A Military History of Italy
by Ciro Paoletti
December 2007, 296pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98505-9
$95, £74, 83€, A131
eBook Available: 978-0-313-03887-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Following Italy’s military history from the late Renaissance to the present day, this book shows the role Italy has played in struggles for power in Europe and the role the military has played in forming the modern Italian nation-state.

This book follows Italy’s military history from the late Renaissance through the present day, arguing that its leaders have consistently looked back to the power of Imperial Rome as they sought to bolster Italy’s status and influence in the world. As early as the late 15th century, Italian city-states played important roles in European conflicts. After unification in 1861, the military would become the nation’s unifying force, the melting pot of the state. Italy’s industrial and then colonial expansion brought it into the wars of the 20th century. The rise of fascist movement was the disastrous consequence of Italy’s desire for colonial and military power, a history that the nation still confronts as it seeks to play a role in world politics.

Wealthy, urban Italy has always had great political, cultural, and strategic importance for Europe. The leaders of its independent city-states intervened militarily in struggles among the European powers to its north and west but also against the expanding Muslim empires to its south and east. Italian culture supported military innovation, developing (for instance) new fortifications and naval organizations. After centuries of division, which limited Italy’s power against the larger, unified European nations, the military played an important role in the nationalist unification of the entire country. Rapid industrialization followed, and along with it Italy’s forays into overseas colonialism. Italy became a major power, but its turn to militant fascism during its expansionist era continues to haunt its state and military.


"Paoletti contributes a much-needed modern military history of Italy. The author of a previous book focusing on army history, he incorporates over 8,300 sources and includes much on naval and air issues. Paoletti sets military development in the context of Italian social, economic, and political evolution to illuminate certain issues. The book opens with an overview of the medieval period and moves into the chaotic Renaissance era. Most of the first three sections concern the 16th-18th centuries, when Italy served as a perpetual battleground between France and the Hapsburgs and faced Islamic threats. The fourth section covers the 19th century, including the Napoleonic Wars and the unification process. Paoletti focuses much of his attention on the Piedmont's military and its role uniting the peninsula, the diplomacy that made it possible, and colonialism. The final section concerns the 20th century, with Italy's ill-fated participation in the world wars and its involvement in NATO and peacekeeping projects. In most cases, Paoletti tends to rate Italian military efforts higher than other authors have done, but he is critical when appropriate. Overall, this work is a valuable addition to European military historiography. Recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice, November 1, 2008

"[Paoletti's] thumbnail sketches of the Italian campaigns of the Second World War, and of the bloody years of civil war between 1943 and 1945 capture the complexityof Italy's misfortunes."—The International History Review, June 1, 2009
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