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  • A Brief History of Italy

  • By: Jeremy Black
  • Narrated by: Roger Davis
  • Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Summary

Despite the Roman Empire's famous 500-year reign over Europe, parts of Africa and the Middle East, Italy does not have the same long national history as states such as France or England. Divided for much of its history, Italy's regions have been, at various times, parts of bigger, often antagonistic empires, notably those of Spain and Austria. In addition, its challenging and varied terrain made consolidation of political control all the more difficult. This concise history covers, in very readable fashion, the formative events in Italy's past from the rise of Rome, through a unified country in thrall to fascism in the first half of the 20th century right up to today. 

The birthplace of the Renaissance and the place where the Baroque was born, Italy has always been a hotbed of culture. Within modern Italy country there is fierce regional pride in the cultures and identities that mark out Tuscany, Rome, Sicily and Venice to name just a few of Italy's many famous regions. Jeremy Black draws on the diaries, memoirs and letters of historic travellers to Italy to gain insight into the passions of its people, first chronologically then regionally.  

In telling Italy's story, Black examines what it is that has given Italians such cultural clout - from food and drink, music and fashion, to art and architecture - and explores the causes and effects of political events, and the divisions that still exist today."

©2018 Jeremy Black (P)2018 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"Jeremy Black skilfully sketches social, cultural and political trends." (Christina Hardyment, Times audiobook of the week)

What listeners say about A Brief History of Italy

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Exceedingly brief

Because I expected this to be a history of the country of Italy, not the Italian peninsula,

GOOD FOR anyone wanting a skate over the top of the entire history of the landmass
KEEP LOOKING if you're interested in a particular region or the effect of history on people or you like your history books to tell the story of a nation

There are lots of interesting episodes, like the Italian Wars or the 19th century, which are reduced to a string of dates, rather than having even a thumbnail sketch of what happened at a battle. And in several places it says "so-and-so was pressing a hereditary claim" but we aren't told where that claim came from or given any indication who had the right of the case.

The only good bit is where Black covers the "history" from 1990 to 2017. It's almost as though the author wanted to write a current affairs book and the first three quarters was just background to enhance understanding.

He regularly quotes fiction written by non-Italians, while barely mentioning other historians. As a bare minimum, a "brief history" ought to point you to more in-depth texts.

Also, the narrator is so monotone that, combined with the unengaging litany of facts (rather than narrative), I had to use music to keep my brain awake while listening. Otherwise, I would've taken none of this in.

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Excellent view of Italian history

Italy has such a complicated history with so many states and powers vying for control over many centuries. It is rare for that history to be told in a single volume. But Jeremy Black has succeeded in making the vast and complicated history easily understandable. From the Romans, to the Spanish, the Austrians, The Vatican, the Venetians, Sicily, 19th century unification, Mussolini and much more is all in this history.

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Useless

Well narrated, but the text is unfortunately useless: too many dates and no sense of what is important and what is not.

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  • P. Ben
  • 03-02-19

Useful but a bit shallow and anecdotal

Although the book provides some geographical and historical contextualization that is useful to understand Italy, it focuses too much on the anecdotal. In addition, the author sometimes pays more attention to how the British have perceived Italy rather than providing an analysis of Italy itself. There is not much explanation of how life in Italt has changed over time and there is too much emphasis on dropping names of "great men", nobles, kings, leaders, and other "important figures. Not much reference to historical processes, scarce explanation of economic issues, not much about Italian culture.
The description of the ancient period is best, and analysis of contemporary Italy lacks depth, ressembling a collection of contemporary news from the media.

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  • Sibawayh
  • 01-01-20

Good overview

Good overview of the checkered past of that beautiful country. Recommend complementing it with Duggan's Concise History of Italy.

1 person found this helpful