Glimpses into early twentieth century Italy

Some months ago we were fortunate to receive in donation a large number of items that had belonged to the eminent historian of modern Italy, Denis Mack Smith. These were given initially to the Bodleian, but then generously passed on to us, and include a wealth of material about Italy in the early part of the twentieth century. There are works on Italy’s role in the First World War, military and naval Italian history, Italy between the wars, the rise of Fascism, etc.


Some of these are in a fascinating series published by Mondadori of Milan, entitled: Collezione italiana di diari, memorie, studi e documenti per servire alla storia della guerra del mondo. These titles deal specifically with the First World War. There are first-hand accounts and diaries, such as Gen. Eugenio De Rossi’s La vita di un ufficiale italiano sino alla Guerra (2013.8.4788); and Gen. Emilio De Bonos’s La guerra come e dove l’ho vista e combattuta io (2013.8.6007). Others in the series describe campaigns, for example Gen. Pompilio Schiarini on L’armata del Trentino (1915-1919) (2013.8.4757); and aspects of the war such as aerial operations: Le ali della Guerra, by Generale Giorgio Bompiani and Maggiore Clemente Prepositi (2013.8.4783), or naval operations: La Grande Guerra sul mare : fatti, insegnamenti, previsioni, by Ettore Bravetta (2013.9.4291-4292).

Le ali della guerra / Generale Giorgio Bompiani, Maggiore Clemente Prepositi (2013.8.4783)

Le ali della guerra / Generale Giorgio Bompiani, Maggiore Clemente Prepositi (2013.8.4783)

Still in the same series, we gain insights into medical care during the war (La guerra e le arti sanitarie, by Gaetano Boschi (2013.8.4790)); Italian socialism in the period (I socialisti italiani durante la Guerra, by Alberto Malatesta (2013.8.4785)); the role of Catholics and the Catholic Church (I cattolici Italiani nella guerra, by Filippo Meda (2013.8.4789)).

Amongst the donated items there are those that provide glimpses into pre-war years. Vicende e profili : memorie di un funzionario di P.S., by Federico Mathieu (2013.8.5488) looks at the police in Italy and internal security. It is signed by the author and dedicated to a friend. Spanning the interwar years, La letteratura di guerra in Italia, 1915-1935, by Francesco Formigari (2014.8.1232) (published by the Istituto nazionale fascista di cultura in 1935) looks specifically at literature and the war. We see post-war Italy also: Luigi Einaudi talks of the economic effects of the war in his La condotta economica e gli effetti sociali della guerra italiana (9008.c.9557).

Some are very short, but unusual. Come combatte l’Inghilterra nella guerra attuale (2014.8.235), on the Irish question, includes a letter from Sir Roger Casement in Italian translation.

These are all fascinating items, in good condition, that complement our existing collection of material on Italy in that period. Our collections on early twentieth century Italy were good, but they have been very much improved by this donation. The newly donated items can be found in Library search using the search terms Denis Mack Smith and former owner.

We are indeed grateful to Denis Mack Smith and to the Bodleian for passing these on to us.

Bettina Rex

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