From corpsman to rescuer, the missed nurse’s ideal towards the end of Italian Risorgimento

From corpsman to rescuer, the missed nurse’s ideal towards the end of Italian Risorgimento



Military corps have always been supported by healthcare providers who took care of the injured and sick soldiers. Traditionally the military nurse’s figure has never been fully appreciated to the point that, even nowadays, it is still searching for its own identity.


The aim of the study is to describe the military nurse’s role from the Second War for Italian Independence (1859) to the conquest of Rome (1870).


Historical investigation. Secondary sources were consulted to carry out a geopolitical and historical contextualization of the reference period, while to trace the military nurse’s evolution the team referred to primary sources. All the mentioned sources were analyzed according to Chabod’s methodology (2012).


The military nurse was born as a corpsman. The Risorgimento wars contributed to highlight the major contribution that nurses could give to military healthcare. In 1863 the Ministry of War elaborated a new and innovative profile for military nurses which foresaw particular physical and moral requirements, but also specific competences. Even though a new ideal of nurse was created, the Military Nurses Corp did not experience any changes: the nurses’ activities remained transporting the injured and assisting doctors.


Primary sources analysis highlighted an important attention towards the military nurse’s role and education after national unity, although the gap shown by the military healthcare service during the Risorgimento battles was evident. Such condition facilitated the development of the first rescue committees which became, at a later time, the International Red Cross. The committees popularity allowed the volunteers to gain higher fame and social prestige than military nurses.


Military nurse, History of nursing, Historical survey, Italian Risorgimento.


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