Signposts: Italy in the 19th and 20th Centuries

With Italy on the brink of financial collapse and in deep political crisis, the country’s 150th anniversary has been a dramatic one. It is especially timely, then, to take stock of new research into this most contradictory and enigmatic of countries.

'Liberators of Ialy', a 19th-century print celebrating the RisorgimentoFor many years the history of 19th-century Italy was in the doldrums. Dominated by dreary official institutes and publicly funded and very dusty museums, accounts of the unification of Italy and its heroes and heroines tended very much towards hagiography. Apart from a brief and interesting phase in the 1970s, when social historians looked back at the unification of Italy, nothing had really changed in decades. Anniversaries came and went with alarming regularity. Students steered clear of the entire period. Nothing new was produced.

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