By Giovanni Boccaccio
Published in 1353
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
The Decameron is a collection of 100 tales from the early Italian Renaissance. A group of wealthy young people flee the plague to the countryside and decide to self quarantine. There, they tell each other stories, thus making up the Decameron.
What struck me is how horny this book is. Most of the stories read like modern day trashy romance novels. This is one of the most sexually explicit books I’ve ever read. It was the 50 Shades of Grey of its day.
The target audience is women - in many way it is part of the long tradition of written pornography intended for women that bear the label “romance novels.”
It is fascinating in the sense that it really changes my perspective on the period. Stereotypes about the sobriety of the renaissance are completely blown away.
After reading roughly 1/3 of the book, I decided that it was too much for me and put it down. It was far too much for me.
I recommend reading, at least part, of the Decameron to understand the renaissance better. It is at least worth listening past the first two days to get a sense of the tales told. That will tell you a lot about the views of sex amongst the late midieval Italian elite.
The Story of the Renaissance
By William Henry Hudson
Published in 1912
Thibault’s Score: 1/5
Very old history books almost always such. I had a few old Renaissance books I had laying around in my Audible library that I decided to tackle.
They are vague, don’t discuss sources or historiography, assert facts without doubt, and have a generally propagandistic tone. This one even came off as slightly racist at times, in the chapter towards the end where the author discusses that the English Renaissance was sparked by the racial consciousness of the Anglo-Saxon people.
These old books are overly deep in terms of the details that they cover about political issues, and overly shallow about the broad social trends shaping society.
The Italian Renaissance
By J.H. Plumb
Published in 1961
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
Mediocre history books about the Renaissance seems to be an entire genre. The Italian Renaissance, by J.H. Plumb is an uninspired history of the political and social circumstances of Renaissance Italy. It briefly covers the period of the late Middle Ages, then explains how changing social circumstances created the wealth necessary for the Renaissance. I finished the book on the same day that I picked it up, and, once again, barely remember any details. Instead, what I remember is that the book goes into political minutia without giving any real context - and I quickly got lost in the names of miscellaneous kings and queens, dukes, and doges. This book misses the forest for the trees.
By Wallace K. Ferguson
Published in 1940
Thibault’s Score: 1/5
This book is a very short introduction to the Renaissance written in 1940. It feels very dated, and isn’t very good. The book goes over the political developments that would lead to the prosperity of the Renaissance. I finished it in a single afternoon, and barely remember the details. It was as boring as it was short and uninformative.
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