“The History of the Renaissance World” by Susan Wise Bauer (Norton, 2013)

The History of the Renaissance World
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To many the renaissance was a time of rebirth and growth that began sometime around the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, ushering in a whole new era of scientific development and the advancement of knowledge. But after completing her History of the Medieval World, Susan Wise Bauer begins her History of the Renaissance correctly in the early twelfth century beginning with the rediscovery of Aristotle and ending in the mid fifteenth century with the conquest of Constantinople.

The detailed book is divided into five sections: “Renaissances,” “Invasions, Heresies, and Uprisings,” “Catastrophes,” “Regroupings,” “Endings.” Just as she did with The History o f the Ancient World and The History of the Medieval World, Bauer takes the reader on a fantastic whirlwind tour of the world, presenting a detailed history from specific periods of these various cultures, how they were interacting and engaging with each other, and what developments occurred and when and how they influenced the nations of the world. Where she can, Bauer uses timelines, photos, pictures and any other sources that will help the reader along.

Just as with her previous books in this series, The History of the Renaissance World is an ideal historical reference that can be enjoyed as a normal book, read from beginning to ending, taking the reader across the globe over three centuries of complex history, or used as a quick reference guide thanks to the concise contents listing and lengthy index, allowing readers to get to a specific historical event in time in seconds. This is a worthy volume to add to one’s collection and is perfect for the student or scholar wanting a handy reference manual for the period, or for the history aficionado who simply wishes to learn more about the renaissance and when it truly began.

Originally written on March 24, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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The History of the Ancient World  The History of the Medieval World

“Echantress of Florence” by Salman Rushdie (Random House, 2008)

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Sir Salman Rushdie, best known for The Satanic Verses which earned him multiple death threats forcing him to leave his native land and live in Britain, returns with what he calls his “most researched book” which took “years and years of reading,” in The Enchantress of Florence.  A remarkable novel told in a way that mixes story with history and fable, making it seem like an enchanting tale á la Thousand and One Nights that leaves one wondering which parts of it are true and which are from the imaginative mind of Rushdie.  An enigmatic character from distant Florence pays a visit to the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great.  Through Rushdie’s eyes we see two very difference worlds: the high renaissance of Italy juxtaposed with that of India.  The magic in this story is indirect and subtle, lending it a romantic and fantastic air that simply adds to the setting and plot.  It is Salman Rushdie at his best, telling wonderful, moving, magical stories within stories.

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Originally written on January 18th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.