Part of the cultural background to Romanticism was an explosion of historical writing. The medieval period was especially popular. Eastlake took this subject from a history of the Italian republics in the Middle Ages by Simonde de Sismondi. A liberal Swiss Protestant, Sismondi showed how Italy had been damaged by the transfer of power from local communities to tyrants like the Medici. Here, in an episode of 1389, the last lord of Padua flees the Duke of Milan. Contemporary Italians were being driven into exile for liberal sympathies and attempts to unify the country.