A Man of Much More - Giuseppe Garibaldi

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  • Topic: Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian unification, Italy
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  • Published : May 13, 2013
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A Man of Much More - Giuseppe Garibaldi

Through his adventures as a general and a freedom fighter, Giuseppe Garibaldi emerged as the first international celebrity and hero. As one of the few esteemed Italian heroes today, Garibaldi is “the only one who is loved as well as admired”.[1] Born in 1807 in Nice, France, Giuseppe Garibaldi was drawn into radical politics and seafaring as a young man. He soon was granted his captainship and participated in various political insurrections and uprisings. Upon his exile from Piedmont, Garibaldi was able to display his courage, persistence, and audacity, by sailing and battling as a freedom fighter in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Between 1848 and 1867, he fought numerous campaigns throughout Italy with inferior odds to the opposing French, Neapolitan, and Austrian forces for the coalition of his homeland. With his leadership and perseverance to liberate all men, Garibaldi was able to unify Italy in a final campaign in France against the Prussians, bringing Rome back under control of the Italian government. Garibaldi, through creating his image as a hero and celebrity, acquired a mythical status that is questioned by historians today. Historians try to extrapolate every aspect of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s honored character and life. They seek to find what factors provided his worldwide reverence and notoriety. Scholars such as Alfonso Scirocco and Lucy Riall employ the idea that truth and reality must be extracted from the myths embedded in the heroic image of Garibaldi.[2] In reality, noted by Paul Vallely, the materialization of media and propaganda by himself and the radical leader, Giuseppe Mazzini, served as the key factor in Garibaldi’s progression to public idolization both during and post-life.[3] Self-sacrifice and self-achievement are qualities of heroes, while propaganda and media are devices that institute fame and idolization. With the self-conscious manipulation of the press and media with help of his mentor, Giuseppe Mazzini, and determination to sacrifice to achieve goals for both himself and his country, Giuseppe Garibaldi was able to create an image as a hero, celebrity, and the “heart-throb of modern Europe”.[4] What many historians falsely accuse today, is the notion that Garibaldi was a renowned hero, whose fame was unwillingly brought upon himself due to his notable excursions as a political and military leader. This fictitious statement declares no external sources factored into the construction of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s fame, notoriety, and mythic image. In opposition to this superficial declaration, historians such as Lucy Riall and Paul Vallely pronounce that Garibaldi’s recognition and prominence as a hero was acquired through a series of self-fashioning decisions that promoted himself as a political idol to the people of Italy, and even Europe in the broader spectrum of political interest.[5]

Garibaldi’s fame was acquired through a combination of factors resulting from the intentional, political strategy planned by nationalist, radical and political leader, Giuseppe Mazzini. Mazzini sought to foster radical republican views through the use of one, living, breathing, iconic hero. The emergence of new technologies, principally the electric telegraph and the cheaper printing machines, sparked what was called the information revolution, which was “expressed in the proliferation of newspapers and a popular press”.[6] This revolution was accompanied by the growth of literate masses as well as a generation of a new political culture with the public partaking in more “traditional forms of mass political expression”.[7] Using the new printed media and propaganda, Mazzini and his publicists (Mazzinian journalists) set out to endorse Garibaldi as a romantic, radical hero.

In one of many attempts to promote and uphold Garibaldi’s developing image as a hero, Mazzini published two articles describing Garibaldi and his Italian Legion in Uruguay to London...
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