It’s not at all surprising that Giuseppe Garibaldi is a national hero in his native Italy. Arguably the pre-eminent figure in the struggle to unify the Italian peninsula, his statue is everywhere and most Italian towns and villages seem to have at least one street or square named after him. What is more unexpected is that Garibaldi was also regarded as a hero here in Britain. In the middle decades of the 19th century, he was feted and lionised by our Victorian ancestors in a way and to an extent that was arguably unprecedented.
The relics of Britain’s Garibaldi craze can still be found today. On a street corner in the centre of Newcastle, for example, is a plaque marking his 1854 visit to the city. The shelves and display cabinets of numerous museums and private collections feature Staffordshire pottery figurines of Garibaldi in heroic poses, which were produced in their thousands.
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