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Italy, mediaeval and modern: a history
By Evelyn M Jamison (1917)


IT is justly remarked in the Preface to this volume that while Italian history is well represented in the form of monographs on particular periods and personages throughout its course, there are few works, at least in our language, which give a complete conspectus of what is certainly one of the most deeply interesting and important of all the histories of the world. Perhaps it is the very magnitude of the task which has prevented its accomplishment. Putting aside the history of classic Rome, Italy, in one way or another, has been the main field of human action in Europe from the earliest time down to our own : at first a dominant and world-embracing Empire, the seat of a tremendous spiritual power, and through every century nourishing and spreading abroad the fairest flowers and fruits of human culture. The Age of Dante, the times of the Medici, the Papacy, the Republics, the Reunited Kingdom, what splendid subjects are each of these for separate and detailed treatment, and how hard is the task to weave them into one continuous tale without finding our tapestry become too crowded, and without having, perforce, to leave aside details of the highest interest.

The authors of this volume have succeeded to a very marked degree in supplying the kind of book which is so much to be desired. If it suffers from anything, it is from compression, especially in its earlier chapters. But the knowledge is so abundant, the materials so thoroughly at command, and the style, as a whole, so engaging, that the impression left is that of fine work well and conscientiously done. It is not a mere narrative ; it takes more the shape of a running commentary on Italian history from the time of the great struggles between Pope and Emperor in the thirteenth century, and before it, down to the present day, with a more detailed exposition of Italian politics in the nineteenth century, the great age of Cavour, and Garibaldi, and Victor Emmanuel. The great names of the early Renascence receive due honour, and not only these, but the very remarkable group of men who surrounded Frederick II. at Palermo, and formed what might be designated an earlier Renascence. The plan of giving separate sketches of the different communities and states, and resuming the story at intervals, tends to keep one's mind free from confusion in the great mass of detail : for it is undoubtedly difficult to do so, especially in these periods and they do occur in Italian history, when the daily life of the people and their rulers was alike dull and unenlightened. But from its mere mass of great names, alone, Italian history can never be other than interesting in the highest degree. And nowhere has it been more ably or more engagingly set forth than in this book in which its authors have combined a fine historical judgment with abundant scholarship.

DAVID J MACKENZIE.

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