In vino veritas? Alcohol and its spaces in Fascist Italy

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: History

Abstract

Italian fascism had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, in line with the projected image of Mussolini as a model of health and virile masculinity, it was asserted that he 'never [drank] wine'. Repeated emphasis was made to Mussolini's abstemiousness, austere diet and almost ascetic lifestyle. Drinking alcohol was seen as a barrier to becoming an ideal fascist man and was feared as a potentially disruptive activity. On the other hand, wine production was a key facet of regional economies in Italy and was promoted as such by the fascist regime, and alcohol and the places in which it was consumed publicly - bars, osterie, trattorie and so on - crop up repeatedly in source material as important features and spaces of fascist life. Crucially, places associated with alcohol were often sites of confrontation between fascism and anti-fascism. Bars were places where people met to discuss politics; the mix of politics and alcohol was often convivial but could also spark conflict. Osterie and bars, for example, frequently provided the location for clashes - whether violent or verbal - between supporters and opponents of fascism. Drinking songs carried political messages.

Both this wealth of anecdotal evidence on Italy and scholarly work on everyday life in other dictatorial regimes point to the study of alcohol and its associated spaces as a fruitful and important avenue for understanding the negotiation of life under dictatorship. Despite this, we do not yet have a systematic account of the relationship between fascism and alcohol in Italy. This research project aims to fill this gap and, in so doing, to answer a series of questions: What was the fascist regime's attitude towards the consumption of alcohol? How can we explain the seeming dissonance between the insistence on abstemiousness and ascetic discipline in the new fascist man and the celebration of wine production as an important tenet of Italian economic and social life? In what ways could alcohol function as a mediating agent in the relationship between individual Italians and the regime? To what extent did it promote political conflict and to what extent did it act - as Sheila Fitzpatrick suggests was the case in the Stalinist USSR - as a lubricant to maintaining friendships which might help call in favours or 'solve a problem' with the regime?

This project is innovative in two important respects. In the first place, it provides the first systematic examination of the role of alcohol in the fascist regime and in life under fascism. In the second place, given that it approaches this topic both from the top-down (regime policies and representations) and bottom-up (the experience of individuals' encounters with fascism in bars and under the influence of alcohol), it makes connections with and contributes to the growing body of scholarship that examines how far fascist rhetoric and ideology was mirrored by the reality of lived fascism and which seeks to understand fascism in terms of how it was experienced.

Planned Impact

The findings of this research project should benefit several groups outside the academic sector. These include organizations and groups within the museum, private (commercial), and education sectors and the wider public in general.

Firstly, as part of this project I propose to collaborate with the documentation and cultural centre, the Biblioteca Internazionale "La Vigna" in Vicenza, Italy. The "La Vigna" library and centre for rural culture and civilization hold an extensive collection of historical documents relating primarily to viticulture and enology but also to wider aspects of agriculture, gastronomy and rural life. Whilst the library and centre have done much to promote their collection locally and nationally since they were founded in 1981, their important collection remains relatively unknown and certainly underused outside Italy. The collaboration would benefit both parties, but could have a sizable impact on the "La Vigna" centre in terms of improving their profile internationally and disseminating knowledge of their collections to a wide international audience. I will make use of their collections for my research and propose to hold a workshop jointly with them and, ideally, contemporaneously to stage an exhibition of documents in their collection relating to the topic of wine production and consumption between the wars.

Secondly, this collaboration with the "La Vigna" centre will provide opportunities for the findings of the research to have an impact upon representatives from wine and other agricultural producers in the private sector in Italy. The "La Vigna" library is linked to a circle of 'friends' largely made up of local wine producers and other agriculturalists. These organisations and individuals would be invited to participate in the jointly-held workshop and visit the exhibition. They are also recipients of the centre's newsletter. The findings of this research project could benefit them in that it will increase knowledge and understanding of the history of their industry and product.

Thirdly, the project will have an impact on the (non tertiary) education sector, especially at secondary level. The period of fascist rule in Italy is a component of many current GCSE, A Level and Highers syllabuses. This research project provides an accessible topic (alcohol in fascist life), which is both discreet and contains within it several broader themes and points of interpretation e.g. the idealized image of the Duce and of the 'new fascist man', the production of fascist propaganda through 'wine trains' and the 'Festival of the Grape' etc., and the potential gap between the intentions of fascist policy and ideology and the realities of how fascism was actually lived. It is therefore a very useful topic to present to secondary level students as evidence of the latest research questions and lines of interpretation in the study of the history of fascism. This will be done via the creation of 2 podcasts, to be made freely available to schools, with interpretative material, via the project website.

Finally, the findings of the research project will attract the wider public with an interest in history. The subject matter - the place of alcohol and especially the production and consumption of wine in fascist Italy - is likely to hold popular appeal. It is a discreet and accessible topic, and 'wine' is already widely associated with Italy in popular imagination. This makes this project an ideal vehicle for presenting current ways of thinking about fascism to the general, interested public. So often, when the history of fascism is presented in a popular format (and, indeed, in secondary education) it is still the figure of Mussolini and the workings of the fascist hierarchy that are foremost. This project offers the opportunity to present the history of fascist Italy from a different angle, from the perspective of its cultural and social history and of how it was experienced and lived day-by-day.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description As a result of the archival research funded by this grant, conducted during the academic year 2015-6, I have developed initial findings in three key areas:
1) the development of the Italian temperance and abolition movements during fascism and their interactions with a) the fascist regime and b) the Italian wine industry lobby. The development of this movement and its interactions with the state had not previously been documented by historians. My findings have shown that a) whilst the Italian temperance and abolitionist movements sought to align itself with the values and policy interests of the fascist dictatorship, it ultimately lost out in its 'battle' for government influence to the Italian wine industry lobby and b) the Italian temperance and abolitionist movement developed within a transnational and international framework of temperance and abolitionist movements.
2) the role of alcohol and its 'spaces of consumption' in the negotiation of political encounters between ordinary Italians and the fascist regime. One of the key intentions of this project was to systematically document, for the first time, the ways in which alcohol and the spaces it which it was consumed (bars, cafes, osterie etc.) functioned as conduits and spaces of political sociability under the fascist dictatorship. My initial findings suggest that a) bars etc. remain important spaces for political interaction throughout the 20 years of fascist dictatorship (and indeed take on increased importance given the limits placed on other forms of political interaction by the dictatorship), but the nature and outcome of these interactions changed significantly over time; b) alcohol was viewed ambivalently in terms of its impact in the commission of 'political crimes' by the Italian fascist police, judiciary and the individuals charged with having committed political crimes whilst under the influence of alcohol.
3) the nature and development of competition between producers of different kinds of alcoholic drinks, and the ways in which these were advertised and marketed to Italians in the first half of the 20th century. My initial findings here suggest that different alcoholic-drinks producers and sellers (wine, beer, spirits e.g. grappa, cocktails) jostled with each other, lobbied the state, and presented their products to Italian consumers by utilising different - and competing - models of national and gendered identities as well as notions of modernity.
Exploitation Route I am in the process of writing three journal articles along the lines of the research findings outlined above, however there remains much that is under-explored in relation to alcohol and the Italian fascist regime (e.g. archival material in several of the archives visited, and lines of research inquiry) that could prove fruitful avenues of research for PhD students.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Findings from the research project were disseminated to the members/friends of the Bibliteca la Vigna (Vicenza, Italy), who include wine-growers, producers and merchants, via the Biblioteca's newsletter.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation Brunel University London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation Cornell University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Department of History
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation University of California, Santa Barbara
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Early career research network for historians of food and drink in modern Europe 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established an early career research network for historians working on the history of food and drink in modern Europe, with brings together 9 colleagues (established in-post academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students) working on similar themes, based at the above universities. The intention is to provide opportunities to engage and support each others' research and to work towards common publications (an edited collection and/or journal special issue). We held our first network meeting in June 2016 at which we discussed and agreed plans for proposing publishing our work in a special issue of a journal, which I will edit. Following this meeting, I approached the journal 'Contemporary European History', who expressed initial interest in the proposal. We are now in the final stages of putting together a formal proposal, which I expect to send to the journal for their consideration in the next weeks. We will hold our next network meeting in September 2017 at which we will present and discuss our proposed articles for this journal special issue.
Collaborator Contribution To date, I have led the creation of this network myself. At our meeting in June all members expressed enthusiasm about the utility of hte netwokr and the proposal for a common publication. Our next meeting will be held in London, partly hosted by one of our other network members.
Impact As mentioned above, i expect this collaboration to result in a journal special issue, which is currently under consideration by the journal 'Contemporary European History'.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Article (in Italian and English) publishe in the 'La Vigna News' bulletin. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact An article related to the project's initial findings published in both Italian and English in the news bulletin of the Biblioteca La Vigna, an important documentation centre, library and cultural centre for viticulture, based in Vicenza, Italy. The article resulted from interactions with the staff at the centre as i conducted research for the project there in February 2016. The news bulletin is distributed widely to all the industry (wine-makers and merchants etc.) and charitable partners and other "friends" of the Biblioteca La Vigna as well as to the interested general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.lavigna.it/it/la_vigna_news/la_vigna_news_35
 
Description Conference paper to the ASMI (Association for the Study of Modern Italy) annual conference, November 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Approx. 60 postgraduate and undergraduate students (plus academics) attended this conference in London, which provided an opportunity for me to discuss the project's remit and initial findings with an international audience (Italy, UK, USA).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to workshop in 'Alcohol and Illiberal regimes', Humboldt University, Berlin 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation on a key aspect of the findings of the research (gender and alcohol consumption) to a workshop if invited participants at the Humboldt University, Berlin.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Project website designed and launched. This engagement activity is still in it's infancy and will be developed much more intensively over the coming months as I start to bring together my archival material in order to present my initial findings and as I develop the early career research network and have additional information and materials to publish.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/invinoveritas/
 
Description Talk to research seminar, Dundee University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A talk to Dundee University's history research seminar on the project, attended predominantly by postgraduate students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk to research seminar, University of St Andrews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk to my School's modern history research seminar, predominantly attended by postgraduate and undergraduate students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk to the Drinking Studies Network conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A talk to the 'Drinking Studies Network' on the findings of the project attended by academics from a variety of disciplines, including public health and social sciences as well as third sector organisations active in communicating government policies on alcohol consumption.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk to the Graduate Studies Seminar, Villa la Pietra, New York University in Florence 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk given to group of graduate students, academics and general public, principally Italian and American, on the project, which was videoed and disseminated on You Tube.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WePF35-KaOA