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

By Alice A. Kelikian | Go to book overview

1
Silk, Steel, and Society

GEOGRAPHY, wrote the young lawyer Giuseppe Zanardelli in 1857, inclined his native Brescia to an idyllic self-sufficiency.1 With the economic and the physical contrasts of the peninsula compressed into some 4,700 square kilometres, local folk could limit their horizons and markets to the natural boundaries of their home ground. Hemmed in by the Alps to the north and by Lakes Garda and Iseo on either side, the Brescian panorama did indeed encompass the foremost landscapes of upper Italy. Its mountain range, though less spectacular than the heights of the Swiss or the Tyrolean frontier, stored the industrial treasure of the eastern Lombard community, iron ore. In the rugged country an impoverished peasantry toiled in closed proximity to forges, foundries, and furnaces. Workshops nestled along the numerous waterways of this broken terrain, and pastoral activity included animal husbandry and subsistence farming. Below the subalpine zone stretched the hill region, where garden cultivation and consumer manufacture reinforced each other. Despite the great want of water and the intense demographic pressure, growers in this mulberry district prospered so long as the silk trade stayed alive. The agricultural riches of the province, however, lay in the lowlands bordering the Po basin zones of Mantua and Cremona. Industry figured very little in the economic life of the plains, since the vast expanse of fertile fields was devoted to the production of commercial crops on large holdings.

Against the geographic diversity of its environs stood the apparent uniformity of the provincial capital. Streets intersected at right angles in the rectilinear city, and visitors encountered small piazzas and few porticoes. Zanardelli celebrated the austere harmony of stone and slate, for it reflected a civic identity not rooted in a worn-out past but tied to a promising future. Unlike the tradition-bound façades of the

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1
G. Zanardelli, Notizie naturali, industriali ed artistiche della provincia di Brescia (Lettere pubblicate nel 1857 sul Giornale 'Il Crepuscolo) ( Brescia, 1904), pp. 25-8.

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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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