How not to make a revolution: the duchies of
Parma-Piacenza during the triennio (1796-1799)

By Doina Pasca Harsanyi
Central Michigan University


After the Proclamation of the Cisalpine Republic (29 June 1797) and the Peace of Campoformio (17 October, 1797) Parma-Piacenza remained the only nominally independent state in Northern Italy.  Inspired by events in their immediate neighborhood, local giacobini attempted to overthrow the ducal regime and proclaim a republic instead.  Their hand was stayed not by the weak government of Ferdinand de Bourbon, but by the French authorities who put diplomatic relations with Spain ahead of their own supporters’ aspirations.  While engineering revolutionary changes throughout the peninsula, French generals and civilian commissaries spent much energy in thwarting any challenge to the absolutist rule of the Bourbons in Parma.  


Doina Pasca Harsanyi is associate professor of history at Central Michigan University.  Recent publications include:  Lessons from America: Liberal French Nobles in Exile, 1793 -1798. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2010; Le Goût de la Révolte (in collaboration with Anne Quinney) (Paris: Mercure de France, 2008); “How to make a revolution without firing a shot” French History, (2/22) June 2008: 197-216; “The Memoirs of Alexandre de Lameth and the Reconciliation of Nobility and Revolution” in The French Nobility in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Jay M. Smith (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2006), 279-302. 

Currently working on a project tentatively titled “Working for Napoleon: the administration of Moreau de Saint-Méry in Parma. 1801– 1806.”