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Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy by [Norwich, John Julius]
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Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy Kindle Edition

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Length: 528 pages Word Wise: Enabled Audible Narration:
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Editorial Reviews


Praise for John Julius Norwich
“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, author of The Last Days of Hitler and The Golden Age of Europe
“Norwich is an enchanting and satisfying raconteur.”—The Washington Post
“He has put readers of this generation more in his debt than any other English writer.”—The Sunday Times (London)
“Norwich is a historian of uncommon urbanity: scholarly and erudite but never pedantic. His style is as graceful and easy as it is knowledgeable.”—Los Angeles Times
“[Norwich] is certainly the English language’s most passionate and dedicated chronicler of [Venice’s] extraordinary history.”—The Seattle Times

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

John Julius Norwich is the author of books including The Middle Sea and Paradise of Cities and has presented approximately thirty historical documentaries on BBC television.

Michael Page has been recording audiobooks since 1984 and has over two hundred audiobooks to his credit. He has won several AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. A professional actor, Michael is currently a professor of theater at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he lives with his wife.

Product Details

  • File Size: 11218 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (July 12, 2011)
  • Publication Date: July 12, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4WKTC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,129 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich CVO is a well known British historian, author of The Normans in Sicily, A History of Venice, A Short History of Byzantium, etc.

Again, the author takes us to the Italian peninsula (well, mostly) for his new book "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy".

Although Lord Norwich is an expert on this period and area, he makes it known to us that this is no hagiography, as a "agnostic Protestant" he "has no ax to grind". He'd have to have a lot of them (axes, I mean) as this book covers over 250 Popes, Antipopes and various non-popes (such as the "hoary canard" of "Pope Joan"). Over a period of about 2000 years.

Some of the author's favorite Papal figures include Innocent I, Leo(s) I & XIII, and Benedict XIV. But the author seems to have the most fun with the "bad boys" of Papal history, of whom there are a rather large number. Norwich also doesn't mind telling us about a good number of (rather scurrilous) rumors, but to give him his due, he also often debunks them. I love one chapter title "Nicholas I and the Pornocracy"! (New word!)

Some portions may be somewhat controversial- for example Norwich speaks out strongly about Pious XII (WWII period).

But other than that- it's fun, fast paced, and very readable (well, mostly, it is over 500 pages)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some years ago, Mr. Norwich wrote a book called Shakespeare's Kings where he laid out the history behind Shakespeare's history plays. I really enjoyed that book. Now he's back with a history of the papacy, and I enjoyed this one as well.

Mr. Norwich is very smart in the way he organized this book. Having read a number of other books on the papacy, I find that they are often quite difficult to read straight through because there's just so much stuff, both truth and legend. He wisely sticks to what we can be confident is factual (with rare exception--for example, he devotes a chapter to "Pope Joan"; still, he acknowledges that she is most likely completely fictional). This means he gets through the first 1000 years pretty quickly (with some popes barely getting a mention) and devotes more of his energy to later popes. In fact, I feel he's at his best when he gets to the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. His history of this period is really fascinating.

And, unlike many authors of serious history, Mr. Norwich has a very readable prose style. Occasionally, his asides can be off-putting and, because he's a bit more casual, he turns the idiosyncratic phrase every once in awhile. Still, it's a much better experience than the ponderous prose of most papacy tomes.

If there's anything that I don't like about this book, it's something that cannot really be laid at Mr. Norwich's door. It's that so few popes, at least the ones we know much about, have really been great men. Mr. Norwich takes a balanced approach and it's even clear that he admires a number of the popes; however, this book does not make the papacy shine. Still, Absolute Monarchs is an education, and a readable one at that. It's hard to ask for more.
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although as some reviewers have noted, the subject matter is too broad for thorough treatment in a popular work. However, the author manages to delve deeply into certain papal reigns, resulting in an informative and entertaining book. Unfortunately, one of the reigns he focuses on is that of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958). As a self-described "agnostic Protestant", the author betrays himself as an unabashed liberal when he arrived at the modern Popes. He slanders Pope Pius XII with all the usual blather about anti-Semitism and his supposed omissions when it came to the Holocaust. Such nonsense has been so well debunked time and again, that the author's position can only be attributed to invincible ignorance or pure malice. When dealing with Pius' successors, the author naturally is greatly enthusiastic about the changes introduced by Second Vatican Council and expresses his frustration with the Church for not going further, by allowing abortion, contraception, female priests, blessing homosexuality and all the rest of the panoply of liberal demands. It is for these reasons that I cannot whole-heartedly recommend this book. In addition, there were some rather curious errors, some of which were:

*...that St. Jerome was Italian. In fact, although he was born in a Roman province, he was from Dalmatia, in modern Eastern Europe.

*...he declared that the Copernican system, as reflected in the Galileo affair, contradicted the Book of Genesis. I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure that Genesis doesn't deal with the movement of the solar system. I believe that Galileo got in trouble because the theory of the heliocentric universe contradicted the Book of Joshua as well as several verses in Psalms.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Norwich writes well and with wit and provides an abundance of information. These factors ease the reader's burden through 512 tightly-packed pages.

But from the very first chapter I began to question Norwich's accuracy. Despite what he says on p. 9 n. 6, St. Paul wrote only one letter to the Galatians, not two. On p. 10 n. 10 he incorrectly states that Acts 2:4 attests to Herod's arrest of Peter. In chapter 2, p. 12 he writes this of St. Polycarp, "a champion of St. Paul and the suspected author of several of the Pauline epistles..." Not one in 2,000 scholars of Early Church History would support Norwich's outdated view of Polycarp as the author of several of the Pauline epistles, namely, 1-2 Timothy and Titus. These missteps raised in my mind a doubt about the accuracy of what he says about the remaining centuries.
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