In Naples and Napoleon John Davis takes the southern Italian Kingdom of the Two Sicilies as the vantage point for a sweeping reconsideration of Italy's history in the age of Napoleon and the European revolutions. The book's central themes are posed by the period of French rule from 1806 to 1815, when southern Italy was the Mediterranean frontier of Napoleon's continental empire. The tensions between Naples and Paris made this an important chapter in the history of
that empire and revealed the deeper contradictions on which it was founded. But the brief interlude of Napoleonic rule later came to be seen as the critical moment when a modernizing North finally parted company from a backward South. Although these arguments still shape the ways in which Italian
history is written, in most parts of the North political and economic change before Unification was slow and gradual; whereas in the South it came sooner and in more disruptive forms.
Davis develops a wide-ranging critical reassessment of the dynamics of political change in the century before Unification. His starting point is the crisis that overwhelmed the Italian states at the end of the 18th century, when Italian rulers saw the political and economic fabric of the Ancien Regime undermined throughout Europe. In the South the crisis was especially far reaching and this, Davis argues, was the reason why in the following decade the South became the theatre for one of
the most ambitious reform projects in Napoleonic Europe. The transition was precarious and insecure, but also mobilized political projects and forms of collective action that had no counterparts elsewhere in Italy before 1848, illustrating the similar nature of the political challenges facing all the
Although Unification finally brought Italy's insecure dynastic principalities to an end, it offered no remedies to the insecurities that from much earlier had made the South especially vulnerable to the challenges of the new age: which was why the South would become a problem - Italy's 'Southern Problem'.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 718 g
Dimensions: 242 x 165 x 27 mm
Well researched and carefully written. * European History Quarterly *
This is a radical book; it turns the question of political change in Italy in the century before Unification upside down and redefines the south/north dichotomy. ... This is the most important and most comprehensive study of southern Italy in that period and it is destined to change the terms of discourse on Italy's Risorgimento. * Marta Petrusewicz, Journal of Modern Italian Studies *
John Davis's remarkable study of the largest of the Italian states goes a long way to demonstrating the suggestive and revisionist thesis that in broad outline the kingdom of Naples was in most respects similar to the other imperial satellites....Naples, in this fascinating reading eventually parted company with its fratelli to the north....only late in the nineteenth century. * Steven Englund, The Historical Journal *
Davis offers a sharp, nuanced synthesis of a complex period,and a persuasive analysis of the Italian South in the age of revolution...a splendid achievement: thorough, solid, innovative, convincing, and appealingly written. * Tommaso Astarita, Catholic Historical Review *
[Davis] has set a benchmark for research on Naples, Napoleon, the Age of Revolutions, and the Southern Question for future generations of scholars to meet. * The American Historical Review *