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January 7, 2011
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v2.1 Reference

The Economy of Renaissance Florence

Richard A. Goldthwaite, a leading economic historian of the Italian Renaissance, has spent his career studying the Florentine economy. In this magisterial work, Goldthwaite brings together a lifetime of research and insight on the subject, clarifying and explaining the complex workings of Florence’s commercial, banking, and artisan sectors.

Florence was one of the most industrialized cities in medieval Europe, thanks to its thriving textile industries. The importation of raw materials and the exportation of finished cloth necessitated the creation of commercial and banking practices that extended far beyond Florence’s boundaries. Part I situates Florence within this wider international context and describes the commercial and banking networks through which the city's merchant-bankers operated. Part II focuses on the urban economy of Florence itself, including various industries, merchants, artisans, and investors. It also evaluates the role of government in the economy, the relationship of the urban economy to the region, and the distribution of wealth throughout the society.

While political, social, and cultural histories of Florence abound, none focuses solely on the economic history of the city. The Economy of Renaissance Florence offers both a systematic description of the city's major economic activities and a comprehensive overview of its economic development from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance to 1600.

About the Author

Richard A. Goldthwaite is professor emeritus of history at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Building of Renaissance Florence: An Economic and Social History and Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy, 1300–1600, both also published by Johns Hopkins.


Renaissance Florence has no more able defender in recent times than Professor Richard Goldthwaite.

- Washington Post Book World

Richard Goldthwaite has served a long apprenticeship. As a dedicated student of the economy of Florence between the 13th and 16th centuries, he has published studies of the city's buildings and banks, its private wealth and the demand for its art. Now he has stood back and produced a magisterial history which brings all the strands of the story together and becomes, among its other virtues, a persuasive account of early capitalism.

- Economist

Johns Hopkins University Press deserves praise for having so ably edited and published such a big book in this age of contraction and cost-cutting. It and the author have given us one of the most important books in Renaissance history to have appeared in many years: not simply a long-needed synthesis but a stimulating, insightful work that will guide research for a long time to come.

- Robert S. DuPlessis - Renaissance Quarterly

This book marks a crowning achievement of a distinguished academic career, and it achieves both authority in its exposition and modesty in its tone. An essential read for scholars interested in the study of Florence, and historical economics.

- Nicola Jones - H-Italy, H-Net Reviews

It is hard to do justice to so large, complex, and informative a work. A synthesis of the Florentine economy is a monumental undertaking. Goldthwaite offers a compelling image, which, like all such images, will draw its critics and admirers and set the parameters of the field for decades.

- Thomas Kuehn - Journal of Modern History

Masterful. So thorough, so inclusive, and so wide-ranging that its omission from the bibliography of on any future study on the Italian Renaissance will be a noticeable oversight.

- Brian Maxson - Canadian Journal of History

A highly readable, lashivly detailed study that much become essential reading.

- Nicholas Scott Baker - European History Quarterly

An important model that will be impossible for any future student of Florence's economic history to ignore.

- Franca R. Barricelli - Journal of World History

This book is essential reading not only for economic historians... but also for historians of Renaissance Florence generally. The Economy of Renaissance Florence will remain an indispensable point of reference and departure for research in the field for decades to come.

- Lawrin Armstrong - Renaissance and Reformation

Few people who know so much write so attractively as [Goldthwaite]. Take him as a model.

- Chronique
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Other Titles by Richard A. Goldthwaite

Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy, 1300-1600

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The Building of Renaissance Florence

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