The legacy of the Italian Resistance

Project: Research

Project Details


PLEASE NOTE: THE SUMMARY HAS BEEN AMENDED IN THE LIGHT OF PEER REVIEW COMMENTS FROM THE FIRST APPLICATION. THE MATERIAL ORIGINALLY IN THE FIRST PART OF THE VOLUME WILL BE COMPRESSED INTO AN OPENING PANORAMA CHAPTER. The Italian Resistance movement, which began in September 1943 and ended in April 1945, has been the subject of a vast amount of scholarly interest. In Italy in the last two decades work has concentrated, above all, on issues connected with the many acts of violence which took place during and, in many cases, after the war. Claudio Pavone's work, for example, emphasises the civil war aspects of the struggle in Italy, over and above the war of Liberation, while the research of Paolo Pezzino and others examines in detail the Nazi massacres which took place throughout the peninsular. In the same period Massimo Storchi, Mirco Dondi and others have published authoritative accounts of the post-war violence perpetrated by partisans against Fascists. Another important strand of research which has also emerged looks at questions concerning the long-term impact of the movement, its public memory and cultural and political legacy. It is in this particular area, where the most important scholars in Italy are Filippo Focardi and Giovanni Contini, that my own work is most relevant. The contribution that my work makes is in the interdisciplinary nature of my research, offering new insights into history and culture and, above all, in the interaction between the two. My book examines the complex issue of the Italian Resistance legacy from the very end of the conflict up until the present day. An initial panorama chapter provides an analysis of the way that the 'myth' and 'anti-myth' of the Resistance has been formed, re-invented and discussed during the period 1945 to the present day. I initially concentrate, above all, on the political sphere and on the way that the two leading parties, the Christian Democrats and the Communists, used the Resistance as part of their political battle. These parties deliberately emphasised or obscured certain aspects of the movement, with the question of illegal killings at the heart of the debate. In the 1950s, in particular, the Cold War climate did much to polarise debate. With the collapse of the Tambroni government in 1960, and a shift to the left in Italian politics, the Resistance movement re-emerged as a political force only to be contested in the late 1960s and then appropriated in the 1970s by early terrorist organisations who considered that they were completing the unfinished work of their partisan forefathers. In the late 1970s the Resistance seemed to make another comeback when Sandro Pertini, a distinguished 'heroic' anti-Fascist, became president of Italy. But in the late 1980s, within the context of the ideological impact that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Resistance once again became part of an intense political and historiographical debate which shows no signs of abating. The rest of the book looks at the way that certain key 'vectors of memory' such as monuments, museums, films, memoirs and literary texts have functioned over the period. The chapter on historiography examines the way that the debate around the exact nature of the war in Italy (war of liberation, civil war, class war) has been framed by 'academic' historians, and how the work of popular historians (such as Pansa) and neo-Fascists authors (Pisan) have contributed to the formation of alternative and conflicting memories. The introduction and conclusion to the work I examine wider methodological questions raised by the study, such as the public use of history, and draw comparisons, above all, with the Resistance legacy in France and the Civil War legacy in Spain. \n
Effective start/end date28/01/0931/05/09


  • AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council): £27,107.00


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