Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

HIST2217 Conflict and violence in the Italian Republic, 1945 to the 1990s: From the Mafia to the Ultras

Module Overview

In March 1978, Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped by left-wing terrorist organization the Red Brigades. He was held prisoner in a secret location for 54 days, during which time the Italian government agonised over whether they should negotiate with the terrorists and cede to some of their demands, or instead hold firm. Images of the aging Moro, displayed as prisoner in front of the banner of the Red Brigades, filled Italian newspapers and television screens for almost two months, until he was eventually executed by the terrorist group. Less than four decades after the end of fascism, political violence had struck once again at the heart of government, threatening the nation and the Italian Republic which had been established in 1945. The 1970s were a particularly unstable decade for Italy and due to the terrorism of the extreme left-wing organization the Red Brigades, have become known as the ‘years of the bullet’. Moro’s kidnapping was the culmination of a decade of terrorism. Organised crime had also strengthened its hold on Italian society since the end of the Second World War, with the 1980s giving way to what is known as the ‘Second Mafia War’. This module will examine both why conflict and violence has continued to dominate society and politics in contemporary Italy, and what living in such a society was like for ordinary Italians. It will take a broad approach to the themes of conflict and violence, exploring its socio-cultural and gendered roots and examining its impact on ordinary life as well as the implications for politics and government. Key topics will include both the mafia and political terrorism in the 1970s; however we will also examine migration from southern to northern Italy and the consequent social conflict and dislocation in the 1960s, protest culture the 1960s and the politics of divided memory. Discussions will revolve around key themes, including: family and the state, Italian regions and the centralised government in Rome, the relationship between private violence/crime and politics, gender and violence, cultures of protest. The module will conclude with an examination of the rise of neofascism in Italy.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • Explore the social, cultural and political roots of violence and conflict in late twentieth-century Italian society • Gain an in depth knowledge of key themes in the history of the Italian Republic, including protest and 1968, 1970s political terrorism, the mafia and neofascism. • Gain an understanding of key debates in Italian history about the mafia and the south of Italy; whether, how why the mafia was born out of the weakness of both state and civil society in Sicily. • Put the key themes and topics in the context of the broader developments of Italian politics and society since the fall of fascism in 1945.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The social, political and cultural origins of violence in Italian society
  • The impact of both crime and political terrorism on ordinary life and on the state
  • Key themes in the history of the Italian Republic
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse and assess a variety of primary sources relating to contemporary Italian history notably film and mass media sources
  • Debate a number of key themes relating to violence and conflict in contemporary Italian society, notably the relationship between family, state and civil society, the relationship between the sough of Italy and the nation state, and the relationship between gender and violence.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the political, social and cultural context of conflict and violence in the contemporary history of Italy
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Sift through evidence in order to support an argument
  • Critically analyse visual and textual sources
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse primary sources relating to contemporary social and cultural history (including film, photography and newspaper sources as well as memoirs and diaries)
  • Make historical arguments in written contexts and making use of primary and secondary sources
  • Further develop your skills in writing history essays


Module topics may include: The mafia: state and society in Sicily Communist and Catholic cultures in post-war Italy: Ritual, procession and symbolic violence Migration and the economic miracle: dislocation, conflict and integration ‘What do we want? Everything!’ Working class and student protests in 1968 The politics of gender in post-war Italy ‘The years of lead’: Political terrorism in the 1970s from Piazza Fontana to Aldo Moro ‘The second mafia war’: The mafia in the 1980s From Mussolini to the ultras: Neofascism in post-war Italy Politics and divided memories

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include Lectures Small group seminars, primarily focusing on discussion of primary sources. Primary sources will be textual, visual and audio-visual. A particular feature of this module will be the use of film as a primary source. Group activities, including role play and debate. Learning activities include Class discussions, which will include both source analysis and discussions of broader themes and questions Group presentations Essay Learning journal Timed examination

Guided independent study264
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

John Foot (2009). Italy’s Divided Memory. 

Anna Cento Bull and Philip Cooke (2013). Ending Terrorism in Italy. 

Robert Lumley (1990). States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978. 

Perry Willson (2009). Women in Twentieth Century Italy. 

David Kertzer (1980). Comrades and Christians: Religion and Political Struggle in Communist Italy. 

Paul Ginsborg (2001). Italy and Its Discontents. Family, Civil Society, State 1980-2001. 

Paul Ginsborg (1990). A History of Contemporary Italy, 1943-1988. 

Andrea Hajek (2013). Negotiating Memories of Protest in Western Europe: The Case of Italy. 

Christopher Duggan and Christopher Wagstaff (eds.) (1995). Italy in the Cold War: Politics, Culture and Society 1948-1958. 

Andrea Mammone (2015). Transnational Neofascism in France and Italy. 

Penny Morris (ed.) (2006). Women in Italy since 1945: An Interdisciplinary Study. 

Ruth Glynn (2013). Women, Terrorism and Trauma in Italian Culture. 

David Forgacs and Stephen Gundle (2007). Mass Culture and Italian Society from Fascism to the Cold War. 

John Foot (2001). Milan since the Miracle. City, Culture and Identity. 

Salvatore Lupo (2009). History of the Mafia. 


Assessment Strategy

Feedback on in-class group presentations Although the learning journal will be submitted at the end of the semester, students will complete it regularly throughout the semester and will have the opportunity to gain constructive feedback on individual journal entries over the course of the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Google+ Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.