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Despite the Roman Empire’s 500-year reign over Europe, parts of Africa and the Middle East, Italy does not have the same long national history...

Despite the Roman Empire’s 500-year reign over Europe, parts of Africa and the Middle East, Italy does not have the same long national history as states such as France or England. Divided for much of its history, Italy’s regions have been, at various times, parts of bigger, often antagonistic empires, notably those of Spain and Austria. In addition, its challenging and varied terrain made consolidation of political control all the more difficult. This concise history covers, in very readable fashion, the formative events in Italy’s past from the Etruscans all through a unified country in thrall to fascism in the first half of the twentieth century right up to Silvio Berlusconi and beyond.

The birthplace of the Renaissance and the place where the Baroque was born, Italy has always been a hotbed of culture. Within modern Italy there is fierce regional pride in the cultures and identities that mark out Tuscany, Rome, Sicily and Venice to name just a few of Italy’s many famous regions. Professor Jeremy Black, of the History department of Exeter University, the most prolific historian writing in the English Language today, draws on the diaries, memoirs and letters of historic travelers to Italy to gain insight into the passions of its people, first chronologically then regionally. In telling Italy’s story, Professor Black examines what it is that has given Italians such cultural clout – from food and drink, music and fashion, to art and architecture – and explores the causes and effects of political events, and the divisions that still exist today. In short, A Brief History of Italy (Robinson, 2019) is an outstanding introduction to bella Italia, past and present.


Charles Coutinho has a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for the Journal of Intelligence History and Chatham House’s International Affairs. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com.