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Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel II … With Heroes Like These Who Needs Enemies? ... ‘Court Historians’ and Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra”

Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel II … With Heroes Like These Who Needs Enemies? ... ‘Court Historians’ and Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra”

Tom Verso (January 3, 2015)
Garibaldi ----------------- scene from "Li chiamarono... briganti!" (They called them... brigands!) ------- Victor Emanuel

In Palermo, a major boulevard is named “Via Vittorio Emanuele”; there is the “Teatro Garibaldi” and “Via Garibaldi”. Similarly, in Naples’ center is “Garibaldi Plaza” and “Corso Victor Emmanuel”. In New York’s Staten Island there is a “Garibaldi Ave” and a “Garibaldi Museum”; and in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park there’s a statue of Garibaldi. /// /// Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the pain and suffering inflicted on the people of southern Italy and Sicily, causing millions to abandon their millennial ancestral Patrai Meridionale, as a direct result of Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel; finds the adoration of these men by the descendants of the South of Rome victims perplexing … to say the least? /// /// /// Michael Parenti, a grandchild of Mezzogiorni immigrants and Yale Ph.D History, provides insight into this propensity to adore oppressors. He writes: “History is written and marketed not to enlighten ... rather to enforce the existing political orthodoxy... it is an ideologically safe commodity” (see: “History as Mystery”, p. xi). /// /// Similarly, Italian American historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo writes: “a court historian is an intellectual or pseudo-intellectual who is devoted to pulling the wool over the public’s eyes by portraying even the most immoral, corrupt and sleazy politicians as great, wise, and altruistic men.” (see: ‘YouTube’ video address below) /// /// Neapolitan Pino Aprile concurs: “What the Northern Italians did to us was so horrifying that still today, the history books do not speak of it. As far as official ‘truths’ are concerned, many important documents that recount these details are kept hidden.” (see: “Terroni”, p. 11). Similarly, in the American university system's Italian and Italian American Studies programs, those ‘truths’ are still not spoken. Such an aversion to truth/reality explains why Michael Parenti delights of saying: “I’ve been kicked out of the best universities in the country.


 Knowing the Past

When reading history, one should carefully differentiate and keep in mind the words ‘history’ and ‘historiography’.

History denotes the actual physical persons, places and events of the past (who did what to whom, where, when, why, etc.); these are so-called facts of the past, e.g. the history of American Civil War persons and events.
Historiography refers to the process of researching and writing history; i.e. the process of ascertaining and writing about the alleged facts of the past (describing and explaining the actual physical persons, places, and events of the past).
They are alleged facts, in that the historian can never know with absolute certainty the past because the historian cannot experience the past.
The writing of history is based on historiographical principles (assumptions) about: selection of authentic source materials, critical analysis of documents and in general scholarly methods of criticism. (see: Marc Bloch’s brilliant methodology book “The Historian's Craft” and discussion in Related Articles box #8).
The historiographic principles governing the historian’s research and narrative writing determine the probability of the accuracy of the historian’s description and explanation of the past.

Historians as Jurors
The historian is analogous to a juror in a court trial.
Like a juror, the historian did not see or experience in any way the event under consideration.
Like a juror, the historian makes a judgment about an event that took place in the past based on remnant evidence from the past.
Like a juror, the historian makes judgments about the unseen event, based on the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ and/or ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
However unlike jurors, who have evidence about past persons and events:
- systematically presented to them by attorneys
- in accordance with rules of evidence and court procedures
- overseen by a judge; 
the historian acts the role of juror, plaintive and defense attorneys, and judge.

The historian seeks out his/her own evidence, makes his/her own judgment about relevance and accuracy of evidence. This selection process is governed by the historian’s historiographic assumptions.
Most importantly, historiographic assumptions govern the historian’s narrative writing.
The facts of the past may be presented per se; or, as all to often, presented as either positive or negative in accordance with the historian’s political, religious, and/or general ideological suppositions.
The ideological tinctured narratives of Abraham Lincoln being a good example.
Abraham Lincoln ‘Court Historiography’
Italian American historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo has written two very controversial histories about Abraham Lincoln:
The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know about Dishonest Abe
Notice the subtitles. They clearly indicate that DiLorenzo is presenting a different description of Lincoln than what is generally reported by other historians. What differentiates his descriptions and explanations of Lincoln from other historians are his historiographic assumptions and methods.
Consider for example, what Di Lorenzo has to say about renown Lincoln historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in a C-span interview (see:
He says:
“Doris Kearns Goodwin is a museum quality specimen of a court historian.
“An intellectual or pseudo-intellectual who is devoted to pulling the wool over the public’s eyes by portraying even the most immoral, corrupt and sleazy politicians as great, wise, and altruistic men.” (at 22:08 in the video)
“A court historian is somebody who’s sort of on the payroll of the king so to speak and so writes in support - provides intellectual support for what the king wants to do. Of course, we don’t have a king, we have a president, and a congress. But that’s what a court historian is meant, somebody who writes sort of propaganda to prop up the state to make the state look a little better than it really is. (26:51)
“And so you have people on both sides of the political spectrum that I’ve written about that I call court historians those that try to use history, the history of Lincoln, in particular, to try promote their own particular agenda whatever it is, left and right. (29:01)
Similarly, Italian American historian Michael Parenti writes:
“Much written history is an ideologically safe commodity. It might best be called ‘mainstream history’, ‘orthodox history’, conventional history’ and ‘ruling-class history’ because it presents the dominate perspective of the affluent and influential people who preside over the major institutions of society”
“It is the kind of history dished up by textbook authors, mainstream academicians, political leaders, government officials, and news and entertainment media, a mass mis-education that begins in childhood and continues throughout life.
What we usually are taught ‘is not reality' but a particular version of it, a version that must pass muster with the powers that be.”(p. xii)
In Short …
A court historian is an historian whose historiographic methods of selecting and interpreting evidence are tinctured by ideological assumptions. The court historian will:
 - select evidence that supports his/her ideology
- ignore or discredit evidence inconsistent with ideology.
- write narrative filled with ideological discourse and value judgments.

Accordingly, anyone interested in the ‘truth’; i.e. the most probable accurate descriptions and explanations of the past must learn to read critically. 
This is to say, the reader cannot simply read and believe because the author has impressive university or political credentials. One cannot simple believe the author just because his book is filled with footnotes, references and long bibliographies. Knowledge of the past is not easy to come by.
Critical reading of history books is not done at the beach. 

Court History of Southern Italy
Neapolitan Pino Aprile, a well educated professional, begins his book Terroni with twenty-five paragraphs about things he “did not know” about the history of his Patria Meridionale; facts of Naples and southern Italy’s history that occurred within the last 150 years (seven generations) that he did not learn in school or though mass culture media organs. He writes:
“As I learned these things … I was stupefied… the current state of thing is useful to the stronger part of the country … The Northern aggressor, accuses the Southern victim of the consequences of the aggression… Today, new turmoil fuels a search for historical truth…(p5-6)
What, for example, are the "historical truths" about Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel? What are the most probable accurate descriptions and explanations of their warring behavior?  Were they Northern Aggressors or Lovers of Liberty?
Garibaldi ... 'Lover of Liberty' or 'Soldier of Fortune'?
In the table below are factual statements describing selected events in Garibaldi’s life. They are presented per se without ideological interpretation.
… served in the navy of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia
… took part in a mutiny intended to provoke a republican revolution in Piedmont
… volunteered as a naval captain for the Rio Grande do Sul republic during that small state’s unsuccessful attempt to break free from the Brazilian Empire ... prey on Brazilian shipping
… was put in charge of the Uruguayan navy in another war of liberation—
war of independence against the Austrians.
… offered to fight for Pope Pius IX, then—when his offer was refused—
… offered to fight for Charles Albert, the king of Piedmont-Sardinia.
… went to the military aid of the city of Milan,
… was in Rome repulsed a French attack on the Rome
… tried to lead an expedition to release political prisoners held by the Bourbon kings of Naples
… was given the rank of major general in the Piedmontese army
military attention to central Italy, where a revolutionary government established in Florence
… leads invasion of Sicily and Naples
… lead a revolutionary expedition, this time to attack Austria in the Balkans
attacked the Papal States.
… led another private expedition into the Papal States
assisted the French Republic against Prussia
Source: David Gilmour's "The  Pursuit of Italy"  and Encyclopedia Britannica:
Given the above facts of Garibaldi’s behavior, historians then posit motivational explanations for the behavior: ‘solider of fortune and lover of war or ‘humanitarian liberator’?
Court Historiography - Lover of Liberty – Freedom Fighter
Historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, scholar par excellence; nevertheless, the foremost Garibaldi court historian and representer of the predominate popular image of the man, writes:
“Garibaldi … was in a mood of unalloyed and radiant happiness. The coming struggle for liberty was to be fought out alone by him and his chosen band, in the mountains of a romantic island [Sicily] almost totally unknown to the world, under conditions making real for once that poetry of war and patriotism after which his whole life was one long aspiration. ("Garibaldi and the Thousand", 1912, G. Macaulay Trevelyan, p 223)
Trevlyan lets Garibaldi speak to his Sicilian war making:
‘O night of the fifth of May,’ …  Beautiful, tranquil, solemn with that solemnity which swells the hearts of generous men when they go forth to free the slave. Such were the Thousand, . . . my young veterans of the war of Italian liberty, and I, proud of their trust in me, felt myself capable of attempting anything  . . .  I have felt this same harmony of soul on all nights like those of Quarto, of Reggio, of Palermo, of Volturno. (206)
 (Note: "fought out alone by him and his chosen band" ... not to mention 3,000 Sicilian guerrilla fighters [aka"slaves"] who joined his 1,000 Piedmontese in the attack on Palermo and the thousands of Palermitani [aka "slaves"] who rose up in the city ... or 21,000 Northerners who joined 'his band' in the next month to complete the conquest of Sicily for the Piedmont man who declared himself the "Dictator of Sicily" and presented it to his king, Victor Emanuel II King of the Piedmont ... but who's counting?)

Lover of War - Soldier of Fortune
Juxtaposed to Trevlyan et al Garibadi the 'freedom fighter' historiography are a few challengers to their ‘court history’. In short, Garibaldi never saw a war he didn’t like or embrace with enthusiasm. He sought and went to war to fulfill his inner drive for war. David Gilmour writes:
“Garibaldi claimed he was an anti-militarist, that he was ‘born to be an agriculturalist or a sailor’ and that only ‘tyrants and priests’ had made him a soldier.
“The explanation is somewhat disingenuous. Garibaldi may have been a humane warrior who took care to avoid civilian casualties, but he was not a pacifist manqué. His sword-arm became stiff with inactivity and soon itched to find people to liberate and oppressors to overthrow. (Ibid, p 223)
King Victor Emanuel II ...  'Aggressor' or 'Liberator'?
As with Garibaldi, in the table below are factual statements describing selected events in Emanuel’s war-making life. They are presented per se without ideological interpretation.
fighting in the front line at the battles of Pastrengo, Santa Lucia, Goito and Custoza.
… fiercely suppressed a revolt in Genoa, defining the rebels as a “vile and infected race of canailles.”
Meddler in the Balkans, stirring up trouble in Servbia and Greece
… joined Britain and France in the Crimean War against Russia.
… Italo-French campaign against Austria
fight the papal army at Castelfidardo and drove the Pope into Vatican City … insisted on acting as commander-in-chief
Conquered and annexed Kingdom of Two Sicilies
War with Austria
War with Papal States
…Offered to solve Eastern Question by expelling the Ottoman sultan and carving up his empire
Sources: Various internet sources and Gilmour and D. M. Smith books
Again: how would one characterize the motivation of Emanuel’s behavior: humanist/liberator or war-loving/aggressor?
Lover of War - Foreign Aggressor
Clearly, the facts in the table above demonstrate that Emanuel was a man preoccupied with wars of aggression against foreign states. Thus, it is reasonable to label him a war-loving/aggressor.
However, court historians think otherwise.

Court Historiography - Lover of Liberty – Freedom Fighter
“In 1896 an American historian, A. Lawrence Lowell, described Victor Emanuel in reverential prose … the model constitutional king.
“British liberals were especially prone to such as the historian Trevelyan who considered the unification of Italy a triumph of progress and liberalism
“The British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:‘My King, King Victor, I am thine!’ (Gilmour, Ibid, p 210-11)
Challenges to Court Historiography
While the 'court historians' prevail in academia (as to be expected in that they are purveyors of dominate ideology), nevertheless, there are significant challenges to their “Italian nationalism historiography".
The positive humanistic interpretation of Garibaldi and Emanuel can be see throughout the writings of historians who write what David Gilmour calls “historiorgraphical nationalism” (aka ‘court history’).  Juxtaposed to 'nationalist history' is Gilmour's discussion in a perfectly labeled sub-chapter “The Risorgimento without Heroes”(Ibid, p 234).
As to the challenges to the humanistic ‘court’ representation of Victor Emanuel, Gilmour cites arguably the greatest historian of Italy, writing in the English language – Denis Mack Smith. Gilmour writes:
“The appearance in the 1950s of a myth-breaker in the shape of Denis Mack Smith, a young Cambridge Don, was thus highly unwelcome to the academic establishment
Mack Smith fell upon the icons of unification, shattering the status of …Victor Emanuel as the great patriot king. (p 236)
More generally, Gilmour also quite succinctly and eloquently mocks the court historiography of both Emanuel and Garibaldi. He writes:
Victor Emanuel had spoken of ‘the cry of anguish’ from all over Italy, Garibaldi had heard ‘the groan of despair … from a million Italian throats’, but few others had heard them, at any rate in great numbers (p 234)
If Garibaldi and Emanuel were so Good … Why did so many Leave?
However one characterizes the totality of Garibaldi and Emanuel’s warring behavior the overwhelming ‘preponderance of the evidence’ renders ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that the people of southern Italian and Sicily were not liberated or treated in a manner that can remotely be called humane.
Apart from the mass emigration of millions from Sicily and southern Italy, indicative of the discontent with the political/economic conditions post-unification, the documentary evidence of the brutality of the Piedmontese against the people of the South (the progenitors of today’s southern-Italian Americans) is conclusive.

(Note: the cliche explanation for the cause of mass southern Italian emigration is 'escape from poverty'.
However, one should keep in mind that for centuries before 1870 [i.e. the 'Unification' and beginning of the exodus], millions of Europeans and Asians came to the Americas escaping poverty.
However, while southern Italy and Sicily was impoverished for centuries before 1870, the southern Italians did not migrate until after the Piedmont conquest and annexation of the "Two Scilies".
In the parlence of philosophy of science: Poverty may be thought of as a 'necessary condition' of mass emigration but not a 'sufficent condition'. Something more than poverty was necessary to motivate mass emigartion ... clearly the Piedmont conquest was in play!
Evidence of the complete dehumanized brutality of the Piedmontese South of Rome is presented in great detail in Gilmour’s book above and John Dickie’s “Darkest Italy” and Denis Mack Smith’s “Modern Sicily” (interestingly all British and not of Italian descent – meanwhile Italian American 'court' scholars write endlessly about Florence [Italian Studies] and Little Italy [Italian American Studies] ... go figure !) .

In short, talk of 'liberation and freedom' was propagandistic cover for the invasion, colonization and exploitation of Mezzogiorno and Sicily. Talk of ‘liberation and freedom’ is the talk of ‘court historians’ charged with convincing the public that monsters are heroes. The monstrosity of the Piedmont invasion is beginning to break through the wall of court histories – at least in England. 

In sum: “Thus Spake Zarathustra”
Friedrich Nietzsche, the quintessential commentator on Western Culture, used his metaphoric character Zarathustra to speak to the state of education in the West.
Chapter II, The Academic Chairs of Virtue”, of his book “Thus Spake Zarathustra” seems especially cogent when considering the role of 'court historians' in society.
“People commended unto Zarathustra a wise man, as one who could discourse well about sleep and virtue: greatly was he honoured and rewarded for it, and all the youths sat before his chair.
Good sleep they sought for themselves, and poppy-head virtues to promote it!
To all those belauded sages of the academic chairs, wisdom was sleep without dreams: they knew no higher significance of life. “His wisdom is to keep awake in order to sleep well.”
The court historians may be considered the “wise men” of this aphorism. Their purpose is not to pass on to students “wisdom” in the form of truth about past and current society. Rather, “wisdom” takes the form of “sleep”; the court historian’s “poppy-headed virtue” is to put society to sleep; that they my not have knowledge of their reality.
A Sicilian walking down Palermo’s Via Victoria Emanuale, and a Neapolitan in Garibaldi Plaza and the southern-Italian American visiting Garibaldi Museum … they are all in a state of “sleep”. They, like Pino Aprile's twenty-five paragraph refrain, “do not know”. Which is not to say they are not educated. Rather, they were educated  “before” the Academic Chairs where they learned “wisdom of sleep”
Shakespeare also uses the sleep metaphor in a way that can be interpreted as being educated in court history. Hamlet says:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question—

Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer 
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or … To die, to sleep ... and by a sleep, to say we end 
the Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
By sleeping, Italians South of Rome and West of Ellis Island are spared the “Heart-ache” of the “thousand Natural shocks” that befell their progenitors and in turn determine their contemporary political-economy and culture.
Gilmore writes:
 “As a way of implanting the message of greatness, Italian governments embarked upon sprees of statue-making and street-christenings in homage to the heroes” (p. 211)
 “All the towns listed alphabetically (As to Vs ) in Michelin guide to Italy have at least one space named in honor of Garibaldi” (ibid, p 216).
Court history is the process of inculcation and perpetuation of dominate class ideology. Court historians affect textbooks used in schools, the movie and televison scripts, the speeches of politicians, mass media reporting and editorials.

Court history is the means by which divers individuals and groups are unified into a common somnolent ideological nation-state, where all share the common goals and objectives of 'The King's Court'; i.e. the dominate class ... “Thus Spake Zarathustra” 

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Another GREAT article.

Another GREAT article. Thank you Tom , for helping us to see the real history behind the Risorgimento. Just a minor correction. Pino Aprile is Pugliese, not Neapolitan. I think your work is part of the solution, to the problem of ignorance on the part of Italian-Americans , about the history of Italian unification. Keep it up. I always read you blog. Dom