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Venice: History of the Floating City Hardcover – July 30, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Here is an essential book for all lovers of Venice. Dr. Ferraro writes not only with encyclopedic knowledge but with deep affection and understanding. She has taught me a lot." - John Julius Norwich, author of A History of Venice and Paradise of Cities: Venice in the 19th Century

"Summarizing recent research, Joanne Ferraro provides a masterful description of the social and cultural history of Venice, viewed here as a cosmopolitan world city, as well as the floating city of our dreams. It is the most reliable and comprehensive account of the 500-year history of Venice available for this generation of readers." - Edmund Burke III, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Joanne Ferraro's new book is the most illuminating synthetic history of Venice in two generations. She depicts a multicultural metropolis inhabited by international merchants as well as artisan heretics, rebel nuns, and feminist writers. Ferraro shows how real people rather than impersonal institutions and abstract forces made history." - Edward Muir, Northwestern University

"This is an innovative historical reconstruction of the floating city, with fresh perspectives informed by the most up-to-date scholarship. In lively and engaging prose, Ferraro recreates the rich and complex history of Venice before our eyes. Her history of the Venetian Republic will become the standard work for generations to come." - Margaret F. Rosenthal, University of Southern California

"Ferraro is a master storyteller with a rare ability to make everyday life in the lagoon city come alive, while capturing the magic of Venice within a richly textured historical context. Highly recommended reading for all students and lovers of Venice." - Patricia Fortini Brown, emeritus, Princeton University

"This is the best book written to date on the Venetian Republic...In the future, when people want to learn about Venice's history, they'll turn to this book first." -Library Journal

"rich and alluring account of the 'floating city.'" -Publishers Weekly

"Recommended." -Choice

"The great merit of Ferraro's history of Venice is her synthesis and incorporation of much of that material into what is essentially a history of the Republic." -Dennis Romano, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Book Description

Following Venice's unique history from its foundation, this book analyzes the city's social, cultural, religious, and environmental history, as well as its politics and economy. Joanne M. Ferraro illuminates how Venice's position at the crossroads of Asian, European, and North African exchange networks made it a vibrant and ethnically diverse Mediterranean cultural center.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1St Edition edition (July 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521883598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521883597
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,014,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Aceto TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
All that time in Venice and no Gondolier ever told me the iron prow decoration is the doge's hat. And I never read that in 1633 it was decreed that all gondole be black to avoid garishness. In Venice, the crass and gaudy are against the law. But Joanne Ferraro tells me so in her formidable History of the Floating City for Cambridge University Press. It had never sunk in, so to speak, that the footpaths and bridges are generally perpendicular to the canals and lagoon docks. Some had to be, but they were a thoughtful design that signaled the times of hiding were over. Dr. Ferraro begins with in the best possible way, with Henry James' admonition that you learn Venice only by letting her touch you. Her rich history may touch you.

Dr. Ferraro is a fine scholar and writer, never academically deadened but always disciplined. So much work has been done on Venice, and she brings much of it into her four complementary themes of Venetian identity:

- An insular island people that become an extrovert power on the world stage
- The multiculturalism of material life, diverse customers and competing ideas
- The Social hierarchy that supported La Serenissima's face to the world
- Gender as cultural construction, repression and counterstrategy

Rather than being a work of narrow scholarship, Dr. Ferraro draws upon a vast array of topics to present a deeply four dimensional appreciation of Venice floating through time. It makes for informative but thoughtful and interesting reading.

Unlike most of the world, Venice had no need for walls. In the early times, they would only draw attention to this mosquito lagoon of places to hide. Later, they had the sea as a defensive barrier that also presented a boundless source of food in a hungry world.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a really nice piece of synthesis that permits the reader to understand both the make up of the empire and the "state of the question" as historians explore the wider meanings of the Venetian state. A number of the reviews published here seem to misunderstand what the author is up to or to engage in a sort of sexist put down of her work because she is interested in social history and particularly in women's issues. Actually by exploring these areas she permits the reader to get a wider view of the entire structure of the state and society. History is built and improved by widening the scope of research topics and the having someone come along and tie together the threads of older and new research which is exactly what the author does. And she writes pretty well. Some of the reviews were very short sighted. They took the Mitt Romney and his "folders of women" approach to history.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
VENICE: HISTORY OF THE FLOATING CITY by Joanne M. Ferraro takes up where many pure history book leave off - this is a book more about the glories of the flavors of Venice than solely the chronological history of this magical city, although in Ferraro's hands all of that information is supplied in easy to trace lists of chronology of historical events well organized and easily readable.

But the crux of Ferraro's book is her dividing the book into four themes: 1) the construction and evolution of identities - exploring in terms of Venetian insularity and new encounters created by networks of trade and immigration 2) the multiculturalism of material life - portraying medieval and early modern Venice as a mirror of the Mediterranean world where Hebrew, Spanish, Ottoman, Turkish, Portuguese, Greek, German and Italian dialects including Venetian! 3) social hierarchy - social and political cohesion and supported the aristocratic state's myth of enduring stability despite class distinction and the overall power of the Catholic Church in literature housing, dress, and performance and 4) gender as a cultural construction - the strange dichotomy between men and women as displayed in the law, in relationships, and in cultural attitudes.

In highly sophisticated writing the author includes illustrations in both black and white images and color photographs of pertinent structure and their places in the development of Venice's history. The writing is academic and therefore a bit dry, but it is thorough and for lovers of Venice, Ferraro's manner of writing rapidly explains the idiosyncrasies of this great city. This not meant to be a stand alone book: the author so states early on in the text. But for those who are curious about the aspects of Venice the author addresses, this is a solid volume and one that belongs in every library. Grady Harp, November 12
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Of all Italian cities, it can be argued that only Rome has had a more profound cultural influence on western civilization than the historical impact that Venice has enjoyed. When most of us think of Venice, what comes to mind are lazy sunny days, being gently pushed through the canals by a gondola and admiring the magnificent architecture of the city.

While these aspects of Venice are important, it's easy to forget (or perhaps be unaware?) that Venice was once a big time player on the world stage. It had a robust navy and went toe-to-toe with the mighty Ottoman empire on several occasions. It also has its own independent political identity which prevailed until the early 1800s.

This is where Professor Ferraro comes in. If you have ever been to Venice, daydreamed about Venice, or even simply witnessed the city in a movie or HISTORY channel documentary, then this is a book worth perusing. Ferraro offers us a remarkable historical & anthropological study of this almost mythical city.

People who choose to read this book will also tend to be interested in Casanova, Death in Venice, The Merchant Of Venice and Dangerous Beauty (and vice versa). Ferraro reveals to the reader the historical backdrop of antisemitic overtones that permeate Shakespeare's play.
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