Journalist and political activist Giuseppe Mazzini was born on 22 June 1805 in Genoa, then under French rule. Banned from the city for revolutionary activities, he sought refuge in Geneva in 1831. He arrived in London in January 1837 after being expelled for the alleged compromise of Swiss neutrality. Mazzini initially lived above an Italian barber at no. 10 Laystall Street. Later, whilst staying at no. 5 Hatton Garden, he set up the Società per il progresso degli operai Italiani in Londra for the purpose of harnessing nationalist feelings among the immigrant community.
With funds provided by British friends (including Charles Dickens), he opened a free school where two hundred deprived children received a rudimentary education. Established on 10 November 1841, it was the first Italian school in London. The aims of the school were opposed by the Piedmontese Embassy and by the exploitative employers of many of the children.
At Metternich’s request, letters addressed to him were opened by Lord Aberdeen to inform Austria about the Italian patriotic movement in London. Under British law he had committed no offence, and Macaulay was one of many to protest against this violation of personal liberty. Thomas Carlyle wrote indignantly to The Times describing Mazzini as a man of genius. Carlyle was certainly no democrat or ‘man of the people’, and many of Mazzini’s ideals would have been alien to him. He nevertheless opened his Chelsea doors to the Italian revolutionary and welcomed his company. British attitudes towards immigration are seldom straight forward. In 1847 Mazzini left for Milan to take part in the uprisings there.