In his comprehensive overview of 17th century Italy, Professor Sella challenges the old view that Italy was in general decline, instead he shows it to have been a time of sharp contrasts and shifts in fortune. He starts with a balanced and critical analysis of political developments (placing the Italian states in their wider European context) before assessing the state of the economy. He then looks in depth at society, religion, and culture and science and in particular reassesses the influence of the Counter Reformation on Italian life. His book ends with an engrossing account of the life and work of Galileo as well as an overview of the important and often neglected contributions made by other scientists in the later part of the century. This rich and balanced volume is an ideal introduction to early modern Italy, and provides a critical revaluation of a much misunderstood period in the country's history.