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Introduction: Victorian Visions of a Radical Risorgimento

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2014

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Summary

‘We still need to understand and analyse the Risorgimento – not ignore it! Indeed, we must counter the official Risorgimento, Piedmontese and written for schools, with the popular, revolutionary Risorgimento, still unknown to too many, and tear off the vested veils of the official historiography.’

Republican Italy was a nineteenth-century transnational dream. This ‘imagined nation’ galvanised and united Risorgimento democrats in Italy and Victorian radicals in Britain, who called themselves Mazzinians. It was Giuseppe Mazzini's vision of a unified, republican Italy, combined with his promotion of the universal principles of individual freedom, equality and emancipation within democratically-governed nation states, which drew Victorian radicals to support the ideal of a ‘popular Risorgimento’. While they condemned both Britain's imperial politics and the government's ‘noninterventionist’ stance in European revolutions, Victorian radicals endorsed the establishment outside Britain of a new model of a republican nation which would lead the way towards a fully-realised form of democracy across all nations. By embracing the ‘transnational turn’ in the context of the new history of nineteenth-century Italy, this book adds a novel dimension specifically to the so-called ‘popular Risorgimento’, reconstituting the historical fragments and tracing the continuities of a forgotten, longue durée process. This spanned national boundaries from Mazzini's arrival in London,in 1837, to the death, in 1890, of his most loyal disciple, Aurelio Saffi, a Risorgimento democrat exiled in Britain from 1851 to 1860, who, in the aftermath of Italy's unification in 1861, continued to pursue the republican dream.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2014

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