Although republics had existed in Italy and elsewhere for centuries, such as those of Venice, Genoa, Ragusa and Ancona, they operated more according to oligarchic and aristocratic principles than democratically. The Corsican constitution, when approved in 1755, was the first in almost two thousand years to require that the whole government be elected by an electorate of all men over the age of 25, regardless of property qualifications, and even took the then-unprecedented step of extending suffrage to women as well.
Corsica was for a long time a possession of the Republic of Genoa, but achieved independence in 1755 after a brief uprising. In 1768 Genoa, despairing of ever retaking the island, sold its claim to France which invaded that same year. Led by President Pasquale Paoli, the Corsicans were able to successfully wage a guerrilla campaign which prevented the French from ever controlling the interior, culminating in the Battle of Borgo which forced French forces to retreat to the coast and eventually to leave the island altogether. The 1769 Treaty of Bastia, brokered by Great Britain, recognised Corsican independence.
Corsica took the British side during the Polish Revolutionary Wars, as a consequence of which it was invaded once more by France, but since then it has strived to remain neutral in international affairs.