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Critically acclaimed author John Julius Norwich weaves the turbulent story of Sicily into a spellbinding narrative that places the island at the crossroads of world history.
“Sicily,” said Goethe, “is the key to everything.” It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, the stepping-stone between Europe and Africa, the link between the Latin West and the Greek East. Sicily’s strategic location has tempted Roman emperors, French princes, and Spanish kings. The subsequent struggles to conquer and keep it have played crucial roles in the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful dynasties.
Yet Sicily has often been little more than a footnote in books about other empires. John Julius Norwich’s engrossing narrative is the first to knit together all of the colorful strands of Sicilian history into a single comprehensive study. Here is a vivid, erudite, page-turning chronicle of an island and the remarkable kings, queens, and tyrants who fought to rule it. From its beginnings as a Greek city-state to its emergence as a multicultural trading hub during the Crusades, from the rebellion against Italian unification to the rise of the Mafia, the story of Sicily is rich with extraordinary moments and dramatic characters. Writing with his customary deftness and humor, Norwich outlines the surprising influence Sicily has had on world history—the Romans’ fascination with Greek civilization dates back to their sack of Sicily—and tells the story of one of the world’s most kaleidoscopic cultures in a galvanizing, contemporary way.
This volume has been a long time coming—Norwich began to explore Sicily’s colorful history during his first visit to the island in the early 1960s. The dean of popular historians leads his readers through the millennia with the steady narrative hand of a master teacher or the world’s most learned tour guide. Like the island itself, Sicily is a book brimming with bold flavors that begs to be revisited again and again.
Praise for Sicily
“Suavely readable . . . The very model of a popular historian, [Norwich] writes to give pleasure to the common reader. And what pleasure it is.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Entertaining on every page . . . There is something ancient and sorrowful in Sicily, ‘some dark, brooding quality,’ just as captivating as its spellbinding history or its beautiful and varied landscapes, from beaches to lemon groves, pine forests to volcanoes. . . . The most amiable and freewheeling of guides, Norwich will always find time for the amusing anecdote.”—The Sunday Times
“Utterly engrossing . . . written with passion about the art and architecture of this magical island, filled with gossipy tidbits and sweeping historical theories.”—The Daily Beast
“Dazzling . . . Norwich is an elegantly graceful and entertaining storyteller.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Charming . . . richly nuanced history relayed with enormous fondness.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A brisk and always-lively tour.”—Open Letters Monthly
“Norwich is deeply in love with Sicily. [His] boundless affection has inspired a determined effort to understand its painful past. The result is impressionistic, as love often is.
Beginning with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, this study of French history comprises a cast of legendary characters―Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, and Marie Antoinette, to name a few―as John Julius Norwich chronicles France’s often violent, always fascinating history. From the French Revolution―after which neither France nor the world would be the same again―to the storming of the Bastille, from the Vichy regime and the Resistance to the end of the Second World War, A History of France is packed with heroes and villains, battles and rebellion—written with both an expert command of detail and a lively appreciation for the subject matter by this “true master of narrative history” (Simon Sebag Montefiore).
In a chronicle that captures nearly two thousand years of inspiration and intrigue, John Julius Norwich recounts in riveting detail the histories of the most significant popes and what they meant politically, culturally, and socially to Rome and to the world. Norwich presents such popes as Innocent I, who in the fifth century successfully negotiated with Alaric the Goth, an invader civil authorities could not defeat; Leo I, who two decades later tamed (and perhaps paid off) Attila the Hun; the infamous “pornocracy”—the five libertines who were descendants or lovers of Marozia, debauched daughter of one of Rome’s most powerful families; Pope Paul III, “the greatest pontiff of the sixteenth century,” who reinterpreted the Church’s teaching and discipline; John XXIII, who in five short years starting in 1958 instituted reforms that led to Vatican II; and Benedict XVI, who is coping with today’s global priest sex scandal. Epic and compelling, Absolute Monarchs is an enthralling history from “an enchanting and satisfying raconteur” (The Washington Post).
An obligatory stop on the Grand Tour for any cultured Englishman (and, later, Americans), Venice limped into the 19th century–first under the yoke of France, then as an outpost of the Austrian Hapsburgs, stripped of riches yet indelibly the most ravishing city in Italy. Even when subsumed into a unified Italy in 1866, it remained a magnet for aesthetes of all stripes–subject or setting of books by Ruskin and James, a muse to poets and musicians, in its way the most gracious courtesan of all European cities. By refracting images of Venice through the visits of such extravagant (and sometimes debauched) artists as Lord Byron, Richard Wagner, and the inimitable Baron Corvo, Norwich conjures visions of paradise on a lagoon, as enduring as brick and as elusive as the tides.
This lively and dramatic book brings roaring to life the grand sweep of 5,000 years of history in the cradle of civilization.
A wonderfully illustrated account of the civilizations that rose and fell on the lands bordering the Mediterranean, The Middle Sea represents the culmination of a great historian’s unparalleled art and scholarship. John Julius Norwich provides brilliant portraits of the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the French, the Venetians, the Popes, and the pirates of the Gulf. Above all, he deftly traces the intermingling of ancient conflicts and modern sensibilities that shapes life today on the shores of the Middle Sea.
A portrait of world civilization told through the stories of the world's greatest cities from ancient times to the present.
Today, for the first time in history, the majority of people in the world live in cities. The implications and challenges associated with this fact are enormous. But how did we get here?
From the origins of urbanization in Mesopotamia to the global metropolises of today, great cities have marked the development of human civilization. The Great Cities in History tells their stories, starting with the earliest, from Uruk and Memphis to Jerusalem and Alexandria. Next come the fabulous cities of the first millennium: Damascus and Baghdad, Teotihuacan and Tikal, and Chang’an, capital of Tang Dynasty China. The medieval world saw the rise of powerful cities such as Palermo and Paris in Europe, Benin in Africa, and Angkor in southeast Asia. The last two sections bring us from the early modern world, with Isfahan, Agra, and Amsterdam, to the contemporary city: London and New York, Tokyo and Barcelona, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo.
The distinguished contributors, including Jan Morris, Michael D. Coe, Simon Schama, Orlando Figes, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Misha Glenny, Susan Toby Evans, and A. N. Wilson, evoke the character of each place—people, art and architecture, government—and explain the reasons for its success.
'If I could work my will,' said Scrooge indignantly, 'Every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.'
This year go carol-singing in the Cotswolds with Laurie Lee or attend church with a grumpy Samuel Pepys. Make plum puddings for bemused French villagers with Elizabeth David; go present shopping with Virginia Woolf or eat far too much with Agatha Christie. Celebrate Christmas at Chatsworth, in the workhouse or marooned in the ice with Shackleton ...
For forty-five years, the arrival of John Julius Norwich's latest Christmas Cracker became as essential a part of the Christmas experience as holly and mistletoe. In An English Christmas the late legendary popular historian gathered all the best writing about this strangest and most memorable time of year into one book and his brilliant eye for a story is evident on every page.
Vividly evoking all the good things about the festive season, this unexpected anthology is just as entertaining about its darker aspects. Eight-year-old Princess Margaret's thank-you list jostles with moving letters home from the trenches. Sherlock Holmes solves his trickiest case. George Orwell writes about indigestion; Jane Austen about reluctant socialising and Thomas Hardy about the old folk belief that all animals kneel at midnight on 24 December. There are ghost stories, games and bizarre recipes. Diary-entries, recipes and letters sit alongside poems and short stories. An English Christmas could convert any Scrooge into an instant enthusiast.
A classic Christmas gift book, reissued with new cover artwork by Quentin Blake
For more than 40 years, John Julius Norwich has been sending out his Christmas Crackers—a personal collection of quirky quotes and literary odds and ends—to his friends instead of a Christmas card. Here, Quentin Blake has made his own selection of favorite pieces and has illustrated them in his own trademark style. From curious dictionary definitions ("Carphology. Delirious fumbling with the bedclothes," Concise Oxford Dictionary) and tortuous palindromes ("Live dirt up a side-track carted is a putrid evil") to 18th-century accounts of drunken pigs and Benjamin Franklin's account of inventing bifocals, this cracker is stuffed with surprising, offbeat, often hilarious gems. Enlivened by Quentin Blake's witty illustrations, this book is a perfect stocking-stuffer.
An illuminating and evocatively illustrated tour of forty of the greatest cities that shaped the ancient world and its civilizations, from China and Mesoamerica to Europe and Ethiopia
Today we take living in cities, with all their attractions and annoyances, for granted. But when did humans first come together to live in large groups, creating an urban landscape? What were these places like to inhabit? More than simply a history of ancient cities, this volume also reveals the art and architecture created by our ancestors, and provides a fascinating exploration of the origins of urbanism, politics, culture, and human interaction.
Arranged geographically into five sections, Cities That Shaped the Ancient World takes a global view, beginning in the Near East with the earliest cities such as Ur and Babylon, Troy and Jerusalem. In Africa, the great cities of Ancient Egypt arose, such as Thebes and Amarna. Glorious European metropolises, including Athens and Rome, ringed the Mediterranean, but also stretched to Trier on the turbulent frontier of the Roman Empire. Asia had bustling commercial centers such as Mohenjodaro and Xianyang, while in the Americas the Mesoamerican and Peruvian cultures stamped their presence on the landscape, creating massive structures and extensive urban settlements in the deep jungles and high mountain ranges, including Caral and Teotihuacan.
A team of expert historians and archaeologists with firsthand knowledge and deep appreciation of each site gives voices to these silent ruins, bringing them to life as the bustling state-of-the-art metropolises they once were.