La Bella Liberta: Women, Freedom and the History of Italy c 1800-1940

People Involved

Professor Glenda Sluga

Professor Barbara Caine, Monash University

Professor Ros Pesman

Project overview

By exploring the intersection between Italy and the lives of some prominent educated British women in the 19th and early 20th centuries this project offers innovative approaches to British history, to biography and to cultural history.

By analysing the connection these women drew between their own desire for personal emancipation and Italian political developments and exploring their active interest in the history, culture, and politics of Italy this research will offer new insights into changing constructions of Italy, the intellectual life of the expatriate world there and the important role women played in representing Italy in the Anglophone world.

Project details

The project will involve detailed research into the lives, experiences, and ideas of a particular group of women. We will be interested most particularly in their ideas about and experiences in Italy.

The research will necessarily be selective rather than comprehensive, and will attempt to provide an intensive study of particular important texts and individual lives rather than seeking to document all the British women who took an interest in Italy. We will undertake extensive archival work as well as much research in published memoirs and letters and a considerable body of secondary literature.

The primary focus of this research will include the reasons why these women went to or became involved in Italy, the nature of their personal struggles or quests for freedom and the ways in which they connected their immediate situation with their understanding of Italy. We will explore also their broader sense of connection to Italian politics, culture or history, and the ways in which their understanding of Italy was integrated into their sense of personal or national identity.


This project is supported by an ARC Discovery Project Grant

Selected Publications

Glenda Sluga, “Defining Liberty: Italy and England in Madame de Stael’s Corinne,” in Women’s Writing, vol.10, 2, 2003.

Brief Profiles

Professor Pesman is a leading authority on the cosmopolitan history of women travellers and expatriates. Professor Caine and Professor Sluga are the co-authors of Gendering European History which has now appeared in Swedish and Italian translations and is popularly utilised as a textbook in the United States as well as Europe.

Professor Glenda Sluga - Full Profile