Heritage of Popular Culture in Tuscany during the Risorgimento Period

Mgr. Oldřiška Prokopová (Univerzita Karlova, Ústav světových dějin)


My presentation focuses on popular culture in a historical perspective of the 19th-century Italian nation-building process (Risorgimento). The Italian Kingdom was proclaimed in 1861 but the political national identity in was not fully created, mainly due to a distinctive historically based diversity of Italian regions. However, Italians created a cultural identity – a set of values, everyday practices and mentalities – shared independently of the region from which they came from. We can think about popular culture as the intangible cultural heritage which was being transformed and transmitted by Italian elites and incorporated into the national narrative. In the center of my interest is the role of popular culture in Tuscany in this period. Since a distinctive part of those practices was cuisine, my sources are among others cookbooks written directly by agents of popular culture such as chefs and cooks. Particularly interesting is a cookbook by Luigi Bicchierai, aka Pennino, innkeeper in the village of Ponte a Signa. He described everyday life in his village and reflected on Risorgimento in between recipes and popular herbal medical advice (he also compared the unification process to a big pot of mixed meat in 1859). Besides this direct approach to popular culture I am also using an indirect one focusing on the representation of popular culture through mediators – usually members elites – which are in various publications expressing their fascination with popular culture. The key question of my research is how popular culture contributed to the construction of Italian national identity.