|Chapter 1:||Introduction: Prelude to Emigration|
Prelude to Emigration
ITALIAN unity was little more than a dream in the days of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Italians had come under the influence of a succession of invading hordes who were determined to dominate the peninsula and Sicily. By the eleventh century, however, the emergence of the Italian communes stirred a national consciousness, particularly in cultural and economic matters. Still, during the Renaissance period political unification remained elusive. The trade rivalry between Venice and Genoa was typical of the intense competition that marked the growth and development of town and city life as the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, which in turn was spearheaded by Florentines, Genoese, Venetians, and inhabitants of numerous other northern Italian communes.
Political provincialism was the unfortunate obstacle to the unity that was needed to allow these neighboring city states to continue to exist free from the enervating forces of foreign invasion. Indeed, as the cultural and economic accomplishments of the Quattrocento (the 1400s) were beginning to flower, Charles VIII of France initiated a new age of foreign intrusion into the peninsula which set back the cause of Italian unification another four hundred years. Before the invading French, Spanish, and Austrians subjugated Italy, the Italians brought forth great achievements in science, art, literature, music, and navigation. A new Italy did not emerge, for the Italians were politically divided. But Italian Argonauts such as Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Giovanni da Verrazzano were significant in establishing New Spain, New England, and New France respectively. And it is fitting that the New World was named America