Italian Venice: A History by R J B Bosworth - review by Jonathan Keates

Jonathan Keates

Sink or Swim

Italian Venice: A History

By

Yale University Press 329pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

On 19 October 1866, following a series of diplomatic manoeuvres resulting from Austria’s defeat in its recent war with Prussia, the city of Venice, jewel in the Habsburg crown, officially became part of the kingdom of Italy. Three weeks later King Victor Emmanuel arrived in the city amid jubilant crowds, including figures from the abortive revolution of 1848 and that diminutive mascot of international liberalism Lord John Russell, sporting an immense buttonhole rosette in Italian red, white and green. The four-day royal visit took in a gala at Teatro La Fenice, a regatta on the Grand Canal (where a floating orchestra dispensed patriotic choruses and anthems) and a tour of the Arsenale during which the king extolled its glorious past and, most hazardously, guaranteed a prosperous future.

Such festivities marked the start of a new phase in the city’s history – that of a sociopolitical unit within the Italian state – which recent writing on Venice has largely ignored. R J B Bosworth’s implicit contention in Italian Venice – and a robust contentiousness adds zest to an

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