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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.

Module Convenor: Professor Sarah Richardson

Seminar times: Monday, 9-11, S0.10 and Monday, 1-3, MS0.4

Office hours (H3.35): Monday, 11-12 and Wednesday, 11-12

This module was taught for the first time in 2021-22. Students interested in the political and gender history of Britain and/or Italy in the nineteenth century will enjoy this module. If you are planning to go on the Venice term in year 3, this module will give you some perspective of the connections between Britain and Italy in the nineteenth century. 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, seminar participation and a 3000 word essay.

Student feedback on the module:

This module was unlike anything I'd learnt before, so it was something completely new - I think this meant I was forced to do more intensive research and so I developed my skills in that area throughout the module.

The seminars themselves have been great at sharing and discussing ideas about the module. I have learnt about a completely different topic with a new perspective.

The unusual nature of how niche the course has been. I have liked studying something that you wouldn't find in a generic textbook.