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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

"Garibaldi" by Christopher Hibbert

This is a very easy book to read chronicling the adventures of Giuseppe Garibaldi as he sought to unify Italy between 1848 and 1870.

Italy had been invaded by Napoleon and turned into three major states in the north, the centre and the south. However, the 1815 Congress of Vienna returned the conquered principalities back to their original owners so that Italy was a patchwork of states. Piedmont in the North was ruled by the House of Savoy. The Kingdom of Two Sicilies was run from Naples by the Bourbons. The Pope ruled the Papal States between these two. And the massive Austro-Hungarian empire ruled substantial chunks of Italy including Venice and Tuscany.

Garibaldi was born to a seafaring family in Nice (then part of France but soon to become part of the Kingdom of Piedmont) and then became a sailor. He became converted to the cause of Italian unification as a young man by the Saint-Simonians who preached, among other things, free love. His revolutionary zeal soon led to his escaping to exile in South America.

In South America he took part in a number of revolutions as various countries sought liberation. This was the weakest part of the book. He was known as the 'Hero of Two Worlds' but the book treated these years very briefly.

He returned to Italy after the election of Pio Nono, Pius IX, as Pope. This pope was initially liberal, granting the papal states a measure of self rule (and even railways!) but this back-fired after the pope's prime minister was assassinated. Suddenly an agitator called Mazzini (who started the Young Italians programme which was later emulated by Ataturk as the Young Turks) led a revolution. Pio had to escape his country and by 1848 Rome was in the hands of republicans. The forces of repression (French, Austrians and Neapolitans) converged on Rome, the French (whose Emperor was Louis Napoleon, nephew of the Bonaparte) getting there first. Garibaldi led irregular forces in heroic (and often stupid) attacks on the French; these were ultimately unsuccessful and Rome was retaken by the Pope.

Garibaldi spent years in honourable exile farming on a little island near Sardinia until another opportunity presented itself in 1860. The Two Sicilies under the Bourbons had become as massively repressive police state; they seemed as repulsive as rulers get. Garibaldi led a volunteer army of 'The Thousand' (ish) to invade Sicily and through the cowardice and incompetence of the opposing armies, conquered it. He set himself up as Dictator. Then he crossed the Straits of Messina and invaded the tow of Italy, fighting his way up to Naples. Again he was amazingly lucky. Not only did every possible bullet contrive to miss him but most of his enemies preferred to surrender or run than fight. When they did fight Garibaldi often lost! Finally he entered Naples in triumph and gave it to Piedmont's King Victor Emmanuel.

He then retired again but went on a number of trips including a tour of Britain where (on page 343) "he was taken ... to the Britannia Works at Bedford to see the new steam plough'. He was now a hero across Europe.

He was recalled later to fight in the war of Piedmont and Prussia against Austria that resulted in the ceding to Italy of Venice and then retired again.

Finally, in 1870, Louis Napoleon was defeated and captured at Sedan at the start of the Franco-Prussian war. This led to Victor Emmanuel riding in triumph into Rome where he set up Italy's capital at the Quirinal Palace, formerly the summer residence of the Pope, while Pio Nono locked himself in as "the prisoner in the Vatican".

Interesting asides:
In the invasion of Sicily a Neapolitan ship was commanded by Ferdinand Acton, great nephew of Sir John Acton who had been Prime Minister of Naples under Ferdinand I. The writer Harold Acton was born in Tuscany and claimed that Sir John was his great-great-grandfather.
A hospital worker uses 'chloride of lime' as a disinfectant. Presumably this is calcium chloride.
Garibaldi sailed up the Tyne to an enthusiastic welcome in 1854, well before he had become a hero for uniting Italy. This may have been when my ancestor was named 'Garabaldi (sic) Appleby'.

April 2009 368 pages

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