Why is Corsica part of France and Sardinia part of Italy?

If you look at them on a map, you would think that they are so close together they’d be in the same country.

How did Corsica end up French and Sardinia Italian?

Power politics.

France succeeded in taking over Corsica when Corsica rebelled against its Genoese overlords and neither party was in a position to resist France. France wanted neither Britain nor Spain to snap up Corsica, gaining bases near the French coast.

Austria swapped Sardinia for Sicily to the House of Savoy, and the latter became monarchs of the united Italy.

Tasty historical tidbit: Corsica was taken over by France in 1769, and made a province the following year. Guess what else happened on Corsica in 1769? Napoleon was born.

In the case of Corsica, France taking over the island was entirely due to James Boswell (the biographer of Samuel Johnson,) who wrote a book “An Account of Corsica” in 1768.

In it, he strongly advocated making an alliance with the anglophile rebel leader on Corsica, General Paoli, and establishing a base there. This caused quite a stir in Britain, and there were a lot of prominent people who wanted to do this. Britain started quietly sending military supplies to General Paoli.

The French government had a translation of Boswell’s book made soon after it was published, and quickly arranged with the Genoese to take over Corsica themselves, in order to prevent the British establishing a base in the Mediterranean. They sent a large military expedition and Paoli was defeated and forced to flee into exile in London.

Napoleon Bonaparte was the son of one of General Paoli’s officers. In his younger days he was thinking about joining the British Navy. But later, since he was a French citizen, he went to a military academy in France instead… the rest is history!

Short answer: Why is not all North America Canadian ? Far more sensible not to have national borders. *

Long answer: In the olden days countries took over other countries’ land, people, and property on a regular basis. Rather less rawly than the US took over Hawaii or Napoleon III took over Nice.
Aggressively invading to conquer territory was all nice and legal until it was declared wrong in order to retrospectively hang the nazis. The Big Three refused to show their title deeds.

  • The conclusion of the last of T. H. White’s King Arthur series. Concluding they were the root of all wars.

I was not persuaded.

That reminds me. One time on this board I got blasted by a touchy Francophile for commenting that despite being part of France, Corsicans (Napoleon included) were closer to being Italian than French. I realize I what I said was glib and facile (it was not in the context of a serious discussion) but was my assumption so grievously incorrect that it bordered on offensive?

Basically, around 1300, Corsica rejected the Pope’s creation of the Kingdom of Corsica and Sardinia, which was invested in the King of Aragon (eventually becoming the King of Spain around 1500). Pisa had more or less controlled Corsica up to that point, but for reasons of relative power, Genoa began to exert more control after that point. While the Aragonese/Spanish regularly attempted to extend their control of Sardinia to Corsica as well, they were unsuccessful.

In the early 1700s, Sardinia went to the Austrians (as part of the Treaty of Utrecht, IIRC), and Corsica shortly after that declared independence from Genoa. Corsica managed to go it alone for a while, but as noted above, in 1769, the French invaded and took over. Meanwhile, the Sardinians were taken from Austria in about 1720 and given to Savoy. Eventually, that caused Sardinia to be included in the Kingdom of Italy.

Sardinia, btw, is the second largest Mediterranean island (after Sicily).

To my linguistically untrained eye the toponyms and short texts in corsu that I encountered in Corsica looked much more Italian than French, FWIW.

Note that Britain successfully executed that gambit earlier in the century with Gibraltar.