"Mazzini" by Denis Mack Smith

Mazzini Denis Mack Smith

Publication date:
25 Sep 1996
Yale University Press
312 pages: 235 x 156mm
16 b-w illus.


Giuseppe Mazzini was one of the leading figures in the political history of nineteenth-century Europe. A vigorous proponent of nationalism, pre-eminent figure in the struggle for Italian independence and unity, and fascinating personality, his ideas were influential throughout Europe. Yet successive Italian governments, fearing the consequences of his belief in democracy and revolution, deliberately obscured his achievements: there have been few modern studies of Mazzini and no biography in English since 1902.

Denis Mack Smith's major new account reexamines Mazzini's ideological impact and his place in the political and intellectual world of the mid-nineteenth century. Based on profound scholarship and immense archival research, the book recreates Mazzini's long years of poverty and exile in London and the networks of friends, associates, and enemies that brought him into contact with the greatest European figures of the age, among them Marx, Carlyle, Mill, and Bakunin. Mazzini is revealed as an acute but largely unrecognized prophet of the idea of a European community: he saw nationalism as a step toward larger and more harmonious confederations. Adept at inspiring admiration and animosity equally, Mazzini affronted the pope by his demand for religious reform, Karl Marx by his powerful critique of communism, and many of his less enlightened contemporaries for his campaigns on behalf of social security, universal suffrage, and women's rights. Yet he was universally venerated for his brilliance, humanity, and wisdom, and even his critics agreed that he left an enduring mark on his time.

"This is the definitive biography: the job will not need to be done again."?A. L. Rowse, London Evening Standard

"The doyen of historians of modern Italy, Mack Smith has written a book which has all the usual admirable qualities of his earlier work, combining an accessible and fluent narrative style with lightly worn but meticulous scholarship. . . . It is to be hoped that Mack Smith's book heralds a reassessment, not just of Mazzini's place in nineteenth-century Italian history, but also of his intellectual contribution to the creation of a Europe of the nations that remains as urgent in our time as it was in his."?Richard Bellamy, Times Literary Supplement

"Mack Smith, in an elegant narrative, presents a sympathetic yet critical account of Mazzini's revolutionary endeavors and also of his deep spiritualism and universal humanism. . . . [As] an eminent scholar of Italian history, [he] also offers fresh insight into the political culture of Europe."?Choice

"Definitive, highly readable biography of a revolutionary far more relevant to our time than Marx, Lenin, or Mao."?The Times, London

"Denis Mack Smith's new biography easily surpasses its predecessors in any language. This is not surprising, since Mack Smith is one of the finest living writers of historical biographies and the most distinguished living historian of the Risorgimento."?Derek Beales, New York Review of Books

"Superbly reasonable and eminently readable. . . . It should and most probably will be required reading for all students of modern European history."?Patricia A. Kollander, The Historian

"Mack Smith, writing with his customary grace and clarity, has carefully reconstructed the torrential intellectual life of Mazzini."?Paul Preston, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Mazzini is a work of passionate advocacy, which aims both to remind us of its subject's enormous importance on the European as well as the Italian stage, and to convince us that on the essential issues he was right."?Adrian Lyttelton, London Review of Books

"Denis Mack Smith's definitive biography is eminently readable."?Charles Osborne, Sunday Telegraph