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Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art…

Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence (2005)

by Tim Parks

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352947,635 (3.31)5



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Not interested in Italian Renaissance History? No problem! Aside from the fact that Parks is a good enough writer to make any subject interesting, this book is about far more than the Medici clan (though it's also a good place to start in relation to them). It's equally about the nature of money, and banking - with plenty of contemporary resonance.

For example:

"Usury alters things. With interest rates, money is no longer a simple and stable metal commodity that just happens to have been chosen as a means of exchange. Projected through time, it multiplies, and this without any toil on the part of the usurer. Everything becomes more fluid. A man can borrow money, buy a loom, sell his wool at a high price, change his station in life. Another man can borrow money, buy the first man's wool, ship it abroad, and sell it at an even higher price. He moves up the social scale. Or if he is unlucky, or foolish, he is ruined. Meanwhile, the usurer, the banker, grows richer and richer. We can't even know how rich because money can be moved and hidden, and gains on financial transactions are hard to trace." [pg13]

Parks talks about the book in interview with TMO here ( )
  Litblog | Dec 19, 2014 |
Tim Parks Medici Money is a somewhat peculiar look at the famed Medici family of renaissance Italy and the banking organization they were most recognized for. The book suffers from rather poor editing, with timeline jumps, poor sentencing and at times overbearing waffle - his explanation of monetary connections between the Medici provincial banks left me confused. His writing style doesn’t seem too far removed from that of a script to a light hearted documentary. I would say this is a good introduction to the 15th century Europe and the fame Medici family but sadly nothing more. ( )
  adamclaxton | Aug 18, 2013 |
Surprised by being so unsatisfied with Medici Money. I was expecting a great read but I found it confusing when it should have been easy to bring out the deeper contradictions within the legendary Medici. I didn’t appreciate what felt like a Wall Street Journal type of writing that didn’t offer a single theme (Achilles coupled with Savonarola). Not recommended, and I would think twice about trying to read anything else by the author. Parks seems talented enough to do great work, but this one isn’t.
1 vote sacredheart25 | Nov 12, 2012 |
This was a great fun book. It's an easy introduction to 15th Century Florence. I've read bits and pieces here and there about that time and place, but this book put the pieces together nicely. Of course it is not a long book and not a dense book either, so it is far from comprehensive. Really it is more of a starting point, a trigger to go read more.

Egads I don't think I ever realized that the Pope that Luther fought against was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. How about that!

I did find the writing style of the book a bit annoying. There are sentence fragments all over the place. It's not carelessly done - it's too consistent for that. It's just sort of deliberately informal, chatty. It wasn't a total obstacle - it was clear enough what the author was saying.

There were many fun references to our current social/political environment. That's a major theme of the book, the way that 15th Century Florence was the birthplace of our modern society. Of course any such hypothesis has to be simplistic to the point almost of absurdity. But the cartoon starkness of it makes it clearer. Maybe the reader will be motivated to study further, to fill in the subtleties. How was Luther different than Savonarola?

The tight relationship between money - banking - and politics: that's the core of it. How money has erased old family power. (There's one of those sentence fragments!)

Ah, there was a sentence in the book somewhere... in a productive economy, banks can make money by investing in productive enterprises. When all the productivity has moved elsewhere, the only money to be made is by encouraging the powerful to overspend on grand gestures, military and otherwise. Definitely many pointed references to present circumstances, though not always clearly labeled as such! ( )
2 vote kukulaj | Aug 3, 2012 |
Excellent ( )
  Alana01 | Sep 30, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393328457, Paperback)

“A swift and brilliant synthesis of finance, politics, and history.”—Ben Sisario, New York Times Book Review

Before they achieved renown as patrons of the arts and de facto rulers of Florence, the Medici family earned their fortune in banking. But even at the height of the Renaissance, charging interest of any kind meant running afoul of the Catholic Church’s ban on usury. Tim Parks reveals how the legendary Medicis—Cosimo and Lorenzo “the Magnificent” in particular—used the diplomatic, military, and even metaphysical tools at hand, along with a healthy dose of intrigue and wit, to further their fortunes as well as their family’s standing.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:34 -0400)

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Their name is a byword for immense wealth and power, but before their renown as art patrons and noblemen, the Medicis built their fortune on banking. Banking in the fifteenth century, even at the height of the Renaissance, meant running afoul of the Catholic Church's prohibition against usury. It required more than merely financial skills to make a profit, and the legendary Medicis--most famously Cosimo and Lorenzo ("the Magnificent")--were masterly at the political, diplomatic, military, and even metaphysical tools that were needed to maintain their family's position. Parks uncovers the intrigues, dodges, and moral qualities that gave the Medicis their edge. Evoking the richness of the Florentine Renaissance and the Medicis' glittering circle, replete with artists, popes, and kings, Medici Money is a look into the origins of modern banking and its troubled relationship with art and religion. --From publisher description.

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