5) The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici, by Christopher Hibbert
Have made it safely home and now just noting all the books I read while on planes or up in the middle of the night with stomach problems. First up, this mid-70s volume on the famous Italian family who took over Florence and Tuscany and were (on some readings) responsible for the Renaissance. The best bit is the first section, on the rise to power of Cosimo de’ Medici in the early fifteenth century; after that it all seemed to descend into a succession of biographical data including each family member’s patronage of the arts. Disappointingly little context was given; I’d have liked to know a bit more about the precise role at that time of a cardinal (or indeed of a pope, as two of them ended up there), and some explanation of why Florence went from the thriving metropolis of Cosimo and Lorenzo the Magnificent to the impoverished backwater of the eighteenth century. Filled in a few blanks for me though.