A magisterial study that will continue to be the benchmark for political histories of modern Italy. Smith (Oxford Univ.) is considered the foremost historian of modern Italy in the English-speaking world, the author of biographies on Mussolini, Garibaldi, Mazzini and Victor Emanuele, and Cavour. Smith has also written on Italy's unification and its monarchy. First published in 1959, the present work is fully updated (to 1996) and has been substantially rewritten. It is the most comprehensive and accessible study we have of modern Italy. The author is partial to the liberal-conservative tradition, but this in no way prevents him from criticizing the many faults of liberal Italy as it developed after unification: Social and economic problems were exacerbated rather than solved (or even addressed); the virus of nationalism and the myth of a Roman empire were carelessly and recklessly promulgated; and perhaps most dangerous of all, the political elite failed to forge a true civic culture after centuries of foreign and domestic despotism. The recent corruption scandals that have rocked the country and destroyed the old political order had their roots in the immediate postwar period, while we now know that the threat of terrorism was much graver from the shadowy Right than from the more dramatic Left. Smith ends on a note of cautious optimism but the reader might come away a bit more pessimistic. Simplya classic.