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Villani, Giovanni


Florentine chronicler; b. Florence, c. 1275; d. Florence, 1348. Villani joined the business firm of the Peruzzi as a young man, and traveled first on its behalf to Rome, where he witnessed the holy year of 1300, and later to France and Flanders. Business affairs kept him in northern Europe from 1302 to 1308, when he returned to Italy. He continued in the employ of the Peruzzi for another year, after which he settled in florence, taking an active part in political life. In 1316 he was elected prior for the first time, and subsequently he held many public offices. The failure in 1345 of the Bardi and Bonaccorsi firms, in whose affairs he was involved, led to his brief imprisonment as a debtor. He died during the epidemic of the plague of 1348. The 12 books of Villani's Florentine Chronicle are medieval in form; Florentine events are not separated from universal history. Villani begins with an account of the tower of Babel, and only in books seven to twelve does he write specifically about Florence, covering the period from 1266 to 1348. In discussing the society and economic life of his native city he proves to be an excellent observer, writing with freshness and perception, going beyond his predecessors in scope and detail.

Bibliography: No complete tr. of the Chronicle into English exists, but see g. villani, Chronicle: Selections from the First Nine Books of the Croniche Florentine, ed. p. h. wicksteed, tr. r.e. selfe (London 1906). e. mehl, Die Weltanschauung des Giovanni Villani (Leipzig 1927). e. fiumi, "Economia e vita privata dei fiorentini nelle rilevazioni statistiche di G. V.," Archivio-storico italiano 111 (1953) 207241.

[e. g. gleason]

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