The borgias

The Renaissance in 50 shades of grey

The Mediterranean-centred era spanning a century or so either side of 1492 is filled to the brim with stories. There was the discovery of the Americas by a bold Genoese navigator; power struggles between wealthy Italian families, waged through conspiracies, poisonings and stabbings; a radical Dominican monk who managed to impose near-theocratic rule on a republican city before being burned at the stake; the advent of humanism and, subsequently, of a modern, power-focused theory of politics; and the maturing of the visual arts to a new level of sophistication, realism and emotional power. Such stories make up a significant part of the cultural inheritance of the West.  Histories, biographies, novels,