‘Missed Opportunities’ in the History of Naples
Historiography has often seen the history of the Kingdom of Naples, and of its capital, as one of missed opportunities and delays compared to the history of other countries, or other parts of Italy, for example, northern and central Italy, where a civic tradition had developed in the Middle Ages, or mid-seventeenthcentury England and late eighteenth-century France, where successful revolutions were realized. The history of Naples has therefore been viewed, and continues to be so, as a kind of participation in a game for which the rules are set elsewhere. Historical developments seem always to have taken place outside of southern Italy. Such ‘lost occasions’ caricature Naples or southern Italy as having stopped to watch events pass them by, therefore always arriving too late, both weak and passive at what has come to be called its ‘appointments’ with History. History (here with an upper-case H) is seen as the inevitable march of progress that presents decisive moments of transition and transformation at major turning points, such as the ‘appointment’ with the ‘dramatic age’ of the struggle for European hegemony in the first half of the sixteenth century, or later in the nineteenth century, the ‘appointment with the Italian Risorgimento and the process of national unification’.1 This approach uses a vision of history which is anchored in ‘models’ of historical development, models which have been elaborated on the basis of a few specific experiences, and compared to which other experiences are viewed as ‘minor’, ineffectual or just plain late.