Luca Coniglio

«Loafers» and «Unpleasant»? The Italian Political Exiles and the Echo of Italian Unification in the American Public Debate of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

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This article analyzes the extent of the propaganda driven by the Italian exiles in the United States and the ensuing effect on American politics and society. In addition, the paper looks into how effectively these exiled patriots’ actions were able to influence the opinion of the Americans about Italy and the Italians around the mid-nineteenth century, immediately before the great migration at the end of the 1800s. Scholars have always emphasized the contrast between the American public opinion’s alleged esteem for Italian exiles in the Risorgimento period and the following stigmatization of the immigrants during the Great Diaspora. Nevertheless, it has been argued by historians such as William Connell that a negative perception about Italian immigrants already existed in America before the great migration at the end of the nineteenth century. In other words, to quote Connell, in the American vision of the world, the Bel Paese had always been a «receptacle of human misery». By relying on sources ranging from personal diaries to diplomatic documents and newspapers, this article shows that the American view on Italians and its influence on the diplomatic relationships between Washington and Turin were far more heterogeneous and complex and could not be summarized by simply saying that Italians in America had been struggling with their reputation since the seventeenth century.


  • Transnational Risorgimento
  • Political Exiles
  • Diplomatic Relationship between Italy and United States


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