The Carbonari (charcoal burners) were groups of secret revolutionary societies founded in the early 1800s in Italy. Similar societies operated in countries such as France, Spain and Portugal. All were focused on patriotism and liberalism.
The Carbonari were mainly active in southern Italy. Members were opposed to the country’s repressive political system, and aimed to create a constitutional monarchy or a republic, and to defend the rights of common people against absolutism. . They were organised along the lines of Freemasons, with small covert cells scattered across the country. Their activities included assassinations and armed revolt.
Collins’ Professor Pesca is thought to be modeled on Gabriele Rossetti (1783 - 1854), an Italian poet and scholar whose support for Italian revolutionary nationalism forced him into political exile in 1821. He settled in London in 1824, where he held the post of Professor of Italian at King’s College London from 1831, and taught Italian at King’s College School, until his retirement in 1847.