A New History

Thomas F. Madden - Author

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ISBN 9780147509802 | 464 pages | 29 Oct 2013 | Penguin | 8.26 x 5.51in | 18 - AND UP
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A spellbinding new portrait of one of the world’s most beloved cities

La Serenissima. Its breathtaking architecture, art, and opera ensure that Venice remains a perennially popular destination for tourists and armchair travelers alike. Yet most of the available books about this magical city are either facile travel guides or fusty academic tomes. In Venice, renowned historian Thomas F. Madden draws on new research to explore the city’s many astonishing achievements and to set 1,500 years of Venetian history and the endless Venetian-led Crusades in the context of the ever-shifting Eurasian world. Filled with compelling insights and famous figures, Venice is a monumental work of popular history that’s as opulent and entertaining as the great city itself.



1. Refugees on the Lagoon:
The Origins of Venice

2. St. Mark's Rest:
The Birth of the City of Venice, 697-836

3. Coming of Age:
Independence, Expansion, and Power, 836-1094

4. A Merchant Republic In a Feudal Age:
Ecclesiastical and Political Reform, 1095-1172

5. Between Empires:
The Peace of Venice, 1172-1200

6. Birth of a Maritime Empire:
Venice and the Fourth Crusade

7. Marco Polo's Venice:
Prosperity, Power, and Piety in the Thirteenth Century

8. The Discovery of the West:
War, Wealth, and Reform in the Early Fourteenth Century

9. Plague and Treason in the Fourteenth Century

10. From Victory to Victory:
The War of Chioggia and the Birth of the Mainland Empire

11. Death of a Parent:
The Fall of Constantinople and the Rise of the Ottoman Turks

12. Sowing and Reaping:
Medieval Venice and the Birth of Modern Finance

13. The Perils of Success:
The Apogee of the Venetian Empire

14. Most Splendid and Serene:
Venice and the Renaissance

15. For God and St. Mark:
The Wars Against the Turks

16. Masks, Opera, and Love:
Venice the Tourist Destination

17. A Medieval Republic in the Modern World:
The United States, France, and the Fall of Venice

18. A Crisis of Identity:
Venice in the Nineteenth Century

19. War, Water, and Tourists:
Venice in the Twentieth Century and Beyond

Further Reading


"Breezy, cheerful, evenhanded, Madden debunks myths about Venetian decadence, and brushes aside ugly whispers about greedy, unscrupulous merchants.  When a colorful character pops up (Marco Polo, Casanova), he makes the most of it in his brisk, no-nonsense prose."
—New York Times

“Madden paints a vivid portrait of “a city without land, an empire without borders.” His engaging work enters a sparse historiography that includes Roger Crowley’s City of Fortune (2012) and John Julius Norwich’s enduring A History of Venice (1982) and separates itself by offering a readable overview backed by solid research.  Readers will come away from Madden’s Venice with newfound respect for one of the great jewels of Western civilization.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“Plenty of books focus on Venice the romantic ruin. This one offers a welcome reminder of its historic role over a millennium in the development of a modern economic system and the maintenance of the global balance of power.”

“A lively and lucid survey of Venice's colorful history.”
—The Seattle Times

“A savory, tantalizing, but not-so-serene history of La Serenessima
—Publishers Weekly

 “Madden proves the perfect guide to the magical city of Venice. His history is not only authoritative and encyclopedic, encompassing everything from the plundering of Attila the Hun to Katharine Hepburn’s tribulations while filming Summertime, it is also unfailingly readable and amusing—a must-read for Europhiles, armchair travelers, and history buffs.”
—Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Leonardo and The Last Supper

“Thomas Madden’s portrait of Venice glows like one of the city’s own rich and colorful artworks—a tapestry woven from a thousand tales, with unforgettable characters, daring exploits, and inspiring triumphs against overwhelming odds. It’s all here: free enterprise and free thought, voyages and empire-building between East and West, and some of the world’s most magnificent achievements in architecture, painting, and music. All the threads of Venetian history are traced with a scholar’s zeal for accuracy. But Madden is also a born storyteller, with a keen eye for the illuminating detail that can bring a scene to life, from Roman refugees fleeing Attila the Hun to modern tourists invading the Rialto. For those who think they know Venice, Madden’s book will be a revelation. For newcomers, this comprehensive overview is essential reading.”
—John R. Hale, author of Lords of the Sea

“Madden is that rare talent—a serious scholar who tells a gripping story. He breathes life into Venetian history in all its subtle complexity, rescuing the Venetians from the common stereotype of one-dimensional merchants. This book is a fantastic read.”
—Lars Brownworth, author of Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilization

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