Orsini: Striking a Blow for Freedom

Jad Adams traces the momentous and paradoxical consquences of a failed assassination attempt.

Dashing Italian patriot Felice Orsini received a rapturous welcome in England in 1856.  He was the embodiment of romantic nationalism: a handsome revolutionary who had suffered for his beliefs, who had recently made a daring escape from a brutal prison. 

Yet while enjoying the luxuries of free speech and political association that Britain afforded, Orsini was slipping out of the lecture circuit to create weapons of unprecedented force which were to be used in a massacre in a foreign city.  His actions stimulated a debate on issues of freedom and despotism which still trouble liberal democracies today.

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