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This is the fifth book of Durant’s excellent History of Civilization series.
See my review of the first volume for comments on the series as a whole.
This volume does not cover all of, or only, the Renaissance, but instead covers Italy from 1304-1576 AD. Not to worry, Volume VI covers the same period in the rest of Europe. Durant presents an integrated history, which does not focus on dates, but upon the themes of history and the totality of each period including the daily life, the arts, the crafts, the politics and the ideas. This volume covers a few well known artists and popes and other characters of the Italian Renaissance, but also much more. After a brief framing of the period, the history of each major city or region is covered along with the art and artists, politics and leaders, and people and life, then each pope of the period is covered along with the politics and art of their pontificate. Finally the transition between the Renaissance and the reformation is described.
I liked this series quite a bit, and would not recommend skipping this volume. This is not the best of the series, but is interesting never the less. I had read and listened to this volume before, yet I still learned things I had forgotten or did not previously absorb, and more importantly, I enjoyed every minute of the 37 hours.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
This installment reflects the usual qualities of this series: Durant's lucid, witty and colorful prose style; his insightful (and sometimes quirky) opinions; his history in the round approach which blends art, religion, politics, literature, etc. to shine light on each other.
The main potential drawback of this volume is that a period intensely visual is being listened to as an audiobook. Even the book had only a small selection of the works discussed displayed in black and white photos of limited resolution. However, this defect is easily remedied nowadays by searching online for the artworks in question.
I would never say that the Durants' work should be the last word on any period. But when I read other more current volumes, it is always with far more understanding because of my exposure to the their Story of Civilization.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful