Riall, Lucy 1962–

views updated

Riall, Lucy 1962–


Born January 4, 1962.


Office— School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet St., London WC1E 7HX, England. E-mail— [email protected].


University of Essex, Essex, England, former lecturer in modern European history; University of London, Birbeck, London, England, member of history faculty and director of master's program in historical research.


The Italian Risorgimento: State, Society, and National Unification, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994.

Sicily and the Unification of Italy: Liberal Policy and Local Power, 1859-1866, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1998.

(Editor, with David Laven)Napoleon's Legacy: Problems of Government in Restoration Europe, Berg (Oxford, England), 2000.

Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2007.

Contributor to books, including National Histories and European History, edited by M. Fulbrook, European History UCL Press (London, England), 1993;L'immagine della nazione nell'Italia del Risorgimento, edited by A. Banti and R. Bizzocchi, Carocci (Rome, Italy), 2002; and The American South and the Italian Mezzogiorno: Essays in Comparative History, edited by R. Halpern and E. dal Lago, Palgrave (London, England), 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Proceedings of the British Academy, Journal of Contemporary History, History Workshop Journal, Historical Journal, European History Quarterly, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, and Roma Moderna e Contemporanea, IX. Editor,European History Quarterly,2004—; coeditor of special issue of Modern Italy,1998.


Lucy Riall is a historian whose research interests are in the social, political, and cultural history of modern Italy. She also teaches courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century European history, Italian nationalism, and historiography and historical methodology. Her books have focused primarily on the nineteenth-century Italian unification movement called the "Risorgimento," or "Resurgence." This was the political and social movement that eventually unified the various states on the Italian peninsula into the nation of Italy. The author followed her first book,The Italian Risorgimento: State, Society, and National Unification, with Sicily and the Unification of Italy: Liberal Policy and Local Power, 1859-1866, which focuses on the early years of the unification of Italy.

In Sicily and the Unification of Italy, Riall frames her account within a history of the southern Italian state as she explores why Sicily was so difficult to govern after the Risorgimento. "Riall's answer to the question of Sicily's apparent ungovernability lies in a series of failures: the failure to win local support, to ease problems of infrastructure and poor communications, and to address issues of landholding," noted Raymond Grew in the Journal of Modern History. The author explores the Savoyard monarchy's failure to take its successes in developing a state in Piedmont and apply it to Sicily, resulting in both social and political turmoil. After discussing the history of Sicily from 1815 to 1860, Riall explores the dictatorship of Giuseppe Garibaldi and then goes on to examine the state of government in Piedmont, the history of Risorgimento in Sicily from 1962 to 1865, and the Palermo revolt of 1866 against a strongly centralized Italian government. After bombing Palermo from ships, the Italian army entered the city and executed numerous civilian insurgents as they gained control of the city. "Throughout, Riall shows the complexity of the issues involved and her study is an important and valuable one," wrote Christopher Duggan in a review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy in the English Historical Review. Grew called the book a "lucid, judicious study, which will prove valuable to all scholars of modern Italy."

The author next turns her attention to a famous Italian patriot who was a soldier and leader in the Risorgimento and headed many of the military campaigns that ultimately led to Italy's unification. Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero explores the charismatic leader's life in detail. Referring to the book as "absorbing and scholarly" in the Spectator, David Gilmour added: "She analyses the cult of the hero, its growth, its range and its effectiveness, and in the process adds an extra dimension to the man." Riall focuses on the handsome and virile Garibaldi within the tumultuous times that Italy faced leading up to and during the Risorgimento. She recounts Garibaldi's youth and his many travels as a merchant sailor. She then delves into his rise as a soldier and hero with the help of others who remained behind the scenes. Among Garibaldi's many accomplishments was the defeat of Sicilian revolutionaries and efforts that helped lead to the Bourbon monarchy's fall. He also battled the Vatican, seeking to reduce its hold on political power in Italy. Garibaldi's charisma was well documented. A contributor to the Economist noted one description of Garibaldi printed in the French paper Le Siècle. The description read: "What a man! What prestige! He has the ability to excite everyone who sees him."

Despite Garibaldi's reputation in Italy, many historians painted him as a mere puppet of Giuseppe Mazzini, the "prophet of Italy." Mazzini had been exiled as a revolutionary but recognized the potential in Garibaldi to lead Italy's reunification and wrote about him in glowing terms. In her book, however, Riall seeks to establish Garibaldi as an individual much more in control of his reputation and accomplishments than some historians have believed. The contributor to the Economist noted that the author "allows that his love life had its jarring moments," adding: "He impulsively wed a second time but instantly dumped his bride on learning that an earlier liaison had led to her pregnancy. He could, she observes, be hurt, unforgiving, venomous and confused. But in the public realm, she pictures a much smoother operator." Tim Parks, writing in the New Yorker, commented: "Riall is at her best when she looks at Garibaldi's career after unification. Unlike most historians, she takes his later activities and ideas seriously and is convincing about his long-term influence on Italian politics."

Riall's biography received strong praise from many reviewers. "This book is meticulously researched and its argument exceptionally well presented," wrote David Keymer in the Library Journal. Noting that the author "does a fine job" in exploring Garibaldi's life, Jay Freeman went on to write in Booklist that Riall "is particularly astute in examining the process of mythmaking" and its association with the man that many would argue is Italy's greatest national hero.



American Historical Review, February, 2000, Steven Hughes, review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy: Liberal Policy and Local Power, 1859-1866, p. 308.

Booklist, May 15, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero, p. 16.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April, 1999, S. Bailey, review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy, p. 1525.

Economist, May 26, 2007, "An Idol of His Own Design; Garibaldi," p. 98.

English Historical Review, November, 1999, Christopher Duggan, review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy, p. 1346.

European History Quarterly, July, 1999, Michael Broers, review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy, p. 438.

History: The Journal of the Historical Association, January, 2000, John M. Roberts, review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy, p. 183.

History Today, August, 2007, Lucy Riall, "Garibaldi: The First Celebrity," p. 41.

Journal of Modern History, December, 2000, Raymond Grew, review of Sicily and the Unification of Italy, p. 1044.

Library Journal, May 1, 2007, David Keymer, review of Garibaldi, p. 86.

New Yorker, July 9, 2007, Time Parks, "The Insurgent," review of Garibaldi.

Publishers Weekly, April 23, 2007, review of Garibaldi, p. 37.

Spectator, May 12, 2007, David Gilmour, "The Lion or the Donkey?," review of Garibaldi.


Birkbeck, University of London, School of History, Classics, and Archeology Web site,http://www.bbk.ac.uk/hca/ (November 4, 2007), faculty profile of Lucy Riall.