Mary Hollingsworth

View from the Palazzo

Out of Italy

By

Europa Editions 368pp £13.60 order from our bookshop

A Month in Siena

By

Viking 116pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

The Italian Renaissance has been exercising its magnetic power over tourists, scholars, composers, playwrights, artists and novelists since its beginning. Indeed, there is now held to have been a ‘first’ Renaissance (1100–1350), predating the ‘true’ Renaissance (1450–1650). These books, one by a renowned French historian and the other by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, offer two very different approaches to the subject.

Fernand Braudel’s Out of Italy (first published in Italian in 1974) is unashamedly academic. Leader of the French Annales school, he saw history not in terms of individuals and events but as patterns of economic and social change. This approach has its advantages but also drawbacks; in the light of recent scholarship, it now appears somewhat dated. His cast of characters are not people but cities, ships, crops, weather and money, above all the trading fortunes amassed by Italy’s city-states, which gave them supremacy in the Mediterranean and beyond – by 1450, Italian merchants were trading in London, Constantinople and across the Black Sea to Tana at the mouth of the Don. Preferring broad brushstrokes to narrow details, Braudel presents a series of snapshots taken at different stages between the years 1450 to 1650 to document the rise and fall of this cultural movement and the central role these merchants played in its development, as well as the way in which Italy ‘beamed a radiance out beyond its own frontiers, a light that spread to every corner of the world’, as he magniloquently puts it.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He weeps by the side of the ocean, He weeps on the top of the hill; He purchases pancakes and lotion, And chocolate… ,
    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,