The Corsican Revolt, 1755-1769

A.) Causes for the Revolt

For centuries, the island of Corsica had been a possession of the Republic of Genova. Genova was ruled by an oligarchy of patrician families who owed their wealth to trade and banking, and who formed a privileged caste. The artisans of Genova, the peasants of the Ligurian countryside belonging to the republic, and the inhabitants of Corsica, from cities as well as from the countryside, were excluded from political participation. Corsica was treated as a Genoese colony, the republic invested little in the development of the island.
In the 18th century, the Republic of Genova experienced an economic and political decline. The conquest of the Spanish possessions in Italy by Austria in the War of Spanish Succession had deprived Genova of her transit function - the traffic between Milan and Spain had drastically reduced, and Spain's dependence on Genoese bankers likewise had decreased. In the War of Austrian Succession, Genova herself had briefly been occupied by a Savoyard force, an occupation which had caused additional damage.

B.) The Revolt

In 1755, Pascal Paoli returned from exile to his native island. Corsica was in revolt against the Republic of Genova since 1729 (see Corsica 1729-1732, 1733-1743, 1745-1753, the previous leader of the revolt, GIANPIETRO GAFFORI, having been assassinated in 1753. Pascal Paoli was elected general (head of state) on July 15th 1755. Corsica declared independence (a part of Corsica, with Calvi and Bastia, remained under Genoese control); Corti was selected as the island capital. Reforms, such as a program to modernize the roads, the construction of a new port at Isola Rossa, were implemented, an armed force consisting of two regiments created, a Corsican flag chosen, Corsican coins minted, a Corsican university founded at Corti (1765). On the suggestion of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Corsica adopted a democratic constitution.
Unable to restore control over the island, the Republic of Genoa in 1768 sold her claim to Corsica to France (Treaty of Versailles, May 15th 1768), for a price of two million Livres. An initial French troops invaded Corsica, encountering determined resistance and suffered a defeat at Borgu. Then France sent a force 30,000 men strong, which overcame the resistance and occupied the island. On June 13th 1769, Paoli embarked on a British ship for a life in exile.

Corti, city of Paoli, from Corsica on the Net
The Anglo-Corsican Kingdom 1755-1769, by J. Brannan
Pasquale Paoli Website
The History of Corsica, from Terra Corsa
Anno 1755, from Cronologia, in Italian
Timeline Pascal Paoli, from Associu Femu Aiacciu, bilingual Corsican/French
Biography of Pascal Paoli, from Corsica Guide, in French
Montesquieu, la Repubblica di Genova e la Corsica, by Salvatore Rotta, posted by ELIOHS, in Italian, scholarly essay
Successive Invasions of Corsica, from Mad Catarelle
A Nostra Storia di Corsica, Corsican-language timeline
La Corsica e Genova 1729-1769, from Cronologia, in Italian
DOCUMENTS Flag of Corsica, from FOTW
The Constitution of 1755, from Pasquale Paoli Website

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 11th 2004, last revised on November 19th 2004

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