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Until the beginning of the 18th century, to be 'Italian' meant to identify with a number of collective memories, rather than a national memory. Yet there are elements of continuity that have shaped Italian identity over the past 1,500 years. Religion, food, art and architecture, a literary language, as well as a particular relationship between cities and countryside, between family and civil society have all contributed to present day Italian culture and politics. Baldoli explores the history of Italy as a country, rather than as a nation, in order to trace its fascinating cultural and political development. Offering a way into each period of Italian history, the book brings Italy's past to life with extracts from poetry, novels and music. Drawing on the latest research published in English and Italian, this is the ideal introduction for all those interested in Italy's cultural and social past and its significance for the country's present.