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Publisher's Summary

Take a riveting tour of the Italian peninsula, from the glittering canals of Venice to the lavish papal apartments and ancient ruins of Rome.
In these 24 lectures, Professor Bartlett traces the development of the Italian city-states of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, showing how the modern nation of Italy was forged out of the rivalries, allegiances, and traditions of a vibrant and diverse people.
This comprehensive portrait of Italian history opens an exciting new world-a grand mosaic of lustrous and storied cultures as distinctive as the people who helped build them. As you come to know these many "Italys," you'll see how the Italian states defined themselves against the others, competing for territory, trade, and artistic supremacy - and how the vestiges of these interactions are visible even today.
Among other things, you'll consider the rivalry between the Genoese and the Pisans, which stems from a nearly 800-year-old grudge; examine how the crusades influenced the development of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice; and explore Italy's troubled relationship with the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
You'll also get a glimpse into the lives of the powerful and influential, including Pope Paul IV, who championed the Roman Inquisition, and Luigi Gonzaga, who cut out the hearts of his enemies and nailed them to the doors of their palaces as a warning to others who might challenge his power.
As you get to know the distinctive personalities and events that define the peninsula, you'll gain fresh insights into the Italy of today. Surprising, enriching, always engaging, this course offers a unique perspective on one of the most dynamic and creative cultures of the modern world.
©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

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By Quaker on 02-27-15

European political history taken to the next level

Where does The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is a higher level, more in depth study than most of The Great Courses on Audible. I suppose it ranks lower than others on the "entertaining" scale, but higher on the depth of information scale.

What other book might you compare The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean to and why?

Other related series by the great courses would include Foundations of Western Civilization I & II (both excellent), Europe and Western Civilization in the Modern Age, and The Middle Ages series: Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, Late Middle Ages

Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Professor Bartlett also teaches The Great Courses series on European Civilization and the Italian Renaissance, plus their video series The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe. He is extremely knowledgeable. The other courses are less focused on the political evolution of Italy and more focused on civilization, art, and historic sites. It all depends on what you're interested in.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. This is a long and detailed title with 24 lectures. I listened to about an hour a day over a couple of weeks.

Any additional comments?

This is a series for those who know European history and want to delve deeper re the politics of the Italian city states. Prof. Bartlett assumes that the listener knows European history, particularly of the middle ages. It is assumed you already know about the Byzantines, the Holy Roman Empire, the Turkish empire, the royal houses of Anjou, Habsburg, etc. With that as background, this series provides a survey of all the city states and their political (more than cultural) evolution, particularly vis a vis their relationships with Rome and the rest of Europe.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Die Falknerin on 11-07-16

A useful survey, just what I wanted

Having forgotten much of what I learned about Italian history at university, I chose this course as a survey-refresher. It is an ambitious endeavor to attempt to teach this subject in only 24 lectures.

As you can see, any of the following lecture subjects provides more than enough material for a course of its own:

1. Italy, a geographical expression.

2. The question of sovereignity.

3. The crusades and Italian wealth.

4. Venice: a maritime republic.

5. Terraferma Empire.

6. Genoa: La Superba.

7. Bankers and dukes.

8. Pisa.

9. Christians vs. Turks in the Mediterranean.

10. Rome: papal authority.

11. Papal ambition.

12. Papal reform

13. Naples: a matter of wills.

14. Naples and the threat to Italian liberty.

15. Milan and the Visconti.

16. The Sforza dynasty.

17. Mantua and the Gonzaga.

18. Urbino and the Montefeltro.

19. Ferrara and the Este family.

20. Siena and the struggle for liberty.

21. Florence and the guild republic.

22. Florence and the Medici.

23. The Italian mosaic: E Pluribus Gloria.

24. Campanilismo: The Italian sense of place.

Each of us has favorites and subjects we'd like to have heard more about. (For me, it was Lombardia and the north in general). But this is a survey, and it provides what a survey should: a broad perspective. For me, it gave me a greater sense of how Italy became the nation it is, and what a wonder it is that unification ever took place!

For those who complain, "It's all names and stuff," I'm afraid that's what history classes tend to be. But your reading, research, and interest outside of class is what will really make the dry facts come to life.

(Audible, please make the downloads available through Safari. I wanted to use the pdf on iPad, but had to download on Microsoft, email it to myself, and convert it in iBooks).

Buon ascolto.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By L Minnema on 07-23-17

excellent overview of interactions between cities

If you could sum up The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean in three words, what would they be?

This course offers an excellent overview of the political and economic interactions between the major Italian cities Venice, Genua, Milan, Rome, Mantua, Urbino, until the Napoleonic take-over of Italy. Medieval and Renaissance Italy is the battlefield for the competition between the Habsburg empire and the French kingdom fighting each other in Italy, the Italian cities becoming allies of either the one or the other. Within most of the Italian cities, the aristocrats oppose the merchant classes, the aristocrats linking themselves to the Habsburg emperor, the merchant classes linking themselves to the French king or to the pope, cities having to shift sides if the tide turned.

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