Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

David Kertzer ─ The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe

Thursday, April 26, 2018

4:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

Book signing with the author and reception to follow

Watch webcast

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Pope and Mussolini takes on a pivotal, untold story: the bloody revolution that stripped the pope of political power and signaled the birth of modern Europe.

Days after the assassination of his prime minister in the middle of Rome in November 1848, Pope Pius IX found himself a virtual prisoner in his own palace. The wave of revolution that had swept through Europe now seemed poised to put an end to the popes’ thousand-year reign over the Papal States, if not indeed to the papacy itself. Disguising himself as a simple parish priest, Pius escaped through a back door. Climbing inside the Bavarian ambassador’s carriage, he embarked on a journey into a fateful exile.

Only two years earlier Pius’s election had triggered a wave of optimism across Italy. After the repressive reign of the dour Pope Gregory XVI, Italians saw the youthful, benevolent new pope as the man who would, at last, bring the Papal States into modern times and help create a new, unified Italian nation. But Pius found himself caught between a desire to please his subjects and a fear—stoked by the cardinals—that heeding the people’s pleas would destroy the church. The resulting drama—with a colorful cast of characters, from Louis Napoleon and his rabble-rousing cousin Charles Bonaparte to Garibaldi, Tocqueville, and Metternich—was rife with treachery, tragedy, and international power politics.

David Kertzer is one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of Italy and the Vatican and has a rare ability to bring history vividly to life. With a combination of gripping, cinematic storytelling and keen historical analysis, rooted in an unprecedented richness of archival sources, The Pope Who Would Be King sheds fascinating new light on the end of rule by divine right in the west and the emergence of modern Europe.

Commentators on the panel will include:

Omer BartovJohn P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Brown University

David Kertzer, author, Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science, Professor of Anthropology and Italian Studies, Brown University

Kevin MadiganWinn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Harvard Divinity School

Silvana Patriarca, Professor of History,  Fordham University

moderated by Kevin McLaughlin, Dean of the Faculty, George Hazard Crooker University Professor of English, Professor of Comparative Literature, Professor of German Studies

Meet the Author