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You are currently logged out. The South American phase served to build up his image as a brave, honest, and selfless liberator. Even though few Europeans could have understood just what Garibaldi was fighting for in Brazil and Uruguay, it was enough for Italians that he was fighting, for in so doing he challenged the stereotype that Italians would not fight. That he was fighting for a republican cause was icing on the cake as far as Mazzini was concerned.

A review of Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero by Lucy Riall

Mazzini also pointed out that Garibaldi stood alone in refusing material compensation for his services, a testimony to his disinterested idealism. His actions in Italy in to provided more fodder for the propaganda machine. Not only was his gallantry now in evidence at home, but also his fortitude in the face of defeat. The death of his Brazilian wife Anita at his side in attached to both of them the auras of sacrifice and martyrdom.

The hero of italian unification? - Telegraph

The menial occupations of candle maker and merchant seaman that he pursued during his second exile served to bring out his humility, forbearance, and attachment to the family that he was forced to leave behind. The spectacular achievements of to sealed Garibaldi's image as the national hero. The spectacularly successful expedition of the Thousand to Sicily and the subsequent liberation of the southern mainland laid the groundwork for the cult of Garibaldi as the personification of the Italian nation.

It was not only democrats and other radicals who lionized him now. His willingness to turn over his territorial conquest to Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Piedmont-Sardinia, made him a hero in the eyes of those who distrusted republicans as loose-cannon radicals. That was an important turning point in the development of Garibaldi's image, for he became a hero acceptable to all true Italians, regardless of political orientation.

Not even the disasters of Apromonte and Mentana could dim the image. Those two encounters did not show Garibaldi at his political or military best, but it made no difference. They made him the victim of coldhearted diplomats, insensitive generals, spineless politicians, and a corrupt clergy, and therefore all the more admirable. According to Riall, Garibaldi was fully complicit in the making of the myth at every step of the way, witness his assiduous courting of journalists and writers, his catering to popular religious beliefs that he intimately scorned, the encouragements given to friendly biographers, and the slanted account of his life in the published autobiography.

Riall finds the autobiography badly written, which is surely a matter of opinion, but is surprising nevertheless given her talent for teasing meaning out of sources. Literary grace may not be much in evidence in Garibaldi's memoirs, but he tells the story of his life rather well and accurately in the parts that he covers there are telling omissions that Riall is quick to point out.

The final version of the autobiography was written late in life, partly because he needed money, but also for other and more compelling reasons. Its explicit language, proclivity for seeing issues in black and white, scathing condemnations of real or imagined opponents, rabid anticlericalism, and even its overblown rhetorical flourishes do serve a purpose. It is a work meant to inflame political passions, rescue his legacy, and keep the democratic movement on course.

ISBN 13: 9780300112122

It is a reliable guide to the inner person and to the politics of the democratic movement, and not just an exercise in popularization. The concept of popularity needs to be examined closely in a work of this kind. Riall acknowledges that Garibaldi's popularity was mostly posthumous, and what she sets out to examine, and examines very well, is the laying of the foundations for this posthumous phenomenon. But in life Garibaldi was more controversial than popular. His name was indeed a powerful magnet for thousands of Italians who responded to his call and were ready to follow him wherever he might lead.

He was the only man in his time who could summon a sizable private army on demand. But it was a relative and limited popularity.

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Garibaldi himself was disappointed that vast strata of the population, particularly the peasantry, remained indifferent or hostile to his summons, and Italy at the time was a nation mostly of peasants. If one looks beyond the patriotic minority, Garibaldi was far from being a popular figure. Dare one say it?

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Only the pope had a propaganda machine that reached deep into the country. In every parish where there was a priest there was a propagandist for the pope. Some rulers who had native roots, or had gone native in the course of time, like the Bourbons of Naples, were also popular. Victor Emmanuel II was popular in ways that Garibaldi understood better than Mazzini could appreciate. Was Garibaldi's loyalty to Victor Emmanuel a kind of peasant awe of authority, as Mazzini alleged, or a sign of political awareness? Back to image building.

Garibaldi's image building project was conceived in the heat of battle, against opponents who had their own bases of popular support. Realizing that Garibaldi's popularity was limited to an enterprising but numerically small minority should help us make better sense of his behavior.


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  • Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero By Lucy Riall - CARTER - - History - Wiley Online Library.
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