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"Venice: A New History," by Thomas Madden

Venice, Thomas Madden
Penguin Group, Page A. Ettle

Jeff Glor talks to Thomas Madden about, "Venice: A New History"

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Thomas Madden: Venice, of course! How can one not be inspired by its physical beauty and rich history? I have spent much of my career working in Venice's archives and manuscript libraries, so I thought it was about time that I write a history that would be of interest to everyone else. Professional historians like myself tend to write for specialists in their field. This book is something altogether different. It tells the story of Venice and its people in a compelling and engaging way, bringing the reader from the city's origins in the marshy lagoon to the artistic splendor of the present day.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

TM: That the Venetians were nothing like they have been described in most histories and tourist guidebooks. Generally one reads of Venice as a city of greedy and crafty merchants or a nation of "Shylocks" -- Shakespeare's Venetian merchant who ruthlessly demands his "pound of flesh." Combing through the archives I discovered instead a complex people motivated by a host of conflicting impulses: greed, yes, but also piety, altruism, fear, and an abiding love for their republic.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

TM: I'm doing it! I am a Professor of History, so when I am not writing books I am teaching the next generation about the past and its importance for our future.

JG: What else are you reading right now?

TM: Niall Ferguson, "Civilization: The West and the Rest." It's an extremely interesting read.

JG: What's next for you?

TM: As an historian, my first love was always Istanbul (Constantinople). I'm currently writing a new history of that most intriguing city, a place bedecked with riches, soaked in blood, and set at the crossroads of the world. It is a fascinating subject.

For more on "Venice" visit the Penguin Group website.