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Publisher's Summary

The extraordinary Medici family, through a singular exercise of wealth, political ingenuity, and dynastic power, ruled the city-state of Florence for three centuries. Hugely controversial, both in their own time and among later historians and commentators, the list of what they accomplished is nothing short of astonishing.

  • The Medici were entrepreneurs who achieved extravagant success in commerce, and essentially invented the modern banking system, founding an immensely powerful family bank with branches across the Italian peninsula.
  • Over the centuries, they amassed a staggering treasure trove of paintings, Egyptian and Etruscan statuary, Renaissance sculptures, furniture, tapestries, books and manuscripts, jewels, and luxury objects of every kind, housed within imposing palaces, villas, country estates, and libraries.
  • They built political alliances, patronage networks, and structures of family power that allowed them to dominate Florentine politics, civics, and cultural life, earning Florence international influence and a status as the cultural capital of Europe.
  • They occupied and dominated offices of power, both political and religious, including producing a succession of grand dukes of Tuscany, two queens of France, and the elevation of four members of the Medici family to the papacy.

But even beyond their familial prowess and power, their positioning within Florentine society and politics led them to play a key role in the world-changing phenomenon of the Renaissance - the cultural movement following the Middle Ages that saw a “rebirth” in scholarship, art, architecture, politics and philosophy rooted in the rediscovery of classical texts and culture, which famously began in Florence. Through their wealth, influence, and patronage, the Medici were instrumental in encouraging humanistic scholarship, and commissioning iconic works of architecture and countless artistic masterpieces that emblemize the Italian Renaissance. 

Encounter a Dazzling Story of Dynastic Influence

In How the Medici Shaped the Renaissance, you’ll study the remarkable trajectory of the Medici from the late 14th century to 1737, when the Medici dynasty ended. Across that span of time, you’ll witness the birth of the Italian Renaissance, and the rise of the Medici as an economic powerhouse under founder Giovanni de’ Medici. You’ll learn how the Medici came to dominate Florence and how they played diverse roles in politics, religion, and culture. See how they remained in power, and you’ll study the political upheavals, treachery, assassinations, intrigue, and military actions that characterized the Medici’s dramatic history. 

Grasp the Rich Contours of a World-Changing Era

In charting the arc of the Medici dynasty and its far-reaching impact, you’ll investigate core subject matter such as:

  • The Rise of the Medici: Trace the founding of the Medici family bank by Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici; observe how Cosimo de’ Medici built on Giovanni’s foundations to amass vast wealth and power, ultimately bringing the nascent Florentine Republic under Medici domination.
  • The Medici, the Humanities, and Art: Learn how the Medici played key roles in the preserving of classical texts and the creation of iconic works of art and architecture, such as Florence’s fabulous Duomo Cathedral and masterworks by artists such as Botticelli, Donatello, and Michelangelo.
  • A Family of Towering Personalities: Take the measure of many of the Medici family’s outstanding members, from Lorenzo the Magnificent, a political genius of the highest order, to the reviled Allesandro de’ Medici, the “Black Prince”, and Catherine de’ Medici, cultural influencer and queen of France. 
  • The Trials and Triumphs of Medici Rule: Witness how the Medici built and rebuilt factions of citizens that supported their rule and follow the reversals through which the Medici were exiled from Florence and returned to power numerous times, ultimately becoming hereditary rulers. 

William’s multifaceted knowledge of the era and nuanced insights into the Medici bring the story alive in compelling detail, enhanced by vivid photos, artworks, drawings, and maps that evoke an extraordinary era. In How the Medici Shaped the Renaissance, you’ll explore a richly intriguing historical saga that reveals a pivotal moment in Western civilization.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2021 The Great Courses (P)2021 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about How the Medici Shaped the Renaissance

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Not for non history buffs

I'm not much of a history buff, but I found the storyline hard to follow. I also didn't find much emotion or narrative.

If you're looking for a recitation of the events of Florence circa 1400s and 1500s, this does a good job of doing that without bias. If you're not a history buff and you're looking for a robust and riveting story, look elsewhere.

4 people found this helpful

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In depth historical lecture on the Medici.

While somewhat dry because it is actually a text book, The Medici's are an fascimating subject. Somewhat hard to follow on audible as opposed to probably seeing the text visually visually. But definitely worth a listen if you like history.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellently narrated, historically dense, and thoroughly enjoyable

As other reviewers have pointed out, these lectures are more for the historically inclined. This is not to say that it is advanced or hard to follow, only that it focuses on the political intertwining of a single family with the Tuscan city of Florence. It succeeds in this, while remaining scientifically objective in presenting and interpreting the facts.

The lecturer was clear, well paced, and easy to listen to; and I would listen to another lecture of his. Anyone who enjoys nuanced history, or who is specifically interested in the Medici would enjoy this.

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Great adventure of a tale

I was generally familiar with this family, but this course — which moves along pretty quickly— has murder, mayhem, families intertwined with each other through generations, Spain, France, Popes, the Reformation, and more. Highly recommend. Very entertaining.

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A must listen for anyone who loves the Renaissance

Fantastic course on not only the Medici but the Renaissance as a whole and its effects on the world today. The course was well constructed so it was easy to follow the extensive timeline and all of the parties involved. I will definitely be looking for more courses from this professor especially on such a fascinating family as the Medici.

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  • Patricia N.
  • 08-17-22

Brilliant

I thoroughly enjoyed that. It was clear and to the point! I look forward to listening to more in the future.

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  • NADYA D
  • 05-26-22

Good for a beginner

I think this course is helpful for a beginner, very general but interesting . recommend!

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  • edward
  • 05-01-22

Excellent walk through of the Medici

I really enjoyed this title, the narrator is very good and he gets his pronunciation of the various Italian names spot on. its long but worth it! fascinating!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-22-22

Too interested in it’s own historical method

Sadly this course over labours the point about historical subjectivity and what it refers to again and again as the ‘white’ and ‘black’ myths of the Medici family (‘myths’ used slightly awkwardly here too).

While admirable to make the general point about all historical periods and narratives being subject to different interpretations and retellings - and that historians often have their own ‘agendas’ - it’s both an oversimplification (some historians do have different world views, or frameworks with which they look at the past - which is sometimes serving an ‘agenda’ - but sometimes a valid and useful set of framing devices) and over stated. Again and again in fact.

The point I’m making is that all this historiography gets in the way of telling a coherent and enjoyable introduction to the subject.

Yes it’s helpful to welcome both positive and critical sources about the Medici family in the hope to arrive at something wholistic picture, but instead of painting a picture of many shades of grey here, the method becomes too dare I say, black and white… goodies or baddies.

It’s clunky and unsatisfactory and sadly lacking the vivid colours that this period, in more sophisticated hands could and should provide.

Disappointing.