Garibaldi and the Unification of Italy

Photograph of Garibaldi

Photograph of Garibaldi: Sp Coll Dougan 84

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, which was proclaimed on 17 March, 1861, in Turin. With celebrations taking place across Italy, we thought now would be a fitting moment to highlight some of the material from Special Collections which is related both to this period in Italian history, and to one of its most important figures, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Garibaldi was a widely admired figure at this time, and his aims found popular support across Scotland. We hold a small selection of Garibaldi’s letters within our collections (MS Gen 530/72-78): dating from 1860-1876, these were written from Garibaldi at his island home on Caprera to John McAdam in Glasgow. McAdam was a Glasgow-born political activist and reformer, who campaigned for Italian unification, both raising funds and promoting the cause. He corresponded with the activist Guiseppe Mazzini (MS Gen 530/1-66), and met Garibaldi in 1860 at his home on Caprera. Included with the original Italian letters are handwritten English translations: the correspondence includes a warm letter in which Garibaldi expresses his gratitude for McAdam’s and his fellow Scottish citizens’ efforts in aiding the Italian cause.

Letter from Emily Tennyson

Letter from Emily Tennyson: MS Gen 557/2/47/4

We also hold an interesting letter (MS Gen 557/2/47/4) which describes the visit of Garibaldi to Farringford, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s home on the Isle of Wight. The letter is from Emily (Tennyson’s wife) to Edmund Law Lushington, who was married to Tennyson’s sister Cecilia. Lushington was Professor of Greek and later Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow: this letter forms part of our collection of his papers, and those of his father, Edmund Henry Lushington.

Garibaldi was given a rapturous hero’s welcome when he arrived in England on 3 April, 1864 to embark upon a tour of the country. He was invited by Charles Seely, a radical MP and campaigner for Italian unification, to stay with him at Brooke House on the Isle of Wight, and from there visited the Tennysons. Emily seems to have been impressed by him and writes “About Garibaldi I do not think any one can be disappointed in him who expects to find a noble simple man.” She also notes that he longed to retreat to the solitude and quiet of his home on Caprera.

View of Florence, the Bell Tower of Giotto

View of Florence, the Bell Tower of Giotto, by unknown photographer: Sp Coll Dougan 106 (item 50)

Of related interest is a group of photographs from the Dougan collection (Sp Coll Dougan 106), that feature scenes from Italy at this time: these photographs have been digitised and can be viewed on our website. With images of Rome, as well as other Italian towns and landscapes, this collection presents a beautiful impression of Italy during the latter part of the 19th century.

Also in our photographic collections is an album which includes a portrait of Garibaldi (shown above), as well as portraits of Victor Hugo and others, thought to date from 1860s onwards (Sp Coll Dougan 84). You can find out more about the Dougan Collection and our other photographic collections on our photography subject page.

Categories: Library, Special Collections

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