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British Women and the Politics of Italian Unification (HI2F7-15)


The lure of Italy for British women in the mid-nineteenth century took many forms. The struggles of the Risorgimento added contemporary political spice to the already heady attraction of the nation’s Renaissance republican past. The country offered not merely a turbulent present which attracted writers, artists, and politicians to engage with themes of nationalism, liberalism, and civic identities; but also a romantic cultural past. The struggle for Italian unification inspired many women to activism: raising funds for the nationalists; translating political pamphlets; writing for newspapers and periodicals; purchasing arms and acting as field nurses. This module considers why Italy and Italian politics attracted so much attention in Britain in fields such as art, literature, poetry, journalism, travel writing and political activism.

This is a new module for 2020-21. Students interested in the political and gender history of Britain and Italy in the nineteenth century will enjoy this module. There is also the opportunity to explore areas such as art, literature, journalism and political activism.

Assessment is via a blog post which focuses on the engagement of a particular actor (either British or Italian), seminar participation and a 3000 word essay.