Recent Italian Politics in Historical Perspective

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New Year welcome back talk by

Paul Ginsborg
(University of Florence)

14 January 2015, 17:00-19:00

Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia

Paul Ginsborg is a leading authority on contemporary Italy. He taught European Politics at Cambridge University, before moving to Italy in 1992 to take up the chair of contemporary European History at the University of Florence. His impressive bibliography on Italian history starts in 1978 with a book on Daniele Manin and the Italian Risorgimento (Daniele Manin e la rivoluzione veneziana del 1848-49, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1978; Torino). He wrote extensively on the Italian Republic stressing how social structures as the family were of crucial importance to the understanding of the specificity of Italian history. His focus moved on Silvio Berlusconi more recently and the political destiny of Italy is at the core of the present lecture.

By whatever measuring rod one cares to adopt – economic, political, cultural – the Italian Republic has undoubtedly been in increasing difficulty since the early 1990s. The long dominion of Silvio Berlusconi in Italian politics has been only one, albeit highly significant, expression of a general decline, which has been accelerated by the global crisis from 2008 onwards.

Faced with this situation, many distinguished commentators, both internal and external, have expressed doom-laden sentiments about Italy’s destiny. It is difficult to disagree with much of what they say, but I would like to urge caution. The Italian Republic – references to a second or third Republic seem to me to be rather spurious – has shown a remarkable capacity to survive.

To explain why this is so, I intend to adopt a predominantly historical perspective, concentrating on three areas of enquiry: Italy’s cultural specificity as a Catholic and Mediterranean country; the perennial role of strong families acting as buffers against crises of varying dimensions; and the long-term European performance of Italy in relation to what Edward Thompson once called ‘the great arch of bourgeois revolution’. The picture that emerges is neither comforting nor cataclysmic.

Find here a list of books by Paul Ginsborg.