There have been two guiding assumptions about the advent of Napoleonic rule in the Italian peninsula. The first is that the three-year period between the French invasion of 1796 and its temporary reversal in 1799 — the triennio — represented the first enduring rupture with an old order based on privilege, localism and adherence to a culture rooted in Tridentine Catholicism. The second is that this rupture was incarnated in the political experience of the short-lived ‘sister republics’ founded in these years, and modelled on Directorial France. The most important aspect of the triennio, in both the short and the long term, was the emergence of the patriots — the misnamed giacobini — as the vanguard of a new order, and the political and social institutions they created, in which a new Italian political culture was fostered. However, the chronology and geographic shape of the French occupation, and so of patriot rule, reveal a far less decisive picture. Before the triennio can be usefully placed in a wider context, certain assumptions must be challenged and modified. The power of regionalism always present in Italian life also exerted itself now, just as it always had. The sister republics did not have the same influence throughout the peninsula, nor did that influence overturn the mentalités formed over centuries, even among the patriots themselves. Save in the Cisalpine Republic, Piedmont and Liguria, the French did not


Political Culture Papal State Civil Disobedience Passive Resistance Military Occupation 
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© Michael Broers 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Broers
    • 1
  1. 1.OxfordUK

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