In The «People of the Dead». The Italian Republic born from the war 1940-46 (il Mulino, Bologna 2009), Leonardo Paggi quotes a phrase of Piero Calamandrei in the Constituent Assembly, in which he identified the victims of the second world war as the legitimation, at its deepest level, of the Constitution of the new Republic. Paggi develops the theme at the historiographical level, thus anticipating the birth of the Republic at the analytical level: the importance of the Resistance movement and the political forces is not denied, but it is the violence of the war tearing apart the social fabric of the country that dominates the scene. The Nazi massacres and Allied bombings, for long ignored in the historiography, constitute a deep historical caesura; the entire civilian population is involved, to the point that it ceases to be the passive object of history, waiting to know which side would win the war. While Montale’s poetry provides a timely register of the catastrophe, the transition from war to the Republic and democracy is marked by the demand for individual rights. The needs created by the disasters of the war generate a desire for justice: the welfare state, whose origins in Great Britain had been prefigured by the Beveridge plan in 1942, in Italy was founded on the demand for protection that the citizens hit by the war demanded from their local authorities. Paggi’s research is aimed at questioning the purely political and antifascist interpretation of the birth of the Republic, whose origins seem to him far more complex and closely related to the history of Europe. It has seemed to us useful to invite scholars with different sensibilities and research experiences to discuss his thesis.
Keywords: Italia, seconda guerra mondiale, bombardamenti, Repubblica, welfare