100 books like Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence

By John Henderson,

Here are 100 books that Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence fans have personally recommended if you like Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Florentine Magnates: Lineage and Faction in a Medieval Commune

Tinney Sue Heath Author Of A Thing Done

From my list on medieval Florence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical fiction set in medieval Italy, in that lesser-known territory somewhere between ancient Rome and the Renaissance. I’m fascinated by the period before the Medici, before Michelangelo, sometimes even before Dante. The seeds of the Renaissance are hidden in that turbulent time, and I love to hunt for them. I also like to write about marginalized people—the obscure, unfamous, forgotten folk plucked from the footnotes. I’m happy to introduce some of the excellent history books that help me do that. These five books are specific to Florence, the city of my heart.

Tinney's book list on medieval Florence

Tinney Sue Heath Why did Tinney love this book?

It’s impossible to understand the turbulence that frequently swept over Florence in those years without some sense of what the magnate class was all about: its pride and its violence, its lawlessness, its emphasis on knighthood, and its private military forces. Lansing shows how the magnate class evolved as a distinctive culture, becoming powerful and disruptive to the city’s peace well beyond even what its considerable economic clout would suggest. She places a lot of emphasis on the role of women among the magnates, even though women could never be full members of the lineage, since they married into other lineages. Lively and readable, with lots of stories of interesting individuals.

By Carol Lansing,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Florentine Magnates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1290s a new guild-based Florentine government placed a group of noble families under severe legal restraints, on the grounds that they were both the most powerful and the most violent and disruptive element in the city. In this colorful portrayal of civic life in medieval Florence, Carol Lansing explores the patrilineal structure and function of these urban families, known as "magnates." She shows how they emerged as a class defined not by specific economic interests but by a distinctive culture. During the earlier period of weaker civic institutions, these families built their power by sharing among themselves crucial…


Book cover of History of Florence 1200-1575

Tinney Sue Heath Author Of A Thing Done

From my list on medieval Florence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical fiction set in medieval Italy, in that lesser-known territory somewhere between ancient Rome and the Renaissance. I’m fascinated by the period before the Medici, before Michelangelo, sometimes even before Dante. The seeds of the Renaissance are hidden in that turbulent time, and I love to hunt for them. I also like to write about marginalized people—the obscure, unfamous, forgotten folk plucked from the footnotes. I’m happy to introduce some of the excellent history books that help me do that. These five books are specific to Florence, the city of my heart.

Tinney's book list on medieval Florence

Tinney Sue Heath Why did Tinney love this book?

This concise history of Florence is a great starting point. It traces the evolution of the city from a medieval commune to a republic, covering intellectual, political, cultural, religious, and economic trends and developments over the centuries. Its scope is broad, and one of its strengths is its continuity, as it follows various threads through time. Najemy is a well-known historian of Florence, and this popular history is an excellent resource.

By Najemy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History of Florence 1200-1575 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this history of Florence, distinguished historian John Najemy discusses all the major developments in Florentine history from 1200 to 1575. * Captures Florence's transformation from a medieval commune into an aristocratic republic, territorial state, and monarchy * Weaves together intellectual, cultural, social, economic, religious, and political developments * Academically rigorous yet accessible and appealing to the general reader * Likely to become the standard work on Renaissance Florence for years to come


Book cover of Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante

Tinney Sue Heath Author Of A Thing Done

From my list on medieval Florence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical fiction set in medieval Italy, in that lesser-known territory somewhere between ancient Rome and the Renaissance. I’m fascinated by the period before the Medici, before Michelangelo, sometimes even before Dante. The seeds of the Renaissance are hidden in that turbulent time, and I love to hunt for them. I also like to write about marginalized people—the obscure, unfamous, forgotten folk plucked from the footnotes. I’m happy to introduce some of the excellent history books that help me do that. These five books are specific to Florence, the city of my heart.

Tinney's book list on medieval Florence

Tinney Sue Heath Why did Tinney love this book?

To know medieval Florence, you have to have a sense of the enormous role the Church played in people’s lives. Here, Dameron concentrates on the 50-year period 1265-1321 (Dante’s lifetime), during which Florence went from something of a backwater to one of the wealthiest and most influential cities in all of Europe. Separation of church and state was simply not a thing back then; the concept would have bewildered medieval Florentines. All aspects of the city, from the legal system to charity efforts, were affected by religious institutions. This knowledgeable account will give you a rich, full picture of that aspect of medieval Florentine society.

By George W. Dameron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the early fourteenth century, the city of Florence had emerged as an economic power in Tuscany, surpassing even Siena, which had previously been the banking center of the region. In the space of fifty years, during the lifetime of Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321, Florence had transformed itself from a political and economic backwater-scarcely keeping pace with its Tuscan neighbors-to one of the richest and most influential places on the continent. While many historians have focused on the role of the city's bankers and merchants in achieving these rapid transformations, in Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante, George…


Book cover of Dino Compagni's Chronicle of Florence

Tinney Sue Heath Author Of A Thing Done

From my list on medieval Florence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical fiction set in medieval Italy, in that lesser-known territory somewhere between ancient Rome and the Renaissance. I’m fascinated by the period before the Medici, before Michelangelo, sometimes even before Dante. The seeds of the Renaissance are hidden in that turbulent time, and I love to hunt for them. I also like to write about marginalized people—the obscure, unfamous, forgotten folk plucked from the footnotes. I’m happy to introduce some of the excellent history books that help me do that. These five books are specific to Florence, the city of my heart.

Tinney's book list on medieval Florence

Tinney Sue Heath Why did Tinney love this book?

If you want to learn about medieval Florence, why not go directly to the source? Dino Compagni was a Florentine merchant, a member of the silk guild, and an active member of the city’s government, contemporary with Dante. He was right in the middle of things during that turbulent period—he saw it all and took part in a lot of it. His chronicle, which covers from about the year 1280 to the beginning of the fourteenth century, relates the harm he perceived coming from factional strife. Bornstein’s translation is clear and readable, and his extensive notes and introduction help to make sense of this long-ago time.

By Daniel E. Bornstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dino Compagni's Chronicle of Florence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dino Campagni's classic chronicle gives a detailed account of a crucial period in the history of Florence, beginning about 1280 and ending in the first decade of the fourteenth century. During that time Florence was one of the largest cities in Europe and a center of commerce and culture. Its gold florin was the standard international currency; Giotto was revolutionizing the art of painting; Dante Alighieri and Guido Cavalcanti were transforming the vernacular love lyric. The era was marked as well by political turmoil and factional strife. The inexorable escalation of violence, as insult and reprisal led to arson and…


Book cover of Public Life in Renaissance Florence

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

This book, more than any other, inspired me to become a historian of Renaissance Italy.

Richard Trexler reveals that, far from being secular minded, the inhabitants of Florence relied on religion, ritual behavior, and charisma to create and maintain urban life, social values, and civic order.

By turns anthropological as well as historical, Trexler uncovers the ritual behaviors and practices that tied the city together from the level of the cosmos to the everyday relations between friends, neighbors, and family members. The central purpose of all public ritual in Florence served to overcome the inherent weakness of a republican government in a world of gods and kings. 

By Richard C. Trexler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Public Life in Renaissance Florence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Covering the history of Renaissance Florence from the fourteenth century to the beginnings of the Medici duchy, Richard C. Trexler traces collective ritual behavior in all its forms, from a simple greeting to the most elaborate community festival. He examines three kinds of social relationships: those between individual Florentines, those between Florentines and foreigners, and those between Florentines and God and His saints. He maintains that ritual brought life to the public world and, when necessary, reformed public life.


Book cover of For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Author Of Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism in the Era of the Two World Wars

From my list on German Protestantism in Hitler’s Germany.

Why are we passionate about this?

Kevin P. Spicer is a historian of twentieth-century Germany who investigates the relationship between church and state from 1918-1945. I'm fascinated by the choices of Christian leaders as they negotiated the challenges of living and leading under National Socialism. I seek to understand the connections between Christian antisemitism and National Socialist’s racial-based exclusionary ethnonationalism and antisemitism. Rebecca Carter-Chand is a historian of twentieth-century Germany who focuses on Christianity during the Nazi period. I'm particularly interested in the smaller Christian churches on the margins of the German religious landscape, many of which maintained ties with their co-religionists abroad. I seek to understand how religious communities navigate ethical and practical challenges of political upheaval and fascism.

Kevin's book list on German Protestantism in Hitler’s Germany

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Why did Kevin love this book?

Based largely on interviews conducted by Barnett in the 1980s, this book remains the standard text on the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. Barnett situates the Confessing Church’s experience within the broader context of the Protestant Churches, which comprised two-thirds of Germany’s population in the Nazi era. Initially formed in response to the German Christian movement’s attempts to Nazify Christianity, the Confessing Church remained committed to the theological integrity and structural independence of the church. Yet Barnett argues that the Confessing Church was not a resistance movement against Nazism itself. Some were arrested and lost their lives, some made compromises with the Nazi regime, and some were antisemitic themselves. Their overlapping and clashing actions complicate the overall portrait of the Confessing Church. A distinctive feature of Barnett’s narrative is the attention given to women—church secretaries, wives of clergy, and the many women who played a greater role in maintaining the…

By Victoria Barnett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For the Soul of the People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Victoria Barnett describes the dramatic struggle between Nazism and the German Confessing Church -- a group of outraged Christians who sought to establish a church untainted by Nazi ideology. For this remarkable book, Barnett interviewed more than sixty Germans who were active in the Confessing Church. She quotes liberally from their frank, unvarnished testimony, using rich historical and archival material to frame their stories. For the Soul of the People
vividly portrays a church divided between those who compromised with Nazism and those who eventually tried to overthrow it.


Book cover of Fugitive Freedom: The Improbable Lives of Two Impostors in Late Colonial Mexico

Colby Ristow Author Of A Revolution Unfinished: The Chegomista Rebellion and the Limits of Revolutionary Democracy in Juchitán, Oaxaca

From my list on “little” stories to tell the big story of Mexico.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always believed in the extraordinary capacity of ordinary people to illuminate the contours of any particular place at any particular time. While the time periods have varied, for me the particular place has always been Mexico. Mexico is my aleph – the daybreak and nightfall of my own personal intellectual and emotional development, consisting of seemingly interminable fits of research and writing and huevoneando, each in equal measures and of equal import. Mexico and its history have become my life’s work. I am a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, and these are my favorite “little” stories to use in teaching, representing five distinct periods in Mexico’s history.

Colby's book list on “little” stories to tell the big story of Mexico

Colby Ristow Why did Colby love this book?

In my opinion, Bill Taylor is the greatest living American historian of Mexico. He has written big books and small books, all brilliant, all canonical, and his latest is no exception. In this labor of love, he traces the lives of two charlatans wandering the Mexican countryside, living and suffering by their wits, usually impersonating priests. The stories, in themselves, go nowhere: our two lowlife protagonists bounce from town to town, jail to jail, and never learn a thing or reach an epiphany; but taken together they paint a picture of Spanish American society as exceptionally mobile, and dysfunctionally unstable. Marked by displacement, dislocation, and immigration, New Spain gave birth to the picaresque novel, rooted in an abiding sense that nothing was ever as it seemed. This is Taylor’s real reward: a glimpse at two unpolished, real-life pícaros in the historical record.

By William B. Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fugitive Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The curious tale of two priest impersonators in late colonial Mexico.

Cut loose from their ancestral communities by wars, natural disasters, and the great systemic changes of an expanding Europe, vagabond strangers and others out of place found their way through the turbulent history of early modern Spain and Spanish America. As shadowy characters inspiring deep suspicion, fascination, and sometimes charity, they prompted a stream of decrees and administrative measures that treated them as nameless threats to good order and public morals. The vagabonds and impostors of colonial Mexico are as elusive in the written record as they were on…


Book cover of The Polish Catholic Church Under German Occupation: The Reichsgau Wartheland, 1939-1945

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Author Of Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism in the Era of the Two World Wars

From my list on Catholic churches in Hitler’s Germany.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of twentieth-century Germany who investigate the relationship between church and state from 1918-1945. We are fascinated by the choices of Christian leaders during this time as they negotiated the challenges of living and leading under National Socialism. In our writing, we seek to understand the connections between Christian antisemitism and National Socialists’ racial-based exclusionary ethnonationalism and antisemitism and seek to understand how religious communities navigate ethical and practical challenges of living through political upheaval and fascism.

Kevin's book list on Catholic churches in Hitler’s Germany

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Why did Kevin love this book?

Huener has produced a definitive study of the Catholic Church in western Poland under German occupation. Identified by the Germans as the Reichsgau (district) Wartheland or Warthegau, it encompassed 45,000 square kilometers (roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire) with a “population of more than 4.9 million, including approximately 4.2 million Poles, 400,000 Jews, and 325,000 Germans.” Of this demographic, 3.8 million were Catholic and ninety percent were ethnic Poles. The German Reich incorporated the territory even though its borders remained guarded and not easily crossed. It included 1,023 parishes, served by 1,829 diocesan priests, 277 male religious, and 2,666 women religious.

Before World War II ended, the German occupiers would close more than ninety-seven percent of the churches, dissolve all Catholic organizations, deport, or imprison most women religious, and arrest more than 1,500 priests, of whom 815 they murdered directly or indirectly. In eighteen succinct and exceptionally well-written…

By Jonathan Huener,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Polish Catholic Church Under German Occupation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it aimed to destroy Polish national consciousness. As a symbol of Polish national identity and the religious faith of approximately two-thirds of Poland's population, the Roman Catholic Church was an obvious target of the Nazi regime's policies of ethnic, racial, and cultural Germanization.

Jonathan Huener reveals in The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation that the persecution of the church was most severe in the Reichsgau Wartheland, a region of Poland annexed to Nazi Germany. Here Catholics witnessed the execution of priests, the incarceration of hundreds of clergymen and nuns in prisons and…


Book cover of Damiano

J.S. Watts Author Of Witchlight

From my list on if you are seeking witchery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved fantasy. My mother told me fairy stories and I read every book of myth and legend in my local library. I’ve continued to read and love books of fantasy and magic. I guess it’s not surprising that all four of my novels and most of my short stories have a speculative aspect to them. Having grown up with the traditional view of the aged, ugly crone luring children away to their doom, I especially love stories of witches that come at the topic of witchcraft from a different angle. I live in the East of England, where the infamous witch-hunts of the seventeenth century took place.

J.S.'s book list on if you are seeking witchery

J.S. Watts Why did J.S. love this book?

The first in a trilogy of books of magical fantasy set in Renaissance Europe and beyond that looks at magic and witchery at an unusual slant. Centre stage is Damiano Delstrego: son of a wizard and alchemist with an inheritance of Dark Magics. Forced out by war, he goes on pilgrimage to seek the aid of the powerful witch Saara, but the road he is obliged to walk is a dark one. R. A. MacAvoy is another writer I have admired for a long time and I was very sad when ill health stopped her from writing. I believe, however, that she has started to write again, so I can but hope for new novels while recommending her older, skillful work.

By R.A. MacAvoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Damiano as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This alternate history fantasy by a Nebula Award nominee follows a young alchemist's quest in Renaissance Italy under the wing of an archangel.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Italian Renaissance, this alternate history takes place in a world where real faith-based magic exists. Our hero is Damiano Dalstrego. He is a wizard's son, an alchemist, and the heir to dark magics. But he is also an innocent, a young scholar and musician befriended by the Archangel Raphael, who instructs him in the lute. To save his beloved city from war, Damiano leaves his cloistered life and sets out…


Book cover of Ellery's Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition & Sparked the Battle Over School Prayer

Jonathan Zimmerman Author Of Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools

From my list on student activism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and an op-ed writer for numerous publications. I’m also a former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher. I’ve spent my adult life studying the ways that human beings imagine education, across space and time. Schools make citizens, but citizens also make schools. And we’re all different, so we disagree—inevitably and often profoundly—about the meaning and purpose of “school” itself. In a diverse nation, what should kids learn? And who should decide that? There are no single “right” answers, of course. I’m eager to hear yours.

Jonathan's book list on student activism

Jonathan Zimmerman Why did Jonathan love this book?

Talk about a badass. In 1956, 16-year-old Ellery Schempp protested his school’s mandatory prayer and Bible-reading period by reading silently from the Koran. He was kicked out of class and sued his school district, insisting that the First Amendment barred it from promoting a particular religious creed. Eventually, in Abington v. Schempp, the Supreme Court agreed. But along the way, kids called Schempp and his family “Commies” (it was the 1950s, remember) and his principal tried to get Tufts University to rescind its admission offer to him. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court permitted a football coach and devout Christian to pray on the field after games. It’s worth asking what would have happened if—like Schempp—the coach was reciting a Muslim prayer instead. 

By Stephen D. Solomon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ellery's Protest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Often, great legal decisions result from the actions of an unknown person heroically opposing the system. This work details how one person's objection to mandatory school prayer became one of the most controversial cases of this century.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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