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The Horseman on the Roof

Historical Background
The movie takes place in 1832, in the Alps, in South-Eastern France, not far from the border with Italy. The region is called "la Provence".

After the defeat of Napoleon, at Waterloo, in 1815, all the territories conquered by him were returned to their original owners. Thus Northern Italy fell, again, under the domination of Austria. The Austrian Empire was the strongest empire in Europe at the time. 

In France, the monarchy was restored and with it an attempt to return to absolute power. In 1832, Louis-Philippe, a (conservative) Bourbon, is King of France.

The horseman in the movie is an Italian freedom fighter trying to liberate Northern Italy from Austrian domination. His father was French. [He had come to Italy with Napoleon's armies but returned to France after Napoleon's defeat.]  The horseman, although only 25 years old, is a colonel, a rank that his Italian mother had bought for him. Because he opposes the Austrians, he is pursued by them and has to flee to France to save his life.

The horseman appears to be a member of a secret society called the "Carbonari", similar to the Freemasons. Their political goal was to bring about a constitutional monarchy or a republic, and to defend the rights of the people against all forms of absolutism. They were active in Italy, in France and also in Spain. For that reason the horseman has also been condemned to death in Italy.

Cholera
Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine. Approximately one in 20 infected persons has a severe case of the disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps. In these persons rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. Cholera has been very rare in industrialized nations for the last 100 years.

The epidemic of cholera depicted in the movie is a historical fact. The panic that accompanies such an epidemic leads to an outbreak of resentment and hatred against all imagined sources of the epidemic, in particular foreigners and Jews,.