The Pursuit of Italy by David Gilmour
A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples

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One of The Economist’s 2011 Books of the Year

Did Garibaldi do Italy a disservice when he helped its disparate parts achieve unity? Was the goal of political unification a mistake? These questions are asked and answered in a number of ways in this engaging, original consideration of the many histories that contribute to the brilliance—and weakness—of Italy today.

David Gilmour’s wonderfully readable ex­ploration of Italian life over the centuries is filled with provocative anecdotes as well as personal observations, and is peopled with the great fig­ures of the Italian past—from Cicero and Virgil to Dante and the Medicis, from Garibaldi and Cavour to the controversial politicians of the twentieth century. Gilmour’s wise account of the Risorgimento, the pivotal epoch in modern Italian history, debunks the nationalistic myths that surround it, though he paints a sympathetic portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, a beloved hero of the era. Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinc­tive art, civic cultures, identities, and cuisines. Italy’s inhabitants identified themselves not as Italians but as Tuscans and Venetians, Sicilians and Lombards, Neapolitans and Genoese. Italy’s strength and culture still come from its regions rather than from its misconceived, mishandled notion of a unified nation.

With The Pursuit of Italy, David Gilmour has provided a coherent, persuasive, and entertain­ing interpretation of the paradoxes of Italian life, past and present.


About David Gilmour

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David Gilmour is the author of several highly acclaimed works of literary and political history, including two prize-winning biographies, Curzon and The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe di Lampedusa. He lives in Edinburgh.
Published October 25, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 480 pages
Genres: History, Travel. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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British historian Gilmour (The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj, 2006, etc.) declares there's no such thing as Italy.

Oct 18 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pursuit of Italy: A Histo...

The New York Times

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The historian, biographer and Italophile David Gilmour argues that Italy is another fragile union, and in “The Pursuit of Italy” he makes a persuasive (if not entirely unfamiliar) argument that the 1861 unification of the country, trumpeted by nationalists as a triumph of progressive statecraft, ...

Dec 02 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pursuit of Italy: A Histo...

Publishers Weekly

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Through reflections on his travels to Italy’s many regions, Gilmour discovers that essential Italy remains the Italy of its communes.

Aug 15 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pursuit of Italy: A Histo...

Giuseppe Garibaldi, who gave his name to the biscuit as well as to a fashionable red blouse, was Italy's favourite independence hero.

Feb 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pursuit of Italy: A Histo...

WHICH Italian city best exemplifies Italy?

Mar 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pursuit of Italy: A Histo...

Book Forum

In fact, he is at his best when he attacks the traditional historiography of Italy most fiercely – as he does in retelling the story of the Risorgimento, Italy's supposedly heroic period of national renewal and unification in the mid-19th century.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pursuit of Italy: A Histo...

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