Società italiana per lo studio della storia contemporanea


Fratelli garibaldini

This paper will look at the use of ‘fratellanza’ as a military concept in the wars of the Italian Risorgimento. As I have argued elsewhere (in my forthcoming ‘Eroi maschili, viriltà e forme della guerra’, forthcoming in A. Banti & P. Ginsborg (eds), Il Risorgimento, Einaudi, 2007), although Italian revolutionaries borrowed the concept of fraternité from the French Revolution, they gave it a rather different – and arguably more inclusionary – slant than their French counterparts. I suggest that in Risorgimento Italy the nation was imagined as a family, but sometimes in strikingly unhierarchical and non-authoritarian ways which embraced the egalitarian idea of the ‘band of brothers’ while still finding room for mothers, sisters and fathers.

I propose to examine the idea of ‘fratellanza’ in the memoirs of the garibaldini. I will look at the images of brotherly love among military volunteers in the works of Dandolo, Mario, Adamoli, and Garibaldi himself, among others. To what extent did the formation of a military ‘band of brothers’ imply the separation of spheres, and the exclusion of ‘sisters’, as many authors have suggested? How did the discovery of new fraternal ties affect the relationships between volunteers and their ‘natural’ families? Did this new idea of ‘fratellanza’ contribute to a cult of sacrifice and martyrdom which glorified war? Does the idea of ‘fratellanza’ change over time (eg. between the 1850s and the late 19th century)? My paper hopes to answer some of these questions, and by looking at volunteer memoirs seek to consider the ways in which the images and metaphors of Italian patriotic discourse became an accepted part of public debate, or a ‘place of memory’ by the late 19th century.