Preface

Some twenty-five years ago I began my serious study of Italian history under the tutelage of Philip V. Cannistraro at the Florida State University center in Florence. From the day Phil took me to the Italian state archives in Rome and let me hold Mussolini’s handwritten order for the June 1940 invasion of France, I somehow understood the excitement that Italian historical research could provide. From Phil’s inspiration and unselfish counsel eventually flowed a number of articles and presentations on various aspects of modern Italian history, several books, and boundless ideas for new projects. At the same time, my loving wife, even more enamored of Italy, has insisted on frequent return trips, so that we have come to regard Italy as a kind of second home. However, in spite of our travels and study, the task of writing a comprehensive history of Italy seemed overwhelming. Comfort came only when my colleagues in Italian history confessed a similar sense of inadequacy. In part, the hesitation to accept a project of this magnitude is a product of professional training; many, if not most historians, rely heavily on documentation provided by original sources and shy away from painting with the broad strokes that this book requires. In the process of writing, I have developed a renewed respect for the historical narrative.

Deciding ultimately to take the challenge, against the advice of some trusted friends, I made the leap into the abyss. Is it possible to write an ac-

-xiii-

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