Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Italy, Naples, Jefferson, Melville, Transnationalism, Risorgimento, American Travelers, Mediterranean

Major Advisor

Dr. Robert A. Gross

Associate Advisor

Dr. John A. Davis

Associate Advisor

Dr. Frank Costigliola

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


Comprising the vast domains of mainland Italy south of Rome as well as the island of Sicily, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, with its capital at Naples, captured the imaginations of foreign visitors throughout late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe. This sentiment was epitomized by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s admonishment that to live fully one must first go “see Naples and then die.” Across the Atlantic Ocean many citizens of the rising American Republic, from Thomas Jefferson to Herman Melville, shared Goethe’s interest in Naples and the Italian South. The exchange that developed between the U.S. and the Kingdom is remarkable given the contrasts between the two countries. The United States was a republic, born in revolution, out of a British colonial past. The Two Sicilies was instead a Catholic Monarchy, with roots in antiquity, formed from the union of Sicily and Naples in the fifteenth century, and ruled by a line of Bourbon kings since 1734. At a time when Italians were governed by a half dozen rival states, Americans saw the Southern Kingdom as a critical symbol of the Italian idea: the concentrated heart of Italian "otherness." Some Americans pictured Naples as a benighted land defined by superstition and tyranny. Others saw it as a romantic refuge. A third contingent regarded Southern Italy as an emerging market inhabited by people with shared interests in increasing trade and national standing. In turn, the lure of Naples’ resources and the perception of Southern Italians’ desire for liberal reform precipitated American interventions in Neapolitan affairs. Scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have examined aspects of this relationship. Yet, their work has created a sharp split between cultural studies of literature and tourism on the one hand and scholarship on political and economic affairs on the other. This dissertation brings these hitherto separate areas together to document how Americans’ shifting perceptions of southern Italian people affected the state-level policies that developed between the U.S. and Bourbon Naples from 1783 until the Kingdom’s fall at the hands of Garibaldi’s troops in 1861.

Available for download on Monday, May 04, 2026