18 November - 'Ignoto Militi' The centenary of the Italian unknown soldier (1921-2021). Celebration, commemoration and symbolism
School of History, UCC
Dr Alberto Cauli, historian (Italy)
Thursday, 18 November 2021, 16.00
The paper will be delivered through MS Teams. Please, contact Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel, School of History, UCC, to obtain a Teams link: email@example.com
Paper In the aftermath of the First World War all the warring countries were faced with compiling lists of those who had fallen. To those who died fighting, the national statistic offices had also to add lists of those wounded, detained as prisoners of war and those soldiers whose bodies or remains were missing or unidentifiable. In this regard, exploring the history of the Italian Unknown Soldier represents an interesting case study. It is also a timely matter as the year 2021 marks the Centenary of the Italian Unknown Soldier’s burial in Rome at the monument Altare della Patria (also known as Vittoriano). That burial ceremony had a strong impact on the Italian public because the unknown body symbolized all the Italian combatants who died during the First World War.
This presentation reconstructs the history of the Italian Unknown Soldier: how his remains were located, chosen, and buried within the colossal memorial monument. It examines the Italian response to the event at that time by reconstructing the transfer of his coffin from Aquileia to Rome, and how the symbol of the Milite Ignoto (Italian for Unknown Soldier) evolved in public perceptions in the following decades. The paper also explores his meaning in modern Italy and examine the various political actions undertaken to honour his symbolism from the 1970s to his centenary celebrations in 2021.
Dr Alberto Cauli is a historian whose field of research pertains to the interwar period with a focus on fascist Italy. He is also interested in the First World War and aeronautical and naval history from the 1920s to 1940s. In his PhD thesis (University of Auckland, New Zealand), he has analysed the relationship between fascism, geographic explorations and colonial propaganda by examining the biographies of the major Italian explorers of that time: Luigi di Savoia, the Duke of Abruzzi; Aimone of Savoia, the Duke of Spoleto; and geologist Ardito Desio. He has published various essays on Italian colonialism, geographic and polar explorations and aviation. In 2008, he also published a biography of the Italian aviator Ernesto Campanelli, who accomplished a record-breaking flight from Italy to Australia with Francesco De Pinedo in 1925. On this subject, he has recently published a new essay through analysing new records found in Australian archives to illustrate how fascism exploited this accomplishment and how the Australian public perceived it.