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The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean Lecture

The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses

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  • Quaker
    United States
    27/02/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Christopher
    BROOKLYN, NY, United States
    5/05/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Could've Used More Culture + Color"

    There is a lot of detailed information here, but it is very dry: old-school history focused on political and military matters – to the exclusion of all else.

    Professor Bartlett has a difficult task, as Italy between the fall of Rome and the Risorgimento was divided into many states, each with their own history and identity. He chooses to organize these lectures regionally more than chronologically. This has its drawbacks: many historical figures (like the Borgias) or international events (like the Plague) appear in the narrative of multiple states, and so we hear about them again and again, but only in little snippets each time – it can be disorienting.

    This approach would make much more sense if he spent any time describing the states' individual cultures – he says over and over again that they were unique, but does little to illustrate what made them distinct beyond political organization. When he does mention something cultural, it's still dry: he might say that the Sienese developed their own painting style, but not say anything about what that style was or what made it special.

    The lectures are also strangely limited in chronological scope: the (500+ year!) period between the fall of Rome and the first crusade is quickly glossed over (a single lecture!), and the lectures largely stop at the 16th century, long before Italian unification.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    ATLANTA, GA, United States
    13/09/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great prep for a 2-week trip to Italy"

    History with context!

    The professor has a superb job putting everything in context. Italy is such a complex place which such a diverse set of historical drivers, and so it's tough to do right.

    Most tour guide histories are just a list of "then this happened, then this king did this."

    In contrast, this professor ably articulates the trends and particulars, so that the names, places, and events make sense.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Die Falknerin
    7/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Smirk
    14/02/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dull."

    Lists of dates and wars and families fill this book from beginning to end. Even the narrator repeatedly sighs.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Listen
    VICTORIA, BC, Canada
    4/07/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great course with some redundancy"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean to be better than the print version?

    No. With so much information contained in these lectures, one cannot properly gain enough knowledge without some written material. Simple things like, how the names are spelled and which dates related to what events/figures are just part of the reason why written text is necessary for learning history.


    Would you recommend The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes and no. See my comment below.


    What does Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    N/A.


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

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    After I listened to his “The Italian Renaissance”, I became a big fan of Professor Bartlett. History could be full of wars, names and dates tend to be pretty boring, but Bartlett has managed to keep audience interested by personalizing the historical figures, their background, character, journey in the way that you and I can related. He also provided various aspects of the Italian culture that we still can see today when we visit the country. In so doing, ancient history becomes highly relevant to today’s Italy and Italians.

    One thing I am not entirely satisfied with this course is that there are a number of chapters seem to be directly copied from his “The Italian Renaissance”, or vise versa. The material is all great, but if you purchase one, the other doesn’t seem to add much value.

    Another thing I am unhappy about it is the fact that the lack of course outlines in the Great Course series. With the huge amount of information delivered in these lectures, some written material will be most helpful for the students to review and solidify what’s learned. I will have to buy his written book as a suppliment.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Booklover
    Washington, D.C.
    7/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Narration Flawed; Subject Matter Difficult"

    Professor Bartlett sounds like he's enduring a rather wearisome exercise. His tone is monotonous and he heaves great sighs periodically. In general, he does not appear to be engaged with, or excited by, his subject matter. (By contrast, Professor Tuck, who narrates The Mysterious Etruscans, sounds like he is having a wonderful time sharing his knowledge).
    Separately, the course material is difficult to absorb. The details of the struggles in each city state at times are both tedious and overwhelming. Perhaps, because so many mini-histories comprise the history of Italy prior to the Risorgimento, it had to be this way. However, I'd like to believe that someone else could have made different choices in selecting and organising the course material.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jose Gomez-Rivera
    31/07/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good Breakdown of Pre Risorgimento Italian history"

    Professor Barlett gives a good overview of Renaissance history- from the late medieval period to the treaty of Cateau Cambresis that established Spanish Hapsburg dominance. He is well versed in Renaissance politics, the Ghibeline and Guelf schism and the art of the period. There are some generalizations I take issue with but overall it's factual and informative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Julisa
    20/07/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thorough and engaging"

    I would recommend these lectures to anyone wanting to have a good grasp of Italian history. I like the approach of going through the various city states, as each has a unique style or flavor. The lectures are thorough without being too long. I particularly appreciated his synopsis at the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Michael
    United States
    31/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "great lecture slightly tainted by narration"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean to be better than the print version?

    I enjoyed learning more about Italy before its modern single state status about one hundred and fifty years ago. The speakers knowledge of the subject was outstanding. The speakers speech impediment was very annoying however, whether this was done on purpose or a limitation of his speaking. The best example of this is his tortured speaking of the word peninsula as something like penin sha la.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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