Denis Mack Smith, historian of Italy, has died

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Denis Mack Smith



Denis Mack Smith, who has died aged 97, was a historian who dominated the historiography of modern Italy for half a century.

While he had the gift of writing original, serious and scrupulously researched history, which none the less remained accessible to the non-specialist, Mack Smith never fought shy of controversy and indeed one of his talents as a historian was to provoke.

His first book, Cavour and Garibaldi 1860 (1954), overturned traditional interpretations of the Risorgimento by representing it not as the fruit of the harmonious and concerted action of great men and patriots, but as a political development which grew out of internal conflict and disunity between elites.

In particular he demoted Count Camillo di Cavour, the Italian hero celebrated in so many city “corsos”, from the status of revered statesman to the role of unscrupulous trickster. ...




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