I’m gradually adding to my Reading Trincaria reading list and so I will be posting a regular quick Sicilian themed book review during the week to gradually extend our Sicily related reads.
This week I’d like to share one of the first books I ever read about this magical island, a true classic which helped to spark my love of Sicilian history.
M I Finley and Denis Mack Smith: A short history of Sicily.
This book was the definitive guide to the history of Sicily for many generations and is considered the best general history book on the island. This ageless classic is a beautiful introduction to Sicilian history for anyone wanting to begin a journey through the various epochs of Sicily. Written in a clear, precise and evocative style, it encourages you to seek out more about this fascinating place.
Denis Mack Smith was an English historian, specialising in the history of Italy from the Risorgimento onwards. An Emeritus Fellow at Oxford, Mack Smith was considered the world’s leading scholar on Italian history for the English society in the post world war two period.
A History of Sicily, with Moses Finley, was initially published in two volumes, Medieval Sicily 800-1713 and Modern Sicily after 1713. Later an abridged and reprinted version was released as the single volume titled: A History of Sicily with Moses Finley and Christopher Duggan.
Denis Mack Smith’s real talent lies in being able to take the often dry elements of historical fact and turn it into clear, readable and engaging prose, popularising the history of Sicily to a broader audience, his writing was filled with wonderfully quotable phrases.
This book while a little dated is still worth picking up as it is a brief clear single volume introduction into one of the most complicated European histories.
Unfortunately, this book is out of print so the best way to track it down is through the public library system or through second-hand book stores. But it’s definitely worth the effort.