Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia, 1915-1926

By Alice A. Kelikian | Go to book overview

Introduction

'How the country came to be so well irrigated is a question', ruminated Arthur Young as he travelled through Brescia on 18 October 1789 in a dung cart with two local merchants, who never stopped muttering paternosters and counting beads.1 Such compulsive worship perplexed the English apostle of la grande culture, for prayers could 'neither dig canals nor make cheese'. Incantation and innovation, antithetical though they might seem to the foreign eye, in fact created an active mercantile civilization embracing all varieties of productive activity and social life. The mixing of old ways and new, of order and change, gave development a special dynamic in the Lombard province. A century later, growth there still reflected an uneasy equilibrium between progress and tradition. By the eve of World War I, this precarious balance characterized the Italian economy as a whole.

Christian belief did not preclude commercial prosperity. The Brescians adapted to new economic conditions over the course of the nineteenth century, but they did so in ways that protected their vested interests. Local conditions bore witness to striking variations in patterns of settlement and quality of life. In the foothills, where the church taught co-operative farming techniques, subsistence producers became involved in cash exchange through archaic patronage networks. Basin dairy and grain estates, both early outposts of specialized commodity culture, showed signs of class antagonism in the capitalist mould. Gunsmiths, who had long produced their wares for export, stayed isolated in the uplands, while silk manufacturers proliferated on the high ground. Artisans, schoolmasters, and traders crowded the capital city.

National unification changed this provincial panorama primarily in political terms. The church-state conflict made civic life more acrimonious, and ideologies imported from abroad gained currency among local élites. Those urban democrats who had little enthusiasm for the new monarch nevertheless delighted in defying the papacy.

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1
A. Young, Travels in France and Italy During the Years 1787, 1788 and 1789 ( London, 1915), p. 245.

-1-

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Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia, 1915-1926
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Silk, Steel, and Society 7
  • 2 - Workers and Warriors 45
  • 3 - Political Alignments in Post-War Brescia 70
  • 4 - Labours of the Left 96
  • 5 - Conservative Revival in the Search for Order 117
  • 6 - Lamentations and Recriminations 137
  • 7 - The Brescian Road to Fascism 161
  • 8 - Strike and Stabilization 181
  • Conclusion 201
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 221
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