a musician in late Renaissance Italy.


front cover of Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence
Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence
John Henderson
University of Chicago Press, 1997
John Henderson examines the relationship between religion and society in late medieval Florence through the vehicle of the religious confraternity, one of the most ubiquitous and popular forms of lay association throughout Europe. This book provides a fascinating account of the development of confraternities in relation to other communal and ecclesiastical institutions in Florence. It is one of the most detailed analyses of charity in late medieval Europe.

"[A] long-awaited book. . . . [It is] the most complete survey of confraternities and charity, not only for Florence, but for any Italian city state to date. . . . This book recovers more vividly than other recent works what it meant to be a member of a confraternity in the late middle ages."—Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., Economic History Review

"Henderson offers new and fascinating information. . . . A stimulating and suggestive book that deserves a wide readership." —Gervase Rosser, Times Higher Education Supplement


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Political Writings
Coluccio Salutati
Harvard University Press, 2014
Coluccio Salutati (1332–1406) was chancellor of the Florentine Republic (1375–1406) and the leader of the humanist movement in Italy in the generation after Petrarch and Boccaccio. As such, he was among the first humanists to apply his Classical learning to political theory and his rhetorical skills to the defense of republican liberty. This volume contains a new English version of Salutati’s important treatise On Tyranny, Antonio Loschi’s Invective against the Florentines, which provoked Salutati’s long Reply to a Slanderous Detractor, and a selection of Salutati’s state letters written for the Florentine Republic. Most of the texts are here critically edited and translated into English for the first time.

front cover of The Return of Lucretius to Renaissance Florence
The Return of Lucretius to Renaissance Florence
Alison Brown
Harvard University Press, 2010

In this first comprehensive study of the effect of Lucretius's De rerum natura on Florentine thought in the Renaissance, Alison Brown demonstrates how Lucretius was used by Florentine thinkers—earlier and more widely than has been supposed—to provide a radical critique of prevailing orthodoxies.

To answer the question of why ordinary Florentines were drawn to this recently discovered text, despite its threat to orthodox Christian belief, Brown tracks interest in it through three humanists—the most famous of whom was Machiavelli—all working not as philologists but as practical administrators and teachers in the Florentine chancery and university. Interpreting their direct use of Lucretius within the context of mercantile Florence, Brown highlights three dangerous themes that had particular appeal: Lucretius's attack on superstitious religion and an afterlife; his pre-Darwinian theory of evolution; and his atomism, with its theory of free will and the chance creation of the world.

The humanists' challenge to established beliefs encouraged the growth of a "Lucretian network" of younger, politically disaffected Florentines. Brown thus adds a missing dimension to our understanding of the "revolution" in sixteenth-century political thinking, as she enriches our definition of the Renaissance in a context of newly discovered worlds and new social networks.


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San Lorenzo
A Florentine Church
Robert W. Gaston
Harvard University Press

This comprehensive, interdisciplinary collection illuminates many previously unexplored aspects of the Basilica of San Lorenzo’s history, extending from its Early Christian foundation to the modern era. Brunelleschi’s rebuilt Basilica, the center of liturgical patronage of the Medici and their grand-ducal successors until the nineteenth century, is today one of the most frequently studied churches in Florence. Modern research has tended, however, to focus on the remarkable art and architecture from ca. 1400–1600.

In this wide-ranging collection, scholars investigate: the urban setting of the church and its parish; San Lorenzo’s relations with other ecclesiastical institutions; the genesis of individual major buildings of the complex and their decorations; the clergy, chapels and altars; the chapter’s administration and financial structure; lay and clerical patronage; devotional furnishings, music, illuminated liturgical manuscripts, and preaching; as well as the annual or ephemeral festal practices on the site. Each contribution offers a profound exploration of its topic, wide-ranging in its chronological scope. One encounters here fresh archival research, the publication of relevant documents, and critical assessments of the historiography. San Lorenzo is represented in this volume as a living Florentine institution, continually reshaped by complex historical forces.


front cover of Selected Letters, 1514-1543
Selected Letters, 1514-1543
Maria Salviati de’ Medici
Iter Press, 2022
The voluminous correspondence of Maria Salviati de’ Medici.  

In recent years, there has been an upsurge of interest in Maria Salviati de’ Medici, specifically, in her role in Medici governance and her relationships with other members of the Medici court. Maria Salviati’s surviving correspondence documents a life spent close to the centers of Medici power in Florence and Rome, giving witness to its failures, resurrection, and eventual triumph. Presented here for the first time in English, this book is a representative sample of Maria’s surviving letters that document her remarkable life through a tumultuous period of Italian Renaissance history. While she earned the exasperation of some, she gained the respect of many more. Maria ended her life as an influential dowager, powerful intercessor for local Tuscans of all strata, and wise elder in Duke Cosimo I’s court. The first critical, analytical, biographical work on Maria Salviati de’ Medici’s life and letter-writing in English.

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The Strozzi of Florence
Widowhood and Family Solidarity in the Renaissance
Ann Crabb
University of Michigan Press, 2000
In 1434, the new Medici government exiled Matteo Strozzi as an enemy of the regime. Soon afterwards, Matteo and three of his eight children died of the plague. His young widow, Alesandra, struggled to make arrangements for her five remaining children, preparing her sons for merchant careers and finding husbands for her daughters. Her three sons left Florence in the 1440s to enter relatives' merchant banking firms. Their absence, prolonged by a sentence of exile imposed on them in 1458, gave rise to the family correspondence that informs this rich study.
The Strozzi correspondence tells the story of the decline and recovery of one Florentine patrician family. Eventually, the Strozzi brothers earned the greatest fortune of their era, and, after the repeal of their exile, Filippo, the eldest, most successful, and longest lived, spent the last years of his life in Florence as one of its foremost citizens. Set in the context of other documentary evidence and of modern historical and anthropological studies, Crabb's study illuminates the role of women, kinship, solidarity, honor, and profit. These letters provide nuanced insights into values and practices that more impersonal sources cannot rival.
As well as appealing to those interested in the Renaissance, Florence, and Italy, this book will attract those wanting to read about topics in social history that cross time periods: women, family and kinship, business, and honor. It confronts issues of Renaissance Florentine historiography by presenting a more positive view of the role of women than does current orthodoxy, by providing evidence of the impact of extended kinship ties, a controversial issue, and by illuminating further the value placed on honor and profit.
Ann Crabb teaches medieval history at James Madison University.

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A Veil of Silence
Women and Sound in Renaissance Italy
Julia Rombough
Harvard University Press, 2024

An illuminating study of early modern efforts to regulate sound in women’s residential institutions, and how the noises of city life—both within and beyond their walls—defied such regulation.

Amid the Catholic reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the number of women and girls housed in nunneries, reformatories, and charity homes grew rapidly throughout the city of Florence. Julia Rombough follows the efforts of legal, medical, and ecclesiastical authorities to govern enclosed women, and uncovers the experiences of the women themselves as they negotiated strict sensory regulations. At a moment when quiet was deeply entangled with ideals of feminine purity, bodily health, and spiritual discipline, those in power worked constantly to silence their charges and protect them from the urban din beyond institutional walls.

Yet the sounds of a raucous metropolis found their way inside. The noise of merchants hawking their wares, sex workers laboring and socializing with clients, youth playing games, and coaches rumbling through the streets could not be contained. Moreover, enclosed women themselves contributed to the urban soundscape. While some embraced the pursuit of silence and lodged regular complaints about noise, others broke the rules by laughing, shouting, singing, and conversing. Rombough argues that ongoing tensions between legal regimes of silence and the inevitable racket of everyday interactions made women’s institutions a flashpoint in larger debates about gender, class, health, and the regulation of urban life in late Renaissance Italy.

Attuned to the vibrant sounds of life behind walls of stone and sanction, A Veil of Silence illuminates a revealing history of early modern debates over the power of the senses.


front cover of Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy
Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber
University of Chicago Press, 1987
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, a brilliant historian of the Annales school, skillfully uncovers the lives of ordinary Italians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Tuscans in particular, young and old, rich, middle-class, and poor. From the extraordinarily detailed records kept by Florentine tax collectors and the equally precise ricordanze (household accounts with notations of events great and small), Klapisch-Zuber draws a living picture of the Tuscan household. We learn, for example, how children were named, how wet nurses were engaged, how marriages were negotiated and celebrated. A wealth of other sources are tapped—including city statutes, private letters, philosophical works on marriage, paintings—to determine the social status of women. Klapisch-Zuber reveals how women, in their roles as daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers, were largely subject to a family system that needed them but valued them little.

front cover of Writing History in Renaissance Italy
Writing History in Renaissance Italy
Leonardo Bruni and the Uses of the Past
Gary Ianziti
Harvard University Press, 2012

Leonardo Bruni (1370–1444) is widely recognized as the most important humanist historian of the early Renaissance. But why this recognition came about—and what it has meant for the field of historiography—has long been a matter of confusion and controversy. Writing History in Renaissance Italy offers a fresh approach to the subject by undertaking a systematic, work-by-work investigation that encompasses for the first time the full range of Bruni’s output in history and biography.

The study is the first to assess in detail the impact of the classical Greek historians on the development of humanist methods of historical writing. It highlights in particular the importance of Thucydides and Polybius—authors Bruni was among the first in the West to read, and whose analytical approach to politics led him in new directions. Yet the revolution in history that unfolds across the four decades covered in this study is no mere revival of classical models: Ianziti constantly monitors Bruni’s position within the shifting hierarchies of power in Florence, drawing connections between his various historical works and the political uses they were meant to serve.

The result is a clearer picture of what Bruni hoped to achieve, and a more precise analysis of the dynamics driving his new approach to the past. Bruni himself emerges as a protagonist of the first order, a figure whose location at the center of power was a decisive factor shaping his innovations in historical writing.


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