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The Italian Renaissance [Paperback]

by J.H. Plumb Professor
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 19, 2001 0618127380 978-0618127382 Revised
Spanning an age that witnessed great achievements in the arts and sciences, this definitive overview of the Italian Renaissance will both captivate ordinary readers and challenge specialists. Dr. Plumb’s impressive and provocative narrative is accompanied by contributions from leading historians, including Morris Bishop, J. Bronowski, Maria Bellonci, and many more, who have further illuminated the lives of some of the era’s most unforgettable personalities, from Petrarch to Pope Pius II, Michelangelo to Isabella d'Este, Machiavelli to Leonardo. A highly readable and engaging volume, THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE is a perfect introduction to the movement that shaped the Western world.

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The Italian Renaissance + The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall + The Borgias and Their Enemies: 1431-1519
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Editorial Reviews


"This narrative succeeds on two levels: it will genuinely enthrall the ordinary reader, and it will goad specialists into thinking more clearly about their own positions." (Times Literary Supplement) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

JOHN HAROLD PLUMB who was born in 1911, graduated from the University of Leicester and received his Ph.D. from Christ's College in Cambridge. Plumb has written more than thirty books.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Revised edition (June 19, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618127380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618127382
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to a magnificent time November 15, 2001
Plumb's book is a very readable introduction to the Renaissance. He begins by explaining how civilization collapsed after the fall of Rome. But the Renaissance grew from the increases in population, trade and the flow of ideas. Italy was a land of cities instead of feudalism, able to make good use of trade to gain great power. The increase of trade brought power to the merchants and guilds instead of the nobility. Trade and power brought money to support an explosion of the arts and finance the flow of ideas, especially from the past.
Plumb describes the histories of some of the cities of Italy. In one chapter he describes the intricate diplomacy of Milan. In other chapters he describes the commerce of Venice and the trade of Florence. We see the brilliance of artists and dissipation of rulers. Plumb describes how the new learning, the new way of seeing the world, spread across Europe.
However, Plumb only wrote half of the book. The second half contains a series of biographies of great artists and rulers of the Renaissance, written by different authors. There are short biographies of artists such as Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci: rulers such as Lorenzo de Medici and Doge Foscari, and authors such as Petrarch and Machiavelli. This book is a tour de force introduction to the magnificent Renaissance.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Renaissance is about Life September 4, 2001
This book is informative, intelligent, and so well written that it can have a strong appeal to the reader sheerly as literature. It is also a funny book. All the intrigues, treacheries, betrayals, and cruelties perpetrated by the pillars of the Renaissance society (popes, politicians, eminent soldiers) are described so naturally, vividly, and, sometimes, unexpectedly that I could not help but laugh when reading about them.
Plumb knows how to go straight to the point and give the reader his insights clearly and unobtrusively. He does not preach, he simply states and gives facts so wonderfully that I could not help but admire his masterful style of presentation. Here is an example: "In the darkest decades, there was a froce at work--trade--that was inimical to this world of warriors, priests, and peasants. Trade drew Moslem, Jew, and Christian together; trade fattened towns, sometimes bred them." Notice with what facility Plumb has just outlined the importance of trade--it mitigates cultural barriers and draws people together on the basis of mutual business interests. Or, here is an example of how Renaissance confronted dogmatism and obsession with getting at truth by deductive reasoning: "The old dogmatic certainties did not vanish at once, and the habit of trying to nail truth down by argument from fundamental principles was not lightly cast aside. Some of the most original minds, however, particularly Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci, sought truth not in argument but in observation." The book is full of such gems.
Renaissance was strange, cruel, and full of life and culture. This book gives us Renaissance in all its splendor fitting to a description of the time of revival and vitality.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good and highly readable overview October 30, 2000
I was surprised how easy it was to read The Italian Renaissance. Some history books are an effort to read, but this one was such a breeze I got myself caught up in it, and finished it in only a day or two. The first half of the book is by Plumb, which goes over the principal cities and themes of the Renaissance. The second half is a mix of biographies of prominent figures of the period by different authors - but there isn't much of a difference between these pieces and Plumb's half in style, both are wonderful to read. This book was so good I've bought a few more in the American Heritage series. If you want a good survey of the Renaissance in Italy, than this is the perfect book for you.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Dated Classic August 5, 2008
Plumb's work is very readable and paints an overview of the Italian Renaissance with a broad brush. It is, however, 47 years old (published 1961). There's been an enormous amount of scholarship in those 47 years, and Plumb is showing his age, in his adulatory tone and his dismissive insults about the European Middle Ages.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the Renaissance July 14, 2007
I wish there were more books like this one. The first half is discussion by J. H. Plumb about many basic aspects of the Italian Renaissance one should know, the second half is a collection of well-written biographical essays about prominent Italian Renaissance figures. The second half was particularly good. I think Kenneth Clark's essay on Michaelangelo and Morris Bishop's on Petrach were the best, but they were all very good. All are well written, unpretentious and intelligent, and all concern interesting people.

The notable figures of Renaissance Italy are really quite different from notable figures of the American Revolution, say. They were much more passionate. The good better, the evil were more evil. Men loved works of art, they didn't just pretend to. I was reading about Benedict Arnold recently, deplorable traitor! but for diabolical rogues, he's nothing beside Cesare Borgia or Sigismondo Malatesta. And who can compare with Federigo da Montefeltro? Or Leonardo da Vinci? They're inspirational. They make you want to live.

Anyway, this is great book. I'm glad I read it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
I have always been curious about how as humans, did we get to our present state of affairs. I purchased this book and it has been a good read so far. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Orthanc
5.0 out of 5 stars The Italian Renaisance
This book is an outstanding review and explanation of one of the seminal periods in the history of western civilization
Published 4 months ago by Walter A. Wallman
4.0 out of 5 stars Artistic high point, social low point
The Renaissance was a wonderful time for artists and scholars and a terrible time for ordinary Italian citizens. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Al Singh
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview
Excellent overview with relevant illustrations and perceptive insights, especially covering important personalities. JH Plumb's gender reference to 'man' was slightly frustrating.
Published 7 months ago by Ray Shaffer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Piece on Renaissance Italy
This is a great book for anyone with an interest in the Italian Renaissance. The book is divided into 2 parts, the first part being a general historical account, moving over... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Michael L. Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars For Those 12 to 100
I ordered this book for a 12 year old who is fascinated with the Italian Renaissance. I was slightly worried that the Book might be too "old" for him. Read more
Published on December 6, 2011 by The Family Librarian
2.0 out of 5 stars Uneven overview of the Renaissance
Plumb's broad overview of the Italian Renaissance is married to an uneven collection of essays by various scholars on representative figures of the period. Read more
Published on July 11, 2011 by John in Orlando
4.0 out of 5 stars This book taught me to love the Renaissance
It was slow in starting, but once it got rolling, this book was terrific! The first several chapters sounded like the "hype" you hear in television commercials for upcoming action... Read more
Published on June 6, 2011 by David Withun
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
The text by mr. Plumb is very entertaining. The images do not add much to the value of the book. The second part of the book, consisting of monographs on individual personalities,... Read more
Published on March 3, 2008 by B. D. Haas
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
What an intriguing book! I have a degree in art history so the Italian Renaissance is nothing new to me. I so enjoyed this book! Read more
Published on December 17, 2007 by S. L. Rodriguez
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