Abstract of Kelly, M. “The Italian Resistance in Historical Transition: Class War, Patriotic War or Civil War?”
The Italian Resistance has been analysed historiographically from numerous political viewpoints and thematically in a greater variety of manners since the end of the Second World War. Military strategy and successes, wartime political characteristics, biographies of the leading participants, the relative merits of the Resistance, the regional presence of the partisan divisions, relations with the Allies and even the morality of the Resistance itself have all been examined in minute detail.
Yet, very few historians have assessed in any depth the post-war political and social impact of the Italian partisans and its meaning in the historical context of the Italian Resistance. This paper will discuss exactly this aspect of the historiography of the Resistance: how have Italian and foreign historians viewed the Resistance since the war and in what ways has it been defined? What was the Resistance: was it a revolutionary movement – an Italian variant on class war; or was it a patriotic war of national unity – a second Risorgimento ; or perhaps simply a civil war in which neither side could claim the moral high ground?
This paper will follow the progress of the historiographical debate from the 1940s to the present day, attempting to clarify its political nature. Dividing the debate into three rough groupings – historians of the Left, the liberals, and the neo-Rightists – the paper will follow the vicissitudes of the historiographical debate of this most ambiguous of wars.