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A History of Venice Paperback – June 18, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 673 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (June 18, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679721975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679721970
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

At once the most comprehensive and the most engaging history of Venice available in English, this book will be treasured by all those who share the author's fascination with "the most beautiful and magical of cities."

"As a historian Lord Norwich knows what matters. As a writer he has a taste for beauty, a love of language and an enlivening wit.... He contrives, as no English writer has done before, to sustain a continuous interest in that crowded history." -- Hugh Trevor-Roper

"Will become the standard English work of Venetian history." -- C. P. Snow, Financial Times

"Lord Norwich has loved and understood Venice as well as any other Englishman has ever done. He has put readers of this generation more in his debt than any other English writer." -- Peter Levi, The Sunday Times (London)

From the Back Cover

At once the most comprehensive and the most engaging history of Venice available in English, this book will be treasured by all those who share the author's fascination with "the most beautiful and magical of cities."

"As a historian Lord Norwich knows what matters. As a writer he has a taste for beauty, a love of language and an enlivening wit.... He contrives, as no English writer has done before, to sustain a continuous interest in that crowded history." -- Hugh Trevor-Roper

"Will become the standard English work of Venetian history." -- C. P. Snow, Financial Times

"Lord Norwich has loved and understood Venice as well as any other Englishman has ever done. He has put readers of this generation more in his debt than any other English writer." -- Peter Levi, The Sunday Times (London)


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Customer Reviews

I read this book in between my first and second trips to Venice.
frumiousb
Too often, a history becomes either a fantasy... or a dry-as-dust book showing a proliferation of passive tenses and turgid word-choice.
Ingrid Heyn
This really is a great book, and anyone interested in medieval or Meditteranean history should definitely read it.
Glenn McDorman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 105 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on October 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Quick, name one famous leader or military hero associated with the thousand-year history of the Republic of Venice. (Sorry: writers and painters don't count.) Now imagine that you are writing a 600+ page history of Venice. How do you make it a page-turner without recourse to biography? Can it be done?
It seems that John Julius Norwich has done it, and with flying colors. I had originally planned to read the history in small driblets, a chapter at a time to keep my interest from flagging. I was delighted to find that my interest was engaged from the very first and remained so until Napoleon Bonaparte demonstrated to the world during his Italian campaign that the Republic could be had. Before the young emperor-to-be doused the lights, Venice had had a glorious run.
Here was a country that began as a naval and mercantile power. Turning its back on the Italian mainland, Venice looked to the east. Its merchants spread out through the Eastern Mediterranean and as far as the Black Sea -- and sometimes, as in the case of Marco Polo -- much farther. While mainland Italy was mired in an endless struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, Venice strived to live at peace with its neighbors. For several hundred years, it even lived at peace with the Turk -- to the extent of scuttling a Crusade or two when it felt its interests were better served elsewhere. Only when the resurgent Ottomans under Mehmet II and his descendants became an effective sea power in the 15th century did Venice have to look across its moat to the Italian mainland.
When the Turk cut off its colonies in the East, Venice engaged in a brief career of conquest in Northern Italy with mixed results. Much more successful was its strength at diplomacy, for which it became famous.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Glenn McDorman on September 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Norwich is one of the most eloquent writers still working today. This huge history of the Venetian state is one of his best. He takes us through a wild narrative beginning with the late Roman period and ending with the surrender to Napoleon. Norwich's portrait of medieval Venice is magnificent. It is easy to forget that the situation in France, Britain, and Germany at this time was not the same situation in Italy, and that Venice was in a better situation than the rest of the peninsula. With this work we really get a sense of how magnificent medieval Venice was. Rivalled in Europe only by Constantinople and Cordoba. Norwich has often been accused of focusing too much on individual rulers in his histories. That is true of A History of Venice, but in this case it is a major benefit. The narrative becomes so personal and so exciting because of this narrow focus. This really is a great book, and anyone interested in medieval or Meditteranean history should definitely read it.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Ingrid Heyn on March 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Too often, works that deal with the history of a place - a country, a state, a town, a city - sacrifice either readability or detail. Too often, an author will leap from assumption to assumption in his desire to fill the gaps when historical evidence is lacking. Too often, a history becomes either a fantasy... or a dry-as-dust book showing a proliferation of passive tenses and turgid word-choice.

Not in this. I fell in love, not only with the Venice so exquisitely and aptly described in this book, but with John Julius Norwich's wonderful writing style, in which accuracy and lyricism are combined like the liquid paths of two rivers converging into one.

As an example of documented history, and as an example of an intensely readable history, this book cannot be improved. Viscount Norwich's love for Venice blinds him not one whit towards the self-seeking qualities of past Venetians. Rather, he shows in context how the peculiar nature of Venice and her denizens were encouraged by Venice's merchant status, unique status and location, and remarkable convolutions of politics. The architectural beauty of Venice, at first glance something unexpected when one considers upon what Venice herself is built, becomes not only explicable, but almost inevitable...

Lucid, limpid, beautiful writing. This remains the most outstanding history of a city that I have read. Unhesitatingly recommended to those who, like me, are fascinated by a city whose claim to be the most beautiful in the world has strong justification.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up in preparation for my first visit to Venice, and soon became enthralled with the unique and fascinating history of one of the most unusual cities to have ever flourished. I read this book with pleasure even while standing up on the train commuting. Lord Norwich writes with gusto about the enormous economic power of Venice, its entrepreneurial ventures, its home-grown political structure, the art and architecture, the special esprit that Venetians showed and the in-fighting among the various Italian city-states. Highly recommended for being both a very well written book and also covering some fascinating history. Will enhance a visit to Venice by a factor of 10
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "vehka" on July 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
A definitive one-volume (although a hefty one) history of Venice from the earliest Roman settlements up to the beginning of 19th century, when Napoleon bullied the once-glorious but now timid republic into submission. Norwich has done a very thorough research and then settled down to write everything worthwhile about his subject - not just wars and Mediterranean politics but also architechture, government and everyday Venetian life.
Norwich has selected a simple chronological structure which is both the book's strength and one weakness. As Venice's history has it's ups and downs, so does the book. Every so often, usually when Venice in one way or the other fights for it's survival, the book takes life and reader is swept from page to another - until the next slump of 20 years or so when there simply isn't much happening. Although Norwich usually skips these periods with shortness they deserve, the reader's interest is bound to rise and fall with every few dozen pages. But then again, can you really blame history for not following the laws of dramatic structure.
Norwich writes in the same fluid narrative style that made his three books of Byzantine history my all-time favourites. This time the subject matter just isn't quite so fascinating. As centuries pass, the doge's come and go, and only few of them have enough personality to make them memorable. Their enemies and allies - popes, sultans, dukes, kings etc. - often steal the limelight instead of the merchant state which stays pretty much the same.
Nevertheless, this book has probably everything you might possibly want to know about Venetian history, including short notes about historical buildings, memorials and tombs that can still be found in modern Venice.
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