Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero

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Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary leader and popular hero, was among the best-known figures of the nineteenth century. This book seeks to examine his life and the making of his cult, to assess its impact, and understand its surprising success.
For thirty years Garibaldi was involved in every combative event in Italy. His greatest moment came in 1860, when he defended a revolution in Sicily and provoked the collapse of the Bourbon monarchy, the overthrow of papal power in central Italy, and the creation of the Italian nation state. It made him a global icon, representing strength, bravery, manliness, saintliness, and a spirit of adventure. Handsome, flamboyant, and sexually attractive, he was worshiped in life and became a cult figure after his death in 1882.
Lucy Riall shows that the emerging cult of Garibaldi was initially conceived by revolutionaries intent on overthrowing the status quo, that it was also the result of a collaborative effort involving writers, artists, actors, and publishers, and that it became genuinely and enduringly popular among a broad public. The book demonstrates that Garibaldi played an integral part in fashioning and promoting himself as a new kind of “charismatic” political hero. It analyzes the way the Garibaldi myth has been harnessed both to legitimize and to challenge national political structures. And it identifies elements of Garibaldi’s political style appropriated by political leaders around the world, including Mussolini and Che Guevara.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With his trademark red cape, full beard and regal bearing, Italian revolutionary hero Giuseppe Garibaldi cut a swashbuckling swath through European politics during the mid-19th century. In Riall's (Sicily and the Unification of Italy) exhaustive and sometimes exhausting study of this supremely charismatic man and his tumultuous times, Garibaldi's life and legacy echo through the fascist dictators of the 20th century to the Marxist revolutionaries of the 1970s. Born in Nice in 1807, Garibaldi lived a peripatetic life until he "discovered his true vocation-not as a (failed) merchant sailor nor as a (outlawed) political conspirator, but as a soldier hero" and returned to Italy in 1848, a year of widespread political upheaval in Europe. The Italy that Riall describes is a conflicted place seething with nationalist fervor, waiting for a hero to fan the flames and lead the people to their rightful place among nations. As much a product of behind-the-scenes manipulations as his own desires and ambitions, Garibaldi became that hero. A deeply researched and resourced scholarly text, this is not for the general reader. Riall's extensive use of contemporary primary source material makes for some heavy sledding. Still, for the 19th-century European history buff or the revolutionary hero completist, this is a useful and illuminating read. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

"Excellent. . . . Will be [of] interest to students of the Risorgimento, the hero in history, and the phenomenon of the romantic revolutionary."—A. A. Nofi, The New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

— A.A. Nofi

The New York Military Affairs Symposium Review - A.A. Nofi
"Excellent. . . . Will be [of] interest to students of the Risorgimento, the hero in history, and the phenomenon of the romantic revolutionary."—A. A. Nofi, The New York Military Affairs Symposium Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300144239
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/18/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 975,256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Lucy Riall is professor of modern European history at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her publications include The Italian Risorgimento: State, Society and National Unification and Sicily and the Unification of Italy: Liberal Policy and Local Power (1859-66).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps ix Acknowledgements xii Introduction 1 Chapter 1 Nation and Risorgimento 19 Chapter 2 In Search of Garibaldi 33 Chapter 3 Revolution 59 Chapter 4 Exile 98 Chapter 5 The Garibaldi Formula 128 Chapter 6 Independence 164 Chapter 7 Fashioning Garibaldi 185 Chapter 8 The Thousand 207 Chapter 9 Making Italian Heroes 226 Chapter 10 The Garibaldi Moment 272 Chapter 11 Unification 306 Chapter 12 Culture Wars 347 Conclusion: The Myth of Garibaldi 388 Notes 393 Select Bibliography 456 Index 470
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