The Pursuit of Italy

The Pursuit of Italy Visiting a villa built by Lorenzo de Medici outside Pisa David Gilmour fell into conversation about the unification of Italy with a distinguished former minister You know Davide he said in a low co

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  • Title: The Pursuit of Italy
  • Author: DavidGilmour
  • ISBN: 9781846142512
  • Page: 459
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Visiting a villa built by Lorenzo de Medici outside Pisa, David Gilmour fell into conversation about the unification of Italy with a distinguished former minister You know, Davide, he said in a low conspiratorial voice, as if uttering a heresy, Garibaldi did Italy a great disservice If he had not invaded Sicily and Naples, we in the north would have the richest and mVisiting a villa built by Lorenzo de Medici outside Pisa, David Gilmour fell into conversation about the unification of Italy with a distinguished former minister You know, Davide, he said in a low conspiratorial voice, as if uttering a heresy, Garibaldi did Italy a great disservice If he had not invaded Sicily and Naples, we in the north would have the richest and most civilized state in Europe After looking cautiously round the room he added in an even lower voice, Of course to the south we would have a neighbour like Egypt Was the elderly Italian right The Pursuit of Italy traces the whole history of the Italian peninsula in a wonderfully readable style, full of well chosen stories and observations from personal experience, and peopled by many of the great figures of the Italian past, from Cicero and Virgil to Dante and the Medici, from Cavour and Verdi to the controversial political figures of the twentieth century The book gives a clear eyed view of the Risorgimento, the pivotal event in modern Italian history, debunking the influential myths which have grown up around it.Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinctive art, civic cultures, identities and cuisine The regions produced the medieval communes and the Renaissance, the Venetian Republic and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, two of the most civilized states of European history Their inhabitants identified themselves not as Italians, but as Tuscans and Venetians, Sicilians and Lombards, Neapolitans and Genoese This is where the strength and culture of Italy still comes from, rather than from misconceived and mishandled concepts of nationalism and unity.This wise and enormously engaging book explains the course of Italian history in a manner and with a coherence which no one with an interest in the country could fail to enjoy.

    One thought on “The Pursuit of Italy”

    1. This is a great book on Italy. I think it is worth reading by Italians themselves too. A historical book as it should be. It is a very balanced account of country’s history and a very fair assessment of its key figures and events. Nor is his book a collection of iconoclastic provocations. You see real people, not lacquered and embellished saints or demonized beastly villains. He calls events and processes precisely by their correct names and not just recites glorious titles. A certain characte [...]

    2. I was truly sorry when I finished this book. David Gilmour has done all of us a great service in the writing of this readable, entertaining and yet serious history of Italy. After quoting Napoleon on the excessive length of the country, Gilmour properly points out that Italy is really - and always has been - a "country" of its regions and communes, and that it is too much to expect the average Italian to place his primary loyalty to the modern Italian nation/state, with its many shortcomings. He [...]

    3. I wanted to look at the peninsula’s centrifugal tendencies and inquire whether the lateness of unification and the troubles of the nation state had been not accidents of history but consequences of the peninsula’s past and its geography, which may have made it unsuitable territory for nationalism. Were there not just too many Italies for a successful unity?I’ll start by saying that the author delivers on what the title promises, an exploration of Italy’s past as the root of why the count [...]

    4. this is a pretty gripping account of the chimera that is (and always has been) Italy, which is seemingly scathing of almost everything it comes across - people (especially politicians and leaders), even the food (although he does preface with a clarification of his position on polenta)at the author paints such a critical picture (in the most part, the positive assessments are handed to outsiders) reveals, I believe, a profound affection and empathy for the subject, based on a longstanding famili [...]

    5. Mess of a book. Oddly organized, and the sentence structure often is so jumbled that it destroys any flow. And the author is fairly patronizing toward his subject.

    6. This book surveys the long and complex history of Italy. The decentralization that followed the fall of the Roman Empire resulted many entities: friendly, competitive, combative and intermarried entities. There were wars and competition and money and art to be made. A pageant with wealthy and fascinating players: Catholic Church, Florentine bankers, Venetian merchants, Bourbon kings, talented artists and more played across this narrow peninsula. It's ambitious to chronicle Italy's history and Da [...]

    7. This was a well-written romp through the history of Italy. By describing the regions of Italy, and how they functioned as political entities, he carefully laid the groundwork for an overview of the misery that became unification. The north didn't like the south and the feeling was mutual. Venice was its own special case, and then there were the Papal States - the Pope's personal territory. Not only did the people not share a language (they spoke in dialect in spite of the eventual institution of [...]

    8. Gilmour makes a consistent and convincing case that Italy is largely a collection of independent-minded towns and provinces. Despite attempts at national unity, from the territorial conquests of the medieval period to the Risorgimento, Italians continued to feel disconnected from each other. Unification was "a sin against history and geography," as Gilmour often quotes. This work is expansive and at times overbearing, but nearly always entertaining. It attempts to capture the major political mov [...]

    9. A relatively snappy history of Italy written in an engaging style, this book could perhaps have provided greater coverage to certain eras and topics. The Romans are understandably dealt with within the scope of a few pages (something had to give) and the early chapters pass by briskly before the post-unification meat - clearly Gilmour's main preoccupation even if the medieval chapters are critical in emphasizing that Italy is above all a loose collection of distinct regions and an uneasy whole.T [...]

    10. I was delighted with the first part of the book, covering the earlier history of the landmass that is now Italy and its diverse population and culture. Gilmour is a great storyteller, tying together many threads and keeping it comlex and simple at the same time. However, the main part of this book deals with the "great men" of the 18th and 19th century - so countless invasions, revolts, conspiracies, soldiers and kings. I quickly lost interest, mainly because Gilmour's narrative became strangely [...]

    11. Unsure how this was even published, let alone how it received the fairly positive reviews it received. A claptrap of names and dates, hastily thrown together with no narrative or through line guiding any of it. Zero pizzazz or elan that can be found in other histories where the past sings and dances for the reader, becoming, for a moment while reading, the present. Blind spots a mile wide and contradictions a mile long. Was this book deal a pay-off for the author? Did Gilmour black mail someone [...]

    12. This is not a "review" by any means. I just have to share my astonishment at one fact I learned in reading this book. Having visited the picturesque and seemingly well preserved medieval town of San Gimignano in Tuscany several times, I could not have been more surprised to learn from the author that it was restored during the fascist period. If one can use the word restore to describe their agenda of promoting the country's medieval heritage for political purposes while attempting to remove all [...]

    13. A great primer on the history of Italy, from pre-Roman times to the era of Berlusconi. The pace is brisk, and flashes of wit makes the going easy. I particularly liked the discussion on the unification of Italy in the 19th centuries. It gave fascinating insight into the different forces that pulled at the people and the land and that continue to divide Italy today.

    14. Started off well, with interesting ideas about the connection between geography and culture, but eventually became a litany of names and dates from the unification onward that wasn't particularly insightful.

    15. An excellent book, wide ranging and also well written. For a complete beginner on Italian history this is probably the book to read. Gilmour is himself a British journalist who has worked internationally but also covered Italy at various times, for this book it seems like he dedicated some years of living and studying in Italy, in it's different regions. The book is born not of professional or academic interest but of personal interest, and reads at a good pace, with sufficient historical and po [...]

    16. Anyone attempting to write a compact history of a place like Italy, covering a time period of 3000 years and doing a decent job already deserves a medal. David Gilmour doesn't hit it out of the park but without his book, my understanding of Italian history would certainly be a lot poorer.The book begins on a high note. I found the initial pages unputdownable although to my regret, first 2000 years get over in the first 50-60 pages with the next 1000 getting remaining 350. So if you are looking t [...]

    17. I planned to read this book during our holiday in Tuscany, Italy. It was well-timed and added to the experience. Mr Gilmour has an endearing style, although he does not bother sounding objective (Cavour and king Victor Emmanuel are treated harshly, probably justifiably so). He often sounds more like a gossiping friend than an academic, which definitely adds to the readability and the thrill factor. The book helped to appreciate the various Risorgimento museums and the beautiful renaissance bulwa [...]

    18. Not as good as Hughes on Rome, but a very good, succinct and clear history of Italy from Pre-Roman times through Berlusconi. The basic thesis is that the Risorgimento (when Italy became one nation instead of a collection of various countries' possessions) emphasized Italian nationalism as opposed to local culture on the peninsula, and this opened the doors to Mussolini and the Fascists. I'd heard things like that before, but Gilmour delivers an impressive, fact-filled argument that has me thinki [...]

    19. Actually my brain hurts from reading but it's spectacular. It's very engaging and explains the course of Italian history in a way of interest that many people could enjoy. (still my brain hurts!)Very powerful; I have a clearer understanding of the country and it's trials and tribulations. It questions whether Italy is in fact a unified state or indeed a bunch of alternative ones. David Gilmour is a great writer!

    20. This book is packed with information - found it hard going but ultimately rewarding, certainly know a lot more about Italy and its constituent parts than before. It reminded me a little of the book Germania - by Simon Winder that gives a similar treatment to Germany, and 'The Discovery of France' by Graham Robb. Although Gilmour's book is more of a historical fascinating stuff in there.

    21. First off, I won this through ' First Reads giveaway.I absolutely loved this book. It was a very in-depth one volume history of Italy. I loved how the author went into depth about how the Italian language was chosen. Italian history has always been fascinating and this book was a great read. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in Italian history!Great Book!

    22. This book is a real pursuit of a history being told and chanted but also being neglected and tweaked. Italy's way to unification was harder than for many other countries but it is due to her society. This book entails not just the history of Italy but also the sociology of Italy's diversed culture and states.

    23. A bit tough going but gives a really good general insight into Italian history - in other words, it does exactly what it says on the tin! :)

    24. Upon finishing up this book, Italy is now awaiting for a new government, presumably a coalition one due to fragmented party system as usual. The seemingly different thing could be that an anti-establishment five-star movement could come into power, yet the cracking up of old party rivalries did already happen in Italy before, when Berlusconi became prime minister due to a series of scandals of ruling party Christian Democrat and the ever-losing appeal of Communist party after the dissolve of USS [...]

    25. Außergewöhnliches BuchWenn man Sachbücher innerhalb von zwei Wochen durchliest, ist das ein gutes Zeichen. Manche sind trocken geschrieben, aber das Buch von David Gilmour war kurzweilig und so interessant, dass ich es im Urlaub in jeder freien Minute gelesen habe. So ein Buch habe ich schon seit Jahren gesucht, ein Buch, das die komplette Geschichte Italiens abdeckt. Und dieses Buch ist ein wahres Kleinod.David Gilmour fängt in der Antike an und arbeitet sich bis in die Neuzeit vor. Er schr [...]

    26. This is a history of Italy, from the depths of the beginning to today, written by a talented writer who, to the reader's delight, is a British historian very much in love with Italy. I bought this book from Florence (Firenze), from a well stocked centrally located book shop, where it was lined up with few other relevant writings about Italy; I could hardly picked better. Mr. Gilmour explains how nations are not inevitable, and maybe more so Italy - a mixture of nationalities, with distinct histo [...]

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