Mack Smith, Denis, 1920-2017

by John A. Davis

27 Apr 2020
20 (pages 17-35)

Denis Mack Smith (1920–2017) was the best-known non-Italian historian of modern Italy of his generation. A fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, since 1948, his first book, Cavour and Garibaldi: a Study in Political Conflict (1954), traced the origins of fascism to the short comings of Italian Unification and launched Mack Smith’s career. Italy: a Modern History (1959) quickly became the standard English-language text on modern Italy, leading to his becoming a best-selling author and a major cultural figure. In 1961 he was elected to a Senior Research Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, the position he held until he retired, and in 1976 was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy. In the same year his study of Mussolini’s foreign policy was published, followed in 1981 by a biography of the fascist leader. Author of a History of Sicily (with M. I. Finley and C. J. Duggan), an anthology of texts (The Making of Italy 1796–1870) and numerous essays and articles, Mack Smith also wrote highly acclaimed biographies of Cavour and Giuseppe Mazzini and a history of the Italian monarchy. Modern Italy: a Political History (Yale 1997) rounded off his publishing career by bringing his earlier history up to date.

Posted to Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy, XIX

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