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French volunteers in Italy, 1848-49: a collective incarnation of the fraternity of the peoples and of the tradition of French military engagement in Italy and Europe

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Out of the thousands of Frenchmen who attempted to join the 1848-49 Italian revolution movement, more than 1,200 actually played a significant role in the various revolutionary struggles. Based on the investigation of the participation of the French volunteers in the Italian revolutions of 1848-49, this article shows that the 1848 revolutions were European not in the sense that they spread across Europe simultaneously, but because of the presence of international volunteers who were constantly moving from one part of Europe to another. The enlistment of volunteers in France for the 1848 Italian cause is examined in terms of the circulation of political and military models that were inspired both by the idea of the 'Fraternity of the Peoples' in 1848 but also by an older tradition of French military involvement in Italy and Europe. The little-known case of the French volunteers who went to fight in Sicily in 1849, first 'Expedition of the Thousand', provides a case study for explaining the enthusiasm that the French volunteers showed for the Italian cause.
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Keywords: 1848; France; Italy; Sicily; revolutions; volunteers; warfare

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Universite de Savoie,

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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