Corsica’s terrain is a feature that has had a significant influence on its history and culture. The island is one big mountain range that rises 2,706 metres from the sea at its highest point, Monte Cinto. These are comparatively young, jagged mountains, not yet rounded by erosion.
Pasquale Paoli, who led the Corsican republic from 1755 to 1769, probably never considered himself a revolutionary. To him, the struggle to liberate Corsica from its Genoese masters was a nation state’s legitimate bid for independence and he regarded himself on a par with other heads of state. Today, he is much less well known outside Corsica than his compatriot Napoleon Bonaparte, and yet he was a towering figure of his era.
Oppressed, subservient, insignificant? Does that accurately describe Corsican women in past times? Not always. That Corsica was a patriarchal society can’t be denied. But to portray the island’s women as downtrodden and overlooked is to over-simplify a complex situation.
A previous post explored marriage customs in Corsica. This time, I look specifically at the role of women, an important topic for my novel The Corsican Widow. My research has turned up some interesting contradictions.
We’ve visited Corsica six times. L’Île de Beauté is a captivating place, with a savage beauty and a culture all its own and I strongly advise a visit. In 2014, we went to Olmeto, once the home of a woman who was the inspiration for Prosper Mérimée’s Colomba. His novel is about vendetta, an integral feature of Corsican history and culture.