Book Review: Garibaldi Christopher Hibbert's Award-Winning Biography

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[. . .] It was during this time that he first became an international hero and celebrity, at least in the liberal and democratic nations.

He remained in exile in Morocco, New York and Peru until 1854, with the prime minister of Piedmont, the Comte di Cavour, employed him to form an Italian Legion to unify the country. Even though Garibaldi was a republican like Giuseppe Mazzini, he agreed that Victor Emmanuel II would become the constitutional monarch of a united Italy. In 1859, Garibaldi led the Italian Legion against Austria as a general in the Piedmontese army, leading to the annexation of Lombardy. Cavour actually provoked this war with Austria "where 200,000 French and 100,000 Piedmontese troops would be deployed to march into Lombardy and cast out the Austrians" (Hibbert 142). At the same time, he never wanted "to give the liberal Garibaldi too much power, so Garibaldi was given a complementary role instead of a primary role in the war" (Hibbert 148). Cavour was also concerned about the radicalism of Garibaldi even when he planned to bring Naples and Sicily into the unified Italian state, partly because he feared possible war with France but also out of fear that nationalism would take a very radical political and economic direction.

The next year, he landed with a force of 1,000 Red Shirts in Sicily with a mission to overthrow the Bourbon monarchy in the south, and inflicted a major defeat on their forces at Volturno (Hibbert 294). After this time, he organized a national plebiscite which voted for the unification of Italy under the auspices of the Piedmontese kings. With the support of the king, he attacked the Papal States in 1862 and 1867, but was defeated by French forces, but he had more success commanding to Italian armies against Austria in 1866, resulting in the addition of Venice to the new Italian state. Only after France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 were the Papal States also added to the Italian nation as well. After this time, Garibaldi retired from military affairs and served as a deputy in the new parliament in Rome, before finally retiring to a career as a farmer and novelist.

Garibaldi will always go down in history as a military genius who won many battles against larger enemy forces. He had only about 3,000 men to the Bourbon's 20,000 when he marched on Palermo, which he captured in a few hours. Sneaking past the Neopolitan navy, Garibaldi crossed the Straits of Messina with about 3,000 troops in July 1860 and won another major victory at Reggio, on the boot of Italy. Then he marched quickly to Naples before Cavour could launch his own military coup there. He was welcomed into the city as a national hero when the Bourbon king and his armies fled. At the Volturno River, he faced another Bourbon army of 50,000 that was attempting to recapture Naples while he had only about 20,000 troops. In all of these battles, he successfully used guerilla and unconventional tactics to defeat superior forces.

In his later career, Garibaldi was active in support for women's rights, democracy and abolition of the death penalty. Without his efforts, Italy would certainly not have become a unified country, especially Naples and Sicily. He favored public education, abolition of the Jesuit order and special clerical privileges, and social and economic development in southern Italy rather than treating these areas as colonies and conquered territories dominated by the Northern provinces. These tensions between the two regions remain up to the present day, given that the north was the more urban and industrialized area while Naples and Sicily were agrarian and semi-feudal. Although Garibaldi favored universal suffrage and democracy, this did not happen in is lifetime, and the new Italian government did not finally permit even all males to vote until 1913. By training and temperament, of course, Garibaldi was far happier leading troops in battle than engaging in the more mundane tasks of politics and administration, and the new Italian nation took on a more conservative cast than he would have preferred. He had always been a radical, romantic nationalist and socialist, and was therefore distrusted by Cavour… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Garibaldi Christopher Hibbert's Award-Winning Biography."  Essaytown.com.  April 2, 2012.  Accessed May 26, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/garibaldi-christopher-hibbert-award-winning/3155169.