Living on the Edge in Leonardo's Florence: Selected Essays

Living on the Edge in Leonardo's Florence: Selected Essays

Living on the Edge in Leonardo's Florence: Selected Essays

Living on the Edge in Leonardo's Florence: Selected Essays

Synopsis

In Living on the Edge in Leonardo's Florence, an internationally renowned master of the historian's craft provides a splendid overview of Italian history from the Black Death to the rise of the Medici in 1434 and beyond into the early modern period. Gene Brucker explores those pivotal years in Florence and ranges over northern Italy, with forays into the histories of Genoa, Milan, and Venice. The ten essays, three of which have never before been published, exhibit Brucker's graceful intelligence, his command of the archival sources, and his ability to make history accessible to anyone interested in this place and period. Whether he is writing about a case in the criminal archives, about a citation from Machiavelli, or the concept of modernity, the result is the same: Brucker brings the pulse of the period alive.

Five of these essays explore themes in the premodern period and delve into Italy's political, social, economic, religious, and cultural development. Among these pieces is a lucid, synoptic view of the Italian Renaissance. The last five essays focus more narrowly on Florentine topics, including a fascinating look at the dangers and anxieties that threatened Florence in the fifteenth century during Leonardo's time and a mini-biography of Alessandra Strozzi, whose letters to her exiled sons contain the evidence for her eventful life.

Excerpt

In a lecture on the history of Berkeley’s History Department which I gave on the campus in February 1995, I said:

Looking back over my own experience, I see the role of fortune
looming very large and at some key moments decisively, in deter
mining the course of my life. It was fortune that sent me to southern
France during World War ii and allowed me a glimpse of that Med
iterranean world so vastly different from the Germanic agrarian so
ciety in which I was reared. It was fortune that inspired an enlight
ened federal government to enact the gi Bill and the Fulbright Act
that enabled me to pursue my postgraduate studies in this country
and abroad. and finally, fortune’s greatest gift to me was the invita
tion to begin my academic career at Berkeley.

This exercise in autobiography will expand and develop that theme, which could be formulated in these terms: “How did a boy raised on a prairie farm in Illinois in the depression years of the 1930s become a historian of Renaissance Florence?”

My interest in history was kindled at an early age. My older sister had taught me the rudiments of reading before I attended our one-room country school. I read avidly whatever newspaper or journal or book that I could find while growing up, though the availability of reading matter . . .

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