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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post-War Italy
Paul Ginsborg's "A History of Contemporary Italy" begins with the Italians reaping the disastrous rewards of over two decades of Mussolini's rule. The Allies have invaded southern Italy, and on the removal of El Duce the Germans invade from the north. The author expertly portrays the chaotic situation, with an increasingly popular Resistance in the north fighting the...
Published on 24 Sep 2010 by S Wood

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very misleading title
If this book were called "A Left-Wing Perspective of Political and Trade-Union Struggle in Italy between 1943 and 1980" then it would deserve full marks; with the title it has, however, it falls very short of fulfilling its promise and delivering a real "History of Italy". I am Italian and I was hoping to find, in a work by an English historian, the impartiality which is...
Published on 18 Sep 2012 by Andrea Franco


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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post-War Italy, 24 Sep 2010
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics: 1943-1980 (Penguin History) (Paperback)
Paul Ginsborg's "A History of Contemporary Italy" begins with the Italians reaping the disastrous rewards of over two decades of Mussolini's rule. The Allies have invaded southern Italy, and on the removal of El Duce the Germans invade from the north. The author expertly portrays the chaotic situation, with an increasingly popular Resistance in the north fighting the Germans who are themselves trying to consolidate their control and stop the Allied forces from battling their way up the peninsula towards Germany itself.

Ginsborg is particularly good on the tensions between the Resistance (largely formed of Communists) and the Allies along with the Italian government formed after Mussolini was deposed. It is clear, that as in Greece, the Allies have no intention of leaving the Italians to sort out their own political future and clearly favour the right, particularly but not exclusively those who kept their hands relatively clean during the fascist era. This goes as far as - minimally - looking the other way as the Mafia re-established themselves in Sicily.

The book is broadly sympathetic to the left in Italy but without compromising on impartially telling the story of Italy's recovery under the Christian Democrats, or the limitations of the left themselves. This reader, for one, ended up wishing that the Communists had sent their leader Togliatti back to Moscow, along with the Stalinist style structures which weighed the party down and his policy of appeasement vis-à-vis the Christian Democrats which achieved nothing.

Ginsborg's attention is focussed primarily on social, political and economic developments as they evolved during the post-war recovery and beyond. A constant authorial eye is kept on changing programs and policies of all parties whether it's the Christian Democrats in central government, or other parties at the local level, as well as the economic and the social circumstances of the country, from the industrial and relatively advanced north to the impoverished rural south. Other topics covered include developments in the working class movements, the upheavals of 1968, agrarian reform, organised crime and industrial policy. There is also a substantial amount of social, political and economic data in a statistical appendix at the end of the book.

This is a substantial work that is very well written. Ginsborg, who himself has spent a good deal of time in Italy, conveys an enormous amount of information about the changing circumstances of post-war Italy. This is frequently accompanied with first-hand accounts from all manner of people, from the world of high politics and business to the southern rural migrant in the industrial north, that leave the reader with a vivid sense of developments. If there is one problem it is that though the book claims to tell the story of Italy up until 1988, most of the detail is with regard to the period up to 1980 with a short final chapter of twenty or so pages covering the main developments in the 1980's. Otherwise this is a book I would whole heartedly recommend to anyone who is interested in Italy in particular, and more generally in how a western European country developed during the economic "golden age" up until the 1970's and how afterwards things changed . . .
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very misleading title, 18 Sep 2012
By 
Andrea Franco (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics: 1943-1980 (Penguin History) (Paperback)
If this book were called "A Left-Wing Perspective of Political and Trade-Union Struggle in Italy between 1943 and 1980" then it would deserve full marks; with the title it has, however, it falls very short of fulfilling its promise and delivering a real "History of Italy". I am Italian and I was hoping to find, in a work by an English historian, the impartiality which is almost impossible to find in books about Italy written by Italians. Unfortunately, Mr. Ginsborg's book is very partial, not only with regard to the views he puts forth, but also with regard to the themes which he chooses to cover. In this book you won't find much information on how the Italian Republic was set up (its constitution and its laws) nor will you find anything at all about Italian culture -- and in fact you will find very little information about any event which does not fall under the categories of party struggle or trade-union struggle.

Finally, this book really lacks a glossary of Italian terms. Being Italian, I have no problem understanding the numerous Italian terms which Mr. Ginsborg complacently disseminates in his work, but I find that they add very little value, especially when an English equivalent would be readily available. For example, the author introduces once the expression "ceti medi" explaining that it means "middle classes", but then he continues to use the Italian expression instead of the English one, so that the English-speaking reader will be forced to keep in mind the meaning of that Italian expression -- as well as the meaning of countless others.

I am giving it two stars rather than one because, if by any chance you were indeed looking for "A Left-Wing Perspective of Political and Trade-Union Struggle in Italy between 1943 and 1980" then, and only then, it is a good book.

(The last sentence is bound to be misquoted as "It is a good book". Well, it's not.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and well-written, 15 May 2013
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This review is from: A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics: 1943-1980 (Penguin History) (Paperback)
I bought this for one of my Italian modules at University last year, very informative and well-written book, although at times I did find it a little heavy-going. However it was very useful for my module and I used it again this year for another one.
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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star, 5 Oct 2014
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This review is from: A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics: 1943-1980 (Penguin History) (Paperback)
Really really tatty discoloured dog-eared copy. Don't feel the item was as the seller described.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars contemporary Italy - once a mystery, 6 Oct 2009
This review is from: A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics: 1943-1980 (Penguin History) (Paperback)
I have lived in Italy for over 25 years, but never found a reliable, unbiased contemporary history, essential to compehension of a country I love.
Ginsborg managed to produce a fair review and consideration of the complicated, turbulent development of a nation state.
Unfortunately the book is dated by almost 30 years and missing a significant period of socio-economic and political development.
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