cover image Italy and Its Invaders

Italy and Its Invaders

Girolamo Arnaldi, , trans. from the Italian by Anthony Shugaar. . Harvard Univ., $19.95 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-674-01870-9

Although Arnaldi claims he's not trying to find the central thread running through Italian history, his book certainly indicates that he has found one such theme: the relationship between "foreigners" and Italians, from the Germanic invaders in Roman times to the participation of Austrians in the formation of the Italian nation-state in the late 19th century. For Arnaldi, a professor emeritus of medieval history in Italy, religion has been a major aspect of this interaction. His evaluation of the impact of invasion is mixed. He praises the legacies in architecture and agriculture left by Muslim forces who took control of Sicily in the ninth century, but understandably, he's less sanguine about the epidemic of syphilis that spread after the French invasion in the 16th century. Soon thereafter, Spanish control of parts of Italy maintained religious unity, but kept Italy from being a major participant in the Enlightenment. Despite this, Arnaldi is positive about the role Christianity has played in the history of both Italy and the rest of Europe; there was, he writes, "no effective social glue comparable with Christianity." The book assumes a reader's knowledge of basic Italian history; for such readers, it has much to offer. (Nov.)