Imagining an Age of Revolution? Interpretations of the American Revolution in the Italian States, 1765–1799

Doctoral Dissertation


This study explores how the meaning of “revolution” changed over the course of the so-called “Age of Revolution” and how, in the last decades of the eighteenth century, the notion of a revolutionary “age” emerged in people’s minds. It does so by analyzing interpretations of the American Revolution in the Italian states and how those interpretations evolved between the 1760s and 1790s. This study shows that the journalists, diplomats, and political thinkers of the Italian states initially did not understand the American Revolution as a “revolution,” at least not in the modern sense of the term. They did not interpret the American Revolution as an invitation to tear down the edifice of the Old Regime. They understood the American Revolution as the apex of an age of reform, not as the beginning of a revolutionary age. For the notion of an “Age of Revolution” to emerge, the French Revolution had to happen, introducing a radically new notion of “revolution”: revolutionary change as a radical break from the past and an occasion to establish a new, truly egalitarian and democratic society. It was only in the 1790s that the American experience entered “revolutionary” discourse and that the people of the Italian states (and beyond) came to see revolution and reform as mutually exclusive. On this basis, this study criticizes narratives of the “Age of Revolution” that present the “age” as a single process originating from North America. Instead, it calls attention to what seems to be the true core of the “age”—the invention of a new model of “revolution”—and recasts Paris as the birthplace of that model.


Attribute NameValues
Author Anna Vincenzi
Contributor Steven Pincus, Committee Member
Contributor Thomas Kselman, Committee Member
Contributor Alexander Martin, Committee Member
Contributor Patrick N. Griffin, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline History
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2020-04-06

Submission Date 2020-04-06
  • Enlightenment

  • Enlightenment Absolutism

  • Catholic Church in the Age of Revolution

  • Age of Revolution

  • Republican Triennium

  • American Revolution

  • French Revolution

  • Enlightenment Reform

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
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