Italy: The Temptation of Revisionism

by Simon Sarlin & Fabrice Jesné

translated by Arthur Goldhammer


As Italy celebrated the 150th anniversary of its unification, revisionist historians radically challenged the standard history of unification and its consequences. This offensive, backed by certain politicians, spared none of the important moments of Italian history. Might this be the sign of a more far-reaching crisis in the national narrative?

by Fabrice Jesné and Simon Sarlin

In 2011 Italy not only endured the protracted agony of Berlusconism and the widening “spread” between its treasury bonds and those of Germany but also celebrated the 150th anniversary of its unification. That Italy is an unfinished nation is hardly news. For twenty years the Italian past has figured in the battle for political supremacy between left and right, and for fifty years the study of history has been central to the preparation of left-wing leaders. Since the mid-1990s, however, the battle of ideas seems to have shifted in favor of the center-right and its challenge to the cultural hegemony of the left. The coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi reaped the benefits of thirty years of “mass dis-education,” which it promoted through its control of state and media institutions. [1]

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