The Devil's Broker: Seeking Gold, God, and Glory in Fourteenth-Century Italy

Front Cover
Harper Collins, 2004 - History - 396 pages
10 Reviews

"There were good ways to die,
and there were bad ways to die."

So begins this effervescent history of an Italy about to shake itself free of the medieval age and move confidently into the Renaissance. First, though, there was an ordeal to pass through, one worthy of the imagination of Dante.

Unleashed by a pause in the cataclysmic Hundred Years' War, hordes of soldiers with an appetite for pillage swooped down on the opulent city-states of Italy -- bloated with gold from trade and the birth of the modern banking industry -- and commenced to unburden them of their wealth. The greatest of all the mercenary captains was Sir John Hawkwood, an English expatriate and military genius who formed his own army and cleverly pitted ancient rivals against one another: Florence against Siena, Milan against the papacy -- collecting tribute from them all, holding the Pope for ransom, and setting blood running in the streets.

The Devil's Broker is more than a riveting account of fortunes gained and lost by treachery and the sword: it is a lavish portrait of the fourteenth century, which Barbara Tuchman called "calamitous"; the Black Plague that struck down the mighty and the abject with equal ferocity; the violent schism in the Catholic Church that sent the Pope scurrying to Avignon for safety; the religious mania offset by a gargantuan appetite for spectacle, luxury, and self-indulgence. Among the other titans moving through Frances Stonor Saunders's magnificent narrative are the anorexic and power-hungry St. Catherine of Siena, an ill-tempered and comfort-loving Petrarch, and a curious and amused diplomat-spy named Geoffrey Chaucer, who would draw on Hawkwood's career for his own "Knight's Tale."

The meticulous archiving and record-keeping of medieval Italian notaries means that this history has passed to us through the intimate words of its most vital actors; Frances Stonor Saunders has combed tirelessly through original documents to produce a history seemingly as immediate and relevant as events of yesterday. She is a prodigious talent.

  

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Review: The Devil's Broker: Seeking Gold, God, and Glory in Fourteenth- Century Italy

User Review  - Bart - Goodreads

Highly accessible history of late Medieval Italy. This is a superb read, one that is evocative of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror. Like Tuchman, Saunders frames her book around the life and times ... Read full review

Review: The Devil's Broker: Seeking Gold, God, and Glory in Fourteenth- Century Italy

User Review  - Grouchung - Goodreads

I love it, I love condottieri and the Italian Renaissance and the mindset of mercenaries, who lived in an age where religion was a given. Saunders gives a very readable narrative thread in this ... Read full review

Contents

Ways to Die
1
Ways to Live
10
Bad Company
21
Avignon Whore of France
34
Sons of Belial
41
Italia Mia
54
Betrayal
75
Naked Force
88
Anathema
226
Cardinal Vices
235
From Massacre to Marriage
245
The Other Woman
258
Schism
269
Stories from Troy
275
Neapolitan Question
285
Viper Swallows Viper
296

Vipers of Milan
96
State of Decline
105
The Road to Rome
115
The First Estate
126
Overeating
142
Undereating
149
Virtues Shame
161
How to Get to Heaven
171
Florence
184
Bloody Saints
195
Freedom Fighters
209
The Wheel of Fortune
302
The Last Campaign
311
Final Audit
318
The Greatest Glory
328
What Remains
332
Pale Horse Pale Rider
339
Source Notes
349
Select Bibliography
371
Index
383
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Frances Stonor Saunders is the former arts editor of The New Statesman. Her first book, The Cultural Cold War, has been translated into ten languages and was awarded the Royal Historical Society's William Gladstone Memorial Prize. She lives in London.

Bibliographic information