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23 May 1985
Cavour 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 297 78512 5
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Cavour and Garibaldi 1860: A Study in Political Conflict 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Cambridge, 458 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 30356 7
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... one. His Strategy of Sea Power, published in 1890, had earned him honorary degrees in Oxford and Cambridge by 1893: Mahan told an anxious British public what it most wanted to hear about its navy. DenisMackSmith is another. His Cavour and Garibaldi, published in 1954, told many Italians what they did not want to hear, but told them at a special point in their history when they had no choice but to ...
6 May 1982
Mussolini 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Weidenfeld, 429 pp., £12.95, February 1982, 0 297 78005 0
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Mussolini Unleashed 1939-41 
by MacGregor Knox.
Cambridge, 384 pp., £22.50, March 1982, 0 521 23917 6
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... an intriguing tandem, the one a broad perspective of the whole span of Mussolini’s life, the other a detailed study of less than three years. The wider canvas is a delight to read, and through it DenisMackSmith will find an even wider readership for the formidable knowledge he has already shown in his more specialist writings. As a biography, his new book achieves an impressive balance in the ...

Italy Stirs

Adrian Lyttelton

22 June 1995
Mazzini 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Yale, 302 pp., £19.95, April 1994, 0 300 05884 5
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Verdi: A Biography 
by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz.
Oxford, 941 pp., £30, October 1993, 0 19 313204 4
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The Real Traviata 
by Gaia Servadio.
Hodder, 290 pp., £20, October 1994, 9780340579480
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... idea of the Risorgimento as a peculiarly noble enterprise, transforming history into myth and symbol. After his dismissive biography of Mussolini and his scathing treatment of Italy’s royal family, DenisMackSmith has turned back to a figure who fully engages his sympathies, and some may miss the darkly satirical tone of those earlier essays in denunciation. Mazzini is a work of passionate advocacy ...

Eight Million Bayonets

Alexander Stille: Modern Italy

1 January 1998
Modern Italy: A Political History 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Yale, 534 pp., £35, October 1997, 0 300 07377 1
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... Originally published in 1959 and revised ten years later, DenisMackSmith’s Modern Italy: A Political History has been the standard work in its field for nearly two generations. MackSmith has chosen to update it at a propitious moment, now that the Cold War is over and the political parties that governed Italy for the last half-century have been swept from power. As a result, it is ...

Capos and Cardinals

Jonathan Steinberg

17 August 1989
Fascism and the Mafia 
by Christopher Duggan.
Yale, 322 pp., £19.95, January 1989, 0 300 04372 4
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A Thief in the Night: The Death of Pope John Paul I 
by John Cornwell.
Viking, 301 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 670 82387 2
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... feared and hated the unwashed, illiterate Sicilians among whom he had been compelled to live: ‘Africans’ one of Garibaldi’s generals called them. Duggan, who learned how to debunk myth from DenisMackSmith, did not waste his time with the maestro. He has a similar eye for the absurd and the same finely honed prose style. Yet behind the fun he has a serious purpose. The myth-making allowed ...

Bloody Glamour

Tim Parks: Giuseppe Mazzini

30 April 2009
Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism 1830-1920 
edited by C.A. Bayly and Eugenio Biagini.
Oxford, 419 pp., £45, September 2008, 978 0 19 726431 7
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... of 25 he spent his life promoting armed insurrections in which thousands were butchered; as a rule he was not present. Even discounting the fact that all the accounts we have of his life, including DenisMackSmith’s authoritative 1994 volume, tend to hagiography, it’s clear that from the earliest age Mazzini was both physically attractive and immensely charismatic. Briefly united under Napoleon ...
7 March 1985
Waugh in Abyssinia 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Methuen, 253 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 413 54830 9
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Remote People 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 208 pp., £2.50, January 1985, 9780140095425
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Haile Selassie’s War 
by Anthony Mockler.
Oxford, 453 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 215867 8
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... to endorse Evelyn Waugh’s emphatically held opinion that Haile Selassie was very ill-advised to go public over Walwal since it was this that drove the Duce to go over the top. On the other hand, DenisMackSmith. In his biography of Mussolini (which is not cited in Mockler’s bibliography), lists a number of occasions from 1925 onwards when the Duce showed every Intention or using force. At the ...

Verdi’s Views

John Rosselli

29 October 1987
Verdi: A Life in the Theatre 
by Charles Osborne.
Weidenfeld, 360 pp., £18, June 1987, 0 297 79117 6
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... in an outdated, simplified account of the Risorgimento as a general striving for unity. Historians often write in vain: not even English-language historians’ revisionist accounts (say those of DenisMackSmith and Stuart Woolf) have got through to biographers. Osborne is the latest to write such things as that the Milanese audience at Nabucco identified themselves, ‘Italians suffering under ...

Diary

David Gilmour: On Richard Cobb

21 May 1987
... that Cobb thought, wrote and spoke comme un titi parisien could not have been made about other English historians. No one would ever suggest that Raymond Carr thought like a Madrid teddy-boy or that DenisMackSmith wrote like un ragazzo di borgata. A ‘sense of place’ is perhaps a commoner attribute, although Cobb’s descriptions of places, often in sentences of about 250 words, are unlike other ...

It should have ended with Verdi

John Davis: The Battle of Adwa

24 May 2012
The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire 
by Raymond Jonas.
Harvard, 413 pp., £22.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05274 1
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... but the call to avenge Dogali provided the small pro-colonial lobby with an emotive symbol. Because its supporters included the king, the lobby’s influence was out of all proportion to its size. As DenisMackSmith demonstrated long ago, it was the monarchy’s extensive prerogatives that made it possible for Italy to embark on colonial conquest with only partial parliamentary scrutiny. The colonial ...

Stewing Waters

Tim Parks: Garibaldi

21 July 2005
Rome or Death: The Obsessions of General Garibaldi 
by Daniel Pick.
Cape, 288 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 224 07179 3
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... folk hero – pursued by drooling ladies of the British aristocracy, believed by Sicilian peasants to have been sent by God – is everywhere evident. In his otherwise excellent biography of 1958, DenisMackSmith frequently referred to Garibaldi as ‘simplistic’ and ‘ingenuous’, made fun of his habit of wearing a poncho, and saw his decision to set up home on the barren island of Caprera as ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine

16 August 1990
Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... have thus far played very little part. Most recent royal lives have still been penned by genteel amateurs, and there is no book on the modern British monarchy comparable in scholarly stature to DenisMackSmith on the Kings of Italy. Dorothy Thompson’s study of Queen Victoria is thus the more to be welcomed, for she is a writer in a very different tradition from such conventional courtly ...
6 March 1986
Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... Greek interests, has been relatively cool compared to that in France, and it was not really until the publication of his book on ancient Sicily in 1968, part of a three-volume history initiated by DenisMackSmith, that he attracted much attention and won the support of the publishing house of Laterza. Finley was one of the first English-speaking historians to be aware of the importance of the works ...

Diary

Alan Brien: Finding Lenin

7 August 1986
... outstanding biographies which have the deeper and wider resonance of a novel’: Christopher Booker), A.N. Wilson tells a funny anecdote about Mussolini that was new to me, though I had just finished DenisMackSmith’s Mussolini. It runs: ‘Mussolini had in fact modelled his style of dress on that of his favourite film stars, Laurel and Hardy, whose sartorial distinctiveness he regarded as the ...
12 March 2009
... but also because by the end of his career there was so little life left in the official postwar culture he had set out to oppose. Significantly, the most radical demolitions of his edifice came from DenisMackSmith in England, rather than any Italian historian. But if there was no real counterpart to the Historikerstreit in Italy, where De Felice could feel he had achieved most of his goals, there ...

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