My research interests are in the social, political and cultural history of modern Italy. My book, Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero (Yale University Press and Laterza, 2007) analyses the political strategy which lay behind the construction of a popular cult of Giuseppe Garibaldi in 19th-century Europe.
Unlike previous work on the 'invention' of European nations, which treat the process as essentially authoritarian and conservative, I explain that the cult of Garibaldi was initially conceived of by revolutionaries intent on overthrowing the status quo. I also show that the successful promotion of the cult was the result of a collaborative effort involving writers, artists, actors and publishers, and that it became genuinely and enduringly popular among a broad reading public.
I have also published on the history of nationalism, on problems of state formation in 19th-century Europe, and on the history and historiography of Italy’s Southern Question. I am currently writing a book about the Sicilian town of Bronte and its difficult, sometimes violent relationship with the Nelson family, the area's largest landowner.
I have been the editor of the journal European History Quarterly since 2004, and am co-convenor of the Modern Italian History seminar and of the new seminar Rethinking Modern Europe, both at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.