A Biographical Study of Gaetano Pilati (1881-1925)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Medieval & Modern Languages Fac


Born near the city of Bologna and of peasant origin, Gateano Pilati was a prominent young member of the local community and wrote poetry in dialect. In 1906 he migrated to Florence, where he became a successful entrepeneur in the building industry, an inventor (his are the first projects for the use of reinforced concrete in the construction of council houses), and a leader of the local socialist association. He volunteered in the First World War, during which he was wounded and lost a forearm. Once in care in hospital, he designed a number of prosthetic limbs which were successfully tested and officially adopted by the Italian army. After the war, he returned to Florence where he became a Member of Parliament at the 1919 general elections. He was killed during one of the last anti-socialist pogroms organized by the Fascist squads in October 1925. A mock-trial ended with no charges against the perpetrators and the family was forced to migrate to Argentina.
As this summary of his life suggests, Gaetano Pilati deserves an in-depth study for a number of reasons. First of all, biographical, but of equal importance are the cultural and political issues relating to the social context in which Pilati operated. So far very little research has been done on the subject despite the fact that a substantial amount of archival material is available in a number of public archives. A commemorative monograph was published in 1978 under the aegis of Florence's branch of the Socialist Party. However, despite its informative content, its hagiographic slant heavily undermines the overall value of the book as a piece of historical research.
During my research trips to Florence and Rome, I familiarized myself with the archival material available in a number of institutions. The Fondazione Turati in Florence holds most of Pilati's private papers and copious literature relating to the proceedings of the murder trial. In Rome I have also found a number of files relevant to the subject at the Fascist ministerial archives held at the National Archives in Rome. In order to reconstruct the early years of Pilati's life in Bologna, and particularly to study his poetry within the context of peasant culture in early 20th century Italy, I have also planned to visit the city's State Archives and the local branch of the Istituto Gramsci.
The awarding of an additional Research Leave would allow me to complete the biography by the summer of 2008. An Italian publisher with which I have been collaborating in the past few years - Cesati of Florence - has expressed interest in publishing an Italian edition of my book. I have also discussed a possible English translation with the director of another publishing house with which I am in regular contact, Legenda, of Oxford.


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Description This grant allowed me to fulfil all the necessary archival work in order to complete my biography of Gaetano Pilati which was published in 2010.
Exploitation Route My biography of Gaetano Pilati provides an insight into a number of key developments of early C20th Italian society, history and politics.
Sectors Education


Democracy and Justice



Museums and Collections

URL http://www.francocesatieditore.com/testovis-239.html
Description The book was launched and discussed in two venues in Florence, the city in which Pilati spent most of his adult life. The first was organised by the cultural department of Tuscany Regional Council, and the second by the charity association SMS Andrea del Sarto (which Pilati directed in the 1910s).
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural