> Skip to content
  • Published: 5 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241243220
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288
Categories:

Antwerp

The Glory Years




A rich history of Antwerp in the sixteenth century - 'the indispensable place in Europe'

Before Amsterdam another North Sea city was the hub of the known world. Antwerp, writes Michael Pye, 'rapidly became a world city, a centre of stories published across Europe, a sensation like nineteenth-century Paris or twentieth-century New York, one of the first cities where anything could happen or at least be believed. Other cities showed the power of kings or dukes or empires, but Antwerp showed only itself: a place of trade, where people wanted, needed to be, or couldn't afford not to be. It was famous on its own terms.'

New trade routes into the city brought pepper and diamonds from India, silver from America and gold from Africa that tracked by cart and river to the Ottoman Empire in the East. Antwerp made possible escape routes to Istanbul for Jews facing the Inquisition in Portugal, including for the woman running the largest merchant banking house in Europe. And in just a few generations, the city inspired Thomas More's Utopia, taught Erasmus about money, modelled for Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel, protected William Tyndale and smuggled out copies of his bible in English.

This glory was erased when the Dutch rebelled against their Spanish masters and mutinous troops burned the city records. Pye uses novels, paintings, schoolbooks and archives from Venice, to London, to the Medici to uncover the hidden story of the years when Antwerp was the 'exception' to all Europe.

  • Published: 5 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241243220
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288
Categories:

Also by Michael Pye

See all

Praise for Antwerp

Now a museum-like gem, for much of the 16th century, Antwerp thrived as Europe's most vibrant center of commerce, intellectual life, and free thought. Pye offers a colorful depiction of the city's 'exceptional years.' Entertaining. An impressionistic portrait of its institutions and great men (Bruegel, Erasmus, et al.), emphasizing the lives of now-obscure traders, bankers, entrepreneurs, officials, printers, and booksellers, including a surprising number of successful women and Jews. A vivid look at a great Renaissance city.

Kirkus

Capturing the essence of 16th-century Antwerp is difficult; its story is as convoluted as its streets. That story does not lend itself to linearity; there's no single plot, no straight narrative lines. Michael Pye - journalist, broadcaster and prolific author - is the perfect chronicler of this extraordinary place, since he revels in complexity and never hesitates to use his abundant imagination. His prose is as opulent as the city itself. ... Pye provides a cornucopia of Antwerp's abundant delights.

Gerard DeGroot, The Times

in his exhilarating new history of Renaissance Antwerp ... Pye captures Antwerp's greatest decades in character studies, stories and vignettes, encompassing not just trade but buildings and books too. It is pieced together with great skill and art, and the effect is dazzling. If you want a linear history of 16th century Antwerp, stay away. But if you want a sense of the city's anarchic splendour, its potent, unsustainable originality, then this is the book for you. Pye conjures up exactly the glamour that drew people to Antwerp's gates in its pomp: the city as idea; the city as improvisation; the city as possibility.

Matthew Lyons, Literary Review

Antwerp is the star of this charming and rather lovely history ... Pye writes beautifully, has a lovely eye for detail and an obvious affection for this period of Antwerp's history.

Peter Frankopan, The Observer

Pye offers a master class on how to tell the story of a city. Fascinating and gloriously good fun.

Gerard DeGroot, Twitter

wondrous ... a book of imaginative historical reconstruction that reads as brilliantly as a novel by Hilary Mantel

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

Antwerp, Pye's galloping and flavoursome account of the city's heyday [is] a lustrous gem of a book. Studded with racy anecdotes but firmly embedded in archival research, it shows why the city that nurtured "a pragmatic kind of tolerance" rose so fast - and why, almost as rapidly, it fell ... Pye unrolls a sparkling string of stories rather than a heavy tapestry of contexts, hinterlands and aftermaths ... In this swarming fresco, which merits a place near Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches or Robert Hughes' homage to Barcelona, Pye not only rescues Antwerp's lost "world of liberty", he leads entranced readers through its grubby, glittering streets.

Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times

In a highly readable new book, Michael Pye argues that, during Europe's ages of discovery, it became one of the earliest genuinely global cities too ... If we understood more about Antwerp, though, we might understand more about ourselves and our long umbilical links to Europe.

The Guardian

Related titles