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In 1434, the new Medici government exiled Matteo Strozzi as an enemy of the regime. Soon afterwards, Matteo and three of his eight children died of the plague. His young widow, Alesandra, struggled to make arrangements for her five remaining children, preparing her sons for merchant careers and finding husbands for her daughters. Her three sons left Florence in the 1440s to enter relatives' merchant banking firms. Their absence, prolonged by a sentence of exile imposed on them in 1458, gave rise to the family correspondence that informs this rich study.
The Strozzi correspondence tells the story of the decline and recovery of one Florentine patrician family. Eventually, the Strozzi brothers earned the greatest fortune of their era, and, after the repeal of their exile, Filippo, the eldest, most successful, and longest lived, spent the last years of his life in Florence as one of its foremost citizens. Set in the context of other documentary evidence and of modern historical and anthropological studies, Crabb's study illuminates the role of women, kinship, solidarity, honor, and profit. These letters provide nuanced insights into values and practices that more impersonal sources cannot rival.
As well as appealing to those interested in the Renaissance, Florence, and Italy, this book will attract those wanting to read about topics in social history that cross time periods: women, family and kinship, business, and honor. It confronts issues of Renaissance Florentine historiography by presenting a more positive view of the role of women than does current orthodoxy, by providing evidence of the impact of extended kinship ties, a controversial issue, and by illuminating further the value placed on honor and profit.
Ann Crabb teaches medieval history at James Madison University.