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Raponi, D. (2006). Rome or Death: The Obsessions of General Garibaldi by Daniel Pick (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005, pp. xxvi + 288, £16.99); reviewed by Danilo Raponi. Psychoanal. Hist., 8(2):277-280.

(2006). Psychoanalysis and History, 8(2):277-280

Rome or Death: The Obsessions of General Garibaldi by Daniel Pick (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005, pp. xxvi + 288, £16.99); reviewed by Danilo Raponi

Review by:
Danilo Raponi, Ph.D.

Giuseppe Garibaldi, the ‘hero of the two worlds’, is universally known for his legendary battles on both the European and American continents. His Mille expedition, which determined the collapse of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and marked a significant step towards the unification of Italy, has been widely studied by historians of the Risorgimento. His desire to conquer Rome, host to the loathed Papacy, has also been the object of a number of studies. In his new book, however, Daniel Pick brings to light a lesser known event in Garibaldi's life, one of his last ‘fights’: his desire to divert the river Tiber from the Eternal City.

One of the General's highest priorities had always been to liberate the city from Papal dominance. However, when Rome was invaded by regular Italian troops on 20 September 1870, he played no part. Henceforth, he felt the need to do something else for Rome, to contribute personally to its regeneration and to elevate its status as capital of Italy. During the 1870s malaria was a serious problem in Rome, with few other cities as gravely infested. Garibaldi understood that he could accomplish something of extraordinary importance for Rome if he successfully divested it of this, its greatest plague. Believing that the Tiber was the main cause of the lethal fever, he proposed the diversion of its flow, an idea to which the Italian Government initially seemed disposed to listen. The eventual rejection of his plan he thus found hard to digest, and he began to see Rome as the fuel for his dream of the regeneration of the whole of the Italian peninsula. Garibaldi intended to transform his beloved city, Caput Mundi, into the ‘world capital of the future’ (p. 10). He never eschewed his intent, and for the rest of his life he longed to leave his mark on the ‘new Rome’. Yet, Garibaldi's anti-clericalism and patriotism are not sufficiently explanatory for Daniel Pick, who identifies diverse and more profound motives for Garibaldi's firm intention ‘to reverse the moral and physical putrefaction which he and many others associated with the Church’ (p. 14).

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