Reading History: Italian Unification

John A. Davis discusses a range of books tackling the Risorgimento.

The appearance in quick succession of two new general histories of Italy in the period of Unification by English historians at last makes it possible to bring Italy back into the arena of debates and issues which now concern modern European historians more generally. Of the two, Stuart Woolf's History of Italy 1700-1860 (Methuen, 1979) is the more comprehensive and ambitious, but its tight and clear structure and organisation still makes it well suited for use in the classroom. Although covering a rather narrower chronology, Harry Hearder's History of Italy in the Age of the Risorgimento (Longman, 1982) reflects many of the new lines of inquiry that are presented in greater detail by Woolf, recognising in particular the need to set the familiar political issues of the Risorgimento period in a wider social and economic context.

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