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FRANCESCO CRISPI by Christopher Duggan OUP, 75 [pounds sterling], pp. 777, ISBN 0198206119
Francesco Crispi is the neglected Titan of the Risorgimento. Every Italian town seems to have its Via Cavour, its Piazza Mazzini, its Corso dedicated to the memory of Garibaldi or Victor Emmanuel or both. Yet few streets now bear the name of Crispi, Italy's first prime minister from the South.
For a decade at the end of the 19th century Crispi was the dominant figure of Italian politics, saluted by Verdi as `the great patriot'. Certainly he was a more scrupulous statesman than Cavour, a more realistic conspirator than Mazzini, a more astute figure than Garibaldi, and in every way superior to his ineffable sovereign.
But Crispi's reputation was a victim of the Fascist era, which lauded him a generation …