Katherine Fletcher – Beauty and Terror. An alternative history of the Italian Renaissance” – review and evaluation | Histmag.org . historical portal

Katherine Fletcher – Beauty and Terror. An alternative history of the Italian Renaissance” – review and appraisal

Katherine Fletcher

Beauty and horror. An alternative history of the Italian Renaissance

evaluation: 8

PLN 79.90.00 PLN

publisher: Bellona

Translation: Guetta Matisse

Year of Publication: 2022

Coverage: smooth

number of pages: 600

Formula: 170 x 240 [mm]

ISBN: 978-83-11163-02-7

EAN number: 9788311163027

The Renaissance is associated primarily with the revival of ancient ideals, the names of prominent Italian artists and thinkers, who often push other aspects of that era into the background. Catherine Fletcher in the revised post decided to show the Renaissance from a slightly different perspective. The writer, as a historian and lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, has been researching this period for many years, writing a biography of Alexandre Medici, The Black Prince of Florence, and Beauty and Terror. An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance” is Fletcher’s first book published in Polish. As I wrote in the preface, She wanted to show the connection between people and history, paying attention not only to the most famous personalities of the era, but also to women, writers, artists, soldiers and ordinary citizens who are often overlooked.

The predominant theme is the Italian Wars, fought in the years 1494-1559, in which France, Spain, the Habsburgs, the Papal States, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples and the smaller Italian states participated. Discussing the history of wars, the author explains their causes, describes in detail the most important battles, and devotes much attention to politics and individual rulers. Great emphasis was also placed on showing the realities of the battle, particularly in the context of the weapons used and the techniques and strategies of warfare. Technical aspects are combined with more human aspects, such as Touching accounts of the battlefields and the tragic fate of soldiers and ordinary people affected by war.

The history of the Italian wars is intertwined with other aspects of the Renaissance, the most important of which is art, for which at that time was especially in great demand. Patrons of artists were popes, powerful families such as the Medici, rulers, cities, and republics, commissioned countless works of the most prominent artists, and used art to shape their image and spread specific ideas. The author describes the pioneering artists and their work, referring to the contexts of their creativity. It also touches on the topic of literature, circulating print or … pornography. The topics relating to religion are very broad, especially the status of the papacy and its lesser known papers, the Reformation, and the tumultuous sermons – from Savonarola to Luther, the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and the Council of Trent. The revised publication aims to portray the era as fully as possible, discussing the discovery of the new world and colonization of a new continent, and scientific progress, while also raising issues related to customs and daily life.

Beauty and horror. An alternative history of the Italian Renaissance ‘shows this era not only in terms of great works of art, but also wars, conflicts, and crimes committed by the colonizers and the treatment of Jews expelled from Italian cities and countries. Fletcher devotes much attention to women, providing a list of the most important painters, writers, and rulers, analyzing their status and that of Women in general in the contemporary world. All these threads complement the picture of the Renaissance as an enchanting era with its artistic heritage, but with many dark pages. The book ends with an epilogue that briefly describes the history of the peninsula after the peace at Le Cateau-Cambrésis, ending the war between Spain and France in favor of the former.

Catherine Fletcher certainly did her best to ensure that the reader learns about the Renaissance as widely as possible, considering the less frequently mentioned threads in popular scholarly publications on the subject. Based on a large number of sources, I have provided a lot of information, usually in a very clear and accessible way. At the beginning of the book there is a map, and it is a pity that there is no more, because it will certainly make it easier to orient yourself in the war. The same applies to the illustrations, which, although included at the end, are few in number, especially given the number of works mentioned in the text. The subtitle of the book An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance seems somewhat misleading, suggesting that it contains some variation of the story or presents an entirely innovative view of the era. Fletcher’s focus on aspects of war or conflicts or the focus on female characters does not make new discoveries, besides, just like most publications on rebirth, here too art and artists form one of the main threads.

Beauty and horror. An alternative history of the Italian Renaissance may not be an alternative history, but it certainly shows the era from a broad perspective, drawing the reader’s attention to perhaps less well-known and obvious aspects. The complex history of the Italian wars allows us to consider the Renaissance in a different context than usual as the main theme. I definitely recommend it!

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