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April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the Medici [Paperback]

Lauro Martines
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 16, 2004
One of the world's leading historians of Renaissance Italy brings to life here the vibrant--and violent--society of fifteenth-century Florence. His disturbing narrative opens up an entire culture, revealing the dark side of Renaissance man and politician Lorenzo de' Medici.

On a Sunday in April 1478, assassins attacked Lorenzo and his brother as they attended Mass in the cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo scrambled to safety as Giuliano bled to death on the cathedral floor. April Blood moves outward in time and space from that murderous event, unfolding a story of tangled passions, ambition, treachery, and revenge. The conspiracy was led by one of the city's most noble clans, the Pazzi, financiers who feared and resented the Medici's swaggering new role as political bosses--but the web of intrigue spread through all of Italy. Bankers, mercenaries, the Duke of Urbino, the King of Naples, and Pope Sixtus IV entered secretly into the plot. Florence was plunged into a peninsular war, and Lorenzo was soon fighting for his own and his family's survival.

The failed assassination doomed the Pazzi. Medici revenge was swift and brutal--plotters were hanged or beheaded, innocents were hacked to pieces, and bodies were put out to dangle from the windows of the government palace. All remaining members of the larger Pazzi clan were forced to change their surname, and every public sign or symbol of the family was expunged or destroyed.
April Blood offers us a fresh portrait of Renaissance Florence, where dazzling artistic achievements went side by side with violence, craft, and bare-knuckle politics. At the center of the canvas is the figure of Lorenzo the Magnificent--poet, statesman, connoisseur, patron of the arts, and ruthless "boss of bosses." This extraordinarily vivid account of a turning point in the Italian Renaissance is bound to become a lasting work of history.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One April Sunday in 1478, assassins-with the support of a member of the Pazzi, one of Florence's leading families-killed a member of the ruling family of Florence, Giuliano de Medici, and wounded his brother, Lorenzo. In the hands of Martines, a professor emeritus of European history at UCLA, the rebellion and Lorenzo's ensuing crackdown becomes a prism through which to view Renaissance Florence. He details the many people involved, from bankers to the king of Naples and even Pope Sixtus. Long seen as a "Renaissance man," Lorenzo was a poet and a patron of the arts. But Martines turns the story on its head. He sees the plot as a reaction to the corruption in Medici rule and the crackdown-which included hangings and prohibitions against marrying female members of the Pazzi family-as overly harsh: "[I]t required war or a successful act of terrorism to overthrow Lorenzo, his cronies, and his creatures." While the crackdown temporarily saved the Medici rule, Martines argues that Lorenzo's ruthlessness eventually turned much of Florence against his family and foretold the end of Medici rule in the city. During the past few decades, historians have increasingly placed social, cultural and women's history at the center of European history. But not here. Drawing upon a lifetime of scholarship, Martines has created a book that places governmental politics at Renaissance Florence's center. And along the way, he has written a book as lively as its subject.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Fascinating.... Martines is a master researcher and, like a collector showing off his treasures, his delight in his findings sparkles on every page."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Just the sort of historical mystery that should appeal to fans of, say, Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning (about the murder of Christopher Marlowe) or Josephine Tey's classic The Daughter of Time."--Washington Post

"An intriguing book.... Every situation and character Martines presents to usis of marvelous complexity."--The New York Review of Books

"A quietly subversive, elegant counterbalance to centuries of Medici adulation. His narrative is enthralling, his irony devastating, his conclusions unsettling."--Financial Times

"A spine-chilling political drama of conspiracy, murder at High Mass, and bloody revenge."--The Times (London)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019517609X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195176094
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant study of Renaissance politics November 24, 2004
I was astonished to see that somebody gave this book such a low review; I'm a professional historian and can firmly say this is the best history book I've read this year. In this work, Martines has performed a very important service: he has to some extent "debunked" the myth of the Medici as sweet, kind, gentle art patrons who rule by love over their equals. By focussing on the Pazzi conspiracy to murder the two leading Medici in 1478, Martines has addressed head-on the question of why so many people wanted to murder them, and how Lorenzo consolidated his position in the wake of the assassination plot. It's a dark, bloody, and very convincing Renaissance that Martines portrays, interweaving the Medici family with the Florentine and Italian political world of the time. The book is brilliantly written; after reading a library copy, I went and bought my own because I know I'll be visiting it again and again.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Event Not Well Told March 5, 2004
This book tells the story of the 1478 plot to assassinate the Medici brothers in Renaissance Florence in what was essentially a failed coup d'etat. After the first chapter summarizes the key facts, the balance of the book is spent providing the context surrounding the event. In so doing, the author describes the politics of Florence, its economy, and its place in Italy and southern Europe. He details how the wealthiest families interacted, formed alliances through marriage and competed for power. He describes the conspirators in Florence, as well as in the surrounding city-states and the highest levels of the Catholic Church. While this should make a fascinating story, this book fails to tell it. So many extraneous and incidental facts and characters are detailed after the best parts of the story have already been revealed that I had difficulty sustaining interest and labored to finish the book.

The Renaissance in Florence was the pinnacle of one of the great cities of the World. Lorenzo di Medici was the central figure of the time. He employed Leonardo di Vinci, he adopted Michelangelo, his son and nephew became pope, and his family ruled in and around Tuscany for over a hundred years. If you are looking for this incredible story, look elsewhere--you will not find it in April Blood.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The stab that ignited Italy... September 17, 2003
By isala
This is the story about the Pazzi Conspiracy against the Medici dictatorship in renaissance Florence. The story is riveting, full of facts, and, on the whole, well told. The author gives a brief history of the families involved and of the florentine political system to give us a background to the conspiracy. The assault in the cathedral and the following bloodbath is told in clear and vivid detail. So far the book is great, just great. Then it is as if the author ran out of time! The Pazzi War and what happened to the Pazzi family members that did not die is described in an almost perfunctory way. The lives of Lorenzo's sons, daughters, and other surviving relatives are dealt with in just a few lines. Maybe the author expects the reader to get that information in more general histories of the Italian Rennaisance.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing read July 7, 2003
By jcoop
I must agree with the other reviewers who found the book a tough go. The actual narrative of the plot itself takes up very little of the book. The majority of the text deals with the complex interweave of family politics in Renaissance Italy, but much of it seems tangential. Engrossing it certainly is not. It's too bad, as I had high hopes for the book. I wonder if some of the other reviewers actually read the same book that I had.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every history buff should read this March 18, 2006
I had read a little about Lorenzo and a lot about the Medici, so it was nice to come upon a book that focuses on the Medici and how Lorenzo the Magnificent ruled. Martines has done a superb job in portraying the facts behind the Pazzi Conspiracy.

It starts off a little slow, leaving the reader to wonder when the author would ever get to the actual conspiracy, but when he does everything comes together. By the time the book ends you are left with both sympathy and hatred for both the Pazzi and the Medici. Sympathy because of the savage way they were attacked, following up with the nod of approval of the reprisals Lorenzo took (although they were a bit extreme). And hatred for the tyranny that Lorenzo and his house brought down upon the republic of Florence. The same for the Pazzi, for they were suppressed, and thus sympathy was on their side, but the savage destruction they wrought upon their own family and others in order to satisfy their lust for power leaves a distaste in their wake.

There is some "filler", it would seem at a quick glance, but when delved in deeper it is evident that these "filler" chapters do in fact help our understanding of why and how the Pazzi Conspiracy happened. The profile chapters, although they don't touch upon the conspiracy directly, add weight to the notion and feeling that went behind the affronted patricians of Florentine society. The political chapters added substance and understanding to the why and how of the reasons behind the conspiracy. So the "filler" chapters do in fact add a lot to the telling of this dramatic time in history.

All sides were represented, which makes this a very well rounded history book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough blood...
The cover and blurb grabbed me. Sadly, the book consists of such dry history, I use it to get back to sleep during bouts of insomnia. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Jane Eyre
4.0 out of 5 stars The author places you at the Church and the resulting after effect of...
At first the book has a lot of history leading towards the event of April that may be helpful I you did not know anything about the Medici. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Just Me
5.0 out of 5 stars April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the... Lauro Martines
Got it as a gift. Real good deal. Seller was tops.
Published 5 months ago by Chaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love it!
Published 5 months ago by Ana Garcia De Alba Diaz
5.0 out of 5 stars A clear concise history of Lorenzo Medici's power
I read this book in preparation for a trip to Florence. My thought was to prepare myself to understand the Medicis and life in the Middle Ages. Read more
Published 8 months ago by David Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like history...
Great historical accounting of the Medici family.....if you are a history buff you will love this book. Reads like a novel.
Published 10 months ago by Brody Jean
4.0 out of 5 stars Art appreciation for the grand political artist
It used to be said, during the ‘30s, that German fascism couldn’t be really dangerous because a nation that produced Bach and Beethoven could not be evil. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Harry Eagar
4.0 out of 5 stars Takes a different view of the Medici
Good piece of work. Scholarly, but decently written. Despite the title, Martines goes far beyond simply recounting the details of the Pazzi plot to murder Leonardo and his... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Dr. S. R. Hill Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars The 1478 Plot against the Medici
This book came highly recommended by several tour guides on our recent trip to Florence. They also had it for sale at several museums but I knew it would be easier to get at home. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Virginia
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh the horror.
Col. Kurtz would probably make his famous remark again after reading this book. After five hudred plus years the dust has not settled. the worms eye view provided hs compelling. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Marjorie Cohen-johnson
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