jml's notebook

Review: The Medici

Jolie picked this book up during a trip to Florence a couple of years ago. I picked it up again because I happened to notice it on the bookshelf, and thought it would make good fodder for my Microscope game. It's by Paul Strathern.

The book more or less uses the Medici as a thread to take a journey through the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. In this regard, it works well. Art history is a weak area of mine, and it helped me to have some sort of chronology and political context to hang all those famous names off (all of the ninja turtles make an appearance in this book).

I found the chapters on the Medici popes particularly interesting. I would have naively assumed that the Protestant Reformation would have been at the top of their agenda, but at least as Starthern frames it, they had more important things to do, like marry off nieces and raise armies to defend the papal states. Hindsight is 20/20, eh?

The book is studded with a weird pseudo-Freudian approach to analysing characters. At one point, someone's homosexuality is attributed to his domineering mother and absent father, and this is a typical sort of analysis within the book. I'm pretty sceptical of the approach, and it's not defended in the text, and so I am overall far less confident of the rest of his analysis.

I read more in this book about Galileo than I have since I was in primary school. I didn't realise just how great his achievements were, or that he was the first in Europe to bring quantification to science.

Instead of proper end notes, the book ends with an informal list of sources for each chapter. I think rather than reading the book, one would be better served to read through these notes, and then pick up any reference that catches your fancy.