Like every era, the Renaissance brims with stories. In this book Robert Davis and Beth Lindsmith highlight dozens of notable lives from between 1400 and 1600. Some names are famous – Leonardo, Luther, Lorenzo de’ Medici and Machiavelli all feature – but many others will be new to general readers. They include the aristocratic matriarch Alessandra Strozzi, who sneaked around Florence to spy on potential brides for her sons; the notorious criminal Catena, who wasn’t satisfied with murdering his enemy but also hamstrung his victim’s goats; Isotta Nogarola, a promising young writer who was mortified to have a critic sneer at her that ‘an eloquent woman is never chaste’; the fierce warrior-duke Federico da Montefeltro, who liked to wander through his capital without a guard, stopping for jovial chats with local merchants; and the Inquisition’s Heinrich Kramer, who insisted that witches could remove men’s penises and hide them in birds’ nests.
Through these brief biographies, we are reminded that history is more than dates and abstract concepts: it also arises from the lives of countless individual men and women.