We were delighted to learn that Professor Catherine Fletcher’s new book, The Beauty and the Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance has been included as a Sunday Times history book of the year.
The Italian Renaissance is often remembered in glowing terms. It has been depicted as the period that brought Europe from the Middle Ages into modernity. However, as Catherine’s book explores, there is more to it than meets the eye.
Leonardo Da Vinci was famous for his art, yet he also designed weapons. Who knew that Mona Lisa was married to a slave trader? Florence is famous for Michelangelo’s David sculpture, not the massacre which forced the republic’s surrender. Where are the women writers, Jewish merchants, the mercenaries, engineers, prostitutes, farmers and citizens in the histories of the Renaissance?
The great Renaissance figures did not appear out of a fifteenth century “rebirth”, rather a tumultuous sixteenth century defined by war, famine and disease.
As Jessie Childs, author of God’s Traitors, describes, Catherine’s work is “a wonderfully dark, gritty, hard-edged tour behind the scenes of the Italian Renaissance. Catherine Fletcher is an expert and eloquent guide through the fire, blood and steel that inspired some of the greatest art in the world”.
Professor Catherine Fletcher is a historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe. Her previous books include The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici and The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story. Catherine is Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University and broadcasts regularly for the BBC.