America, Italy, and the Southern Question
Trim size: 5.000in x 8.000in
Pub Date: 08/26/2002
List Price: $29.95
America, Italy, and the Southern Question
In Nations Divided, Don H. Doyle looks at some unexpected parallels in American and Italian history. What we learn will reattune us to the complexities and ironies of nationalism. During his travels around southern Italy not long ago, Doyle was caught off guard by frequent images of the Confederate battle flag. The flag could also be seen, he was told, waving in the stands at soccer matches. At the same time, a political movement in northern Italy called for secession from the South. A historian with a special interest in the long troubled relationship between the American South and the United States, Doyle was driven to understand the forces that unite and divide nations from within.
The Italian South had been at odds with the more prosperous, metropolitan North of Italy since the country's bloody unification struggles in the 1860s. Thousands of miles from Doyle's Tennessee home was an eerily familiar scenario: a South characterized in terms of its many perceived problems by a North eager to define national ideals against the southern "other." From this abruptly decentered perspective, Doyle reexamines both countries' struggle to create an independent, unified nation and the ongoing effort to instill national identity in their diverse populace. The Fourth of July and Statuto Day; Lincoln and Garibaldi; the Confederate States of America and the secessionist dreams of Italy's Northern League; NAFTA and the European Union—such topics appear in telling juxtaposition, both inviting and defying easy conclusions. At the same time, Doyle negotiates the conceptual slipperiness of nationalism by discussing it as both constructed and real, unifying and divisive, inspiration for good and excuse for atrocity.
"Americans like to think of themselves as being innocent of the vicious ethnic warfare that has raged in the Old World and over so much of the globe," writes Doyle. "Europeans, in turn, enjoy reminding Americans of how little history they have." This enlightening, challenging meditation shows us that Europeans and Americans have much to learn from the common history of nationalism that has shaped both their worlds.
A wise, elegant, and erudite analysis of the meaning of nationalism in the modern world. This is comparative history of high quality.
—George M. Fredrickson, Stanford University
Doyle has written an original and ambitious book on the nation-building experience in the United States and Italy. Nations Divided makes an important contribution to the growing literature on comparative nationalism and offers a convincing analysis of how the factors that make a nation can also prove its undoing.
—Lucy Riall, University of London
Doyle illustrates vividly the wisdom of C. Vann Woodward's observation that, when viewed in global perspective, the experience of the American South seems far less distinctive. Doyle's masterfully integrated comparison of the north-south dynamic in Italy and the United States is richly insightful yet remarkably concise. This is comparative history at its most lucid and usable best.
—James C. Cobb, University of Georgia
In this deceptively small book, Doyle tackles two of the most important questions of modern history, namely the nature of nationalism and the construction of nationhood.
A bold and successful demonstration of how one's expertise can be put to the service of a historical culture attuned to the needs of the present, global age. . . . [A] gracious overview of the historical experiences of two nations—and their respective Souths—which, though so different in many regards, appear, in the end, not so far apart after all.
[A] thought-provoking interpretive volume . . . Nations Divided is an admirable interpretive essay that should be of great interest to students of the United States and Italy, their two Souths, and comparative history.
—Journal of Southern History
There is much to recommed in Doyle's new book. It is the first full-length study to compare the creation of the American and Italian nations in the context of the growing historiography on the origins and meaning of modern nationalism. . . .Doyle provides a clear summary of much of the necessary background information a historian needs before embarking on the difficult task of comparision.
—International History Review
Doyle has provided a useful contribution to the literature, particularly in summarizing recent thought on nationalism. In the process, in lively prose, Doyle has posed to his readers a series of provocative analogies in the histories of the two peoples.
—Florida Historical Quarterly