The Florentine Renaissance left a legacy of great works of art, but according to Rothfield that wasn’t all. As a self-governing republic, he writes, Florence would also shape “the civic stage on which the high drama of the Renaissance would unfold.” On that stage was a cast of characters that included politicians, priests, fanatics, and merchants, as well as painters, sculptors, writers, and their patrons. Machiavelli, Savonarola, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Donatello, Dante, and members of the Medici family including Cosimo and Lorenzo, are among those who make appearances in a sweeping story in which alliances are forged and broken and allegiances are pledged and tested. Rothfield traces the rise and fall of the city-state in a colorful and compelling history that brings Florence and its citizens and rulers to life. Numerous notes and a generous bibliography complete the presentation and offer opportunities for those wishing to delve deeper. Readers with an interest in Italy and cultural and political history will find much to discover and ponder in Rothfield's portrait of a profoundly influential city.— Booklist
This is a well-written short history of the Renaissance in Florence from the middle of the 14th century to the end of the Florentine Republic and the victory of Medici absolutism in 1530. It describes the spirit of Renaissance Florence, although the author is not uncritical of the Florentines.... Rothfield describes well the creative achievements of the greatest writers, scholars, and artists of the period and connects them to the politics and spirit of Florence. The book is based on major, mostly English-language, scholarship of the past 60 years and concentrates on individuals and well-chosen quotations and stories. Recommended.— Choice Reviews
An excellent introduction to Florence, with some focus on issues of liberty and also civic leadership. One should never tire of reading about this particular topic.— Tyler Cowen, author, "Stubborn Attachments," and blogger, "Marginal Revolution"
The Measure of Man is a riveting book that provides a detailed account of Florence’s decadent leaders, the intersection of politics and art at the time, and the Florentine “Renaissance spirit.”— Nathan's Papers: Writing About Congressional History for All
Want to feel the majesty and drama that made Florence the glory of Renaissance Italy? Rothfield’s propulsive, witty, erudite history of the city-state is a must. Here’s a guide to the genius, passions, politics, and noble and base motives of its creators, its rulers, and those who sought to favor them and usurp them. Rothfield helps us feel how the outsized impact of this remarkable city grew and ultimately faded, and why its power dimmed but its splendor endures. Readers may want to draw contemporary parallels to Renaissance Florence’s bravura cultural ambitions and political machinations—go right ahead—but this book’s real strength is making a magnificent place magnificently alive.— Ted C. Fishman, bestselling author of China, Inc. and Shock of Gray
A warm and welcoming introduction to Florence and its history, perfect for students and for travelers who want to understand the stories hidden in the city’s layers and architecture, all written with true erudition and love.— Ada Palmer, author of Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance and the award-winning Terra Ignota series
This is just the book I wanted but couldn’t find when I first became interested in Renaissance Florence. It’s a delightful read, full of fascinating color and detail.— Jo Walton, award-winning author of Among Others, The Just City, and Lent
Larry Rothfield is one of today’s great minds and finest writers. In this elegant volume, he turns his attention to examining the creative, ingenious, complex, and fascinating history of Florence, from nefarious assassinations to masterful paintings, from courtly intrigue to wondrous inventions. Florence may have been small, but like its mascot, David, it packed a powerful punch and made an indelible mark on the history books.— Noah Charney, professor of art history and best-selling author of Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art
Democracy, freedom, civic participation, prosperity, and social vigor battle tyranny, foreign interference, suppression, disparities of wealth, and pandemics in the rise and fall of the republic. Though the themes strongly resonate today, the setting is Renaissance Florence. Lawrence Rothfield provides a highly readable account of the shaping of this most influential of cities, wonderfully blending the republic’s political and economic tensions with tales of artistic creativity and innovation, and adeptly using such characters as the Medicis, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo to do so.
— Richard Kurin, Distinguished Scholar, Smithsonian Institution
A vibrant chronicle of the political and artistic ventures of Renaissance Florence, whose citizens attempted to stave off encroaching tyranny as humanists delved into ancient texts to forge a new culture and painters and sculptors created glorious artworks. As Rothfield persuasively argues, we still have much to learn from the ways political struggle and artistic experiment intertwined in the scintillating and tumultuous Quattrocento.— Rebecca Zorach, author of Art for People's Sake
The Measure of Man offers us the Florentine Renaissance as at once a political suspense thriller, a riveting intellectual adventure tale, a study in the character and complex motives of key Florentine personalities, and a lyrical reverie on the psychological and political meaning—as well as the tantalizing radiance and essential mystery—of the city’s astonishing works of art. In a remarkable achievement, Rothfield has combined all these riches into a brief, vivid, and unified story. Through his eyes, we see the Florentine Renaissance as most fundamentally a struggle over the nature and possibilities of liberty: a long tragic arc from the cultural pinnacle of republican idealism in the early fifteenth century, through the aesthetic flowering and civic vicissitudes of the age of the Medici and Savonarola, to the brooding meditations of Machiavelli and Michelangelo over the fate of the dying republic.— Ric Burns, documentary filmmaker