Book Review: The Republic Of San Marino

The Republic Of San Marino, by Charles de Bruc

This book was originally written in French and was translated into English.  And we can be fortunate for that.  I have long had an interest in San Marino [1] and other microstates, and this book does its best to present the history of the small republic according to its own view of itself rather than the way the republic would be viewed by outsiders.  To be sure, not all aspects of this book are equally believable.  The book spends an extremely long time talking about the mythological beginnings of the Republic of San Marino in the fourth century or so among those who were hiding from pagan persecution and who long maintained an ambivalent relationship with the Papal States which spent centuries as neighbors and occasional uneasy overlords.  San Marino’s ability to survive as a small and free republic has been imperiled at several times in its history and it likely is its savvy protection of Garibaldi and other Italian revolutionaries that allowed the Republic to avoid the fate that befell all of the other sovereign states of Italy except for the tiny rump state of the Vatican City in being incorporated into the victorious Italian state.

This book is about 150 pages long or so and it is divided into twenty-one chapters.  The book begins with a discussion of the approach up the mountain of San Marino and the description of its towns (1).  After that the author discusses the mythological beginnings of the republic in the fourth century (2) and then when it next appears as a slowly growing but still small republic between the eighth and twelfth centuries (3).  A substantial amount of this book is spent in dealing with the drama of the Middle Ages where the Borgias and others attempted to take over the state of San Marino and where there were disputes over the level of autonomy that the republic had in the midst of the powerful principalities that were around it, one of whom, the Duke of Urbino, the republic was generally on good terms with (3-15).  Eventually a new revision of the laws was needed and San Marino managed to struggle along as a neutral state in Italy’s conflicts that had a treaty relationship with the Papal States and eventually with other Italian states (16-18).  The last few chapters of the book then deal with the independence of San Marino in the face of Italian unification and its present institutions as of the late 1800’s when the book was written (19-21).

How does a republic survive?  However long the Republic of San Marino has lasted, it is certainly one of the longest lasting republics to have survived as an independent state.  It has done so at times with great difficulty–the Allies had to fight to liberate it in World War II, for example–and this book is full of cases where various banditti attempted to take the fortress capital of the little republic by surprise or where slightly less violent but equally rapacious souls sought to dominate and control through pressing claims and trying to overawe and dominate the republic, which was forced both on its own resources of self-defense as well as its ability to gain protectors and allies who were willing to stand up for the little republic’s defense.  It does appear as if republics, especially the small ones that are the remnant of older communes and feudal traditions, require the help and assistance of others to survive in the cruel and harsh world, but it is fortunate that San Marino has done so.  The survival of republics is something to be celebrated and if this book has a fair amount of mythological material in it, it certainly is by no means a bad book.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/08/09/although-your-dominion-is-small-the-curious-connection-between-abraham-lincoln-and-san-marino/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/03/03/i-get-by-with-a-little-help-from-my-friends-on-the-legitimacy-and-viability-of-mini-states/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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