Posts tagged ‘history’

April 14, 2012

Thinking about the Titanic tragedy 100 years later as a human being (sort of) and as a 19th and 20th century historian

by felicitamodna82

Only a few days ago I was sharing  joy, happiness and passion by writing about my beloved Modena F.C., and now….here I am, remembering a tragedy. Nothing new, actually, since I write  mainly about wars, crises and pandemics as an historian (and still manage to make humour when I see the potentiality…have a look at my essay about the Spanish Flu, unfortunately only in Italian at the present time!).

Actually, I mentioned even in my Modena Centenary post that tragedy was in the air (Italian-Turkish war, Titanic itself, Great War). Remembering the Titanic disaster as a human being and as an historian lead me to some thoughts I would like to share. (yes, I also know that everybody will be googling Titanic in the next hours and therefore many poor people will pop on my blog mislead by some evil search engine, so I don’t resist the occasion of being under a spotlight 🙂 )

La Stampa, 19 aprile 1912 - Archivio on-line la Stampa

I did not learn about the Titanic thanks to Cameron&DiCaprio (Leo was and is not my type!). I learned about the tragedy because of my “middle school” English book, named Flying start. One unit had an article with pictures about the Titanic disaster, in order to teach us “sink, sank, sunk” –  in other words, to introduce us verb patterns. The “scuola media” is a kind of school every Italian kid attends from age 11 to 14 and at that time (beginning of the 90s) it used to be the school where a foreign language, sometimes even two, was first introduced. The sad story of the 3rd class sacrifice, of the missing lifeboats, of the “women and children first” rule caught my attention. This lead to two consequences: the first one is that I rarely make mistakes in English verbs since I learned patterns as a sort of song, while I never really got motivated to learn long lists of German verb patterns. (I am grateful to be an Italian native who used to love Italian grammar and literature, because I would hav never learned all those complicated Italian verbs with the same efforts and motivation I faced German ones 😀 ). The second one is that along with my World Wars stuff I started to read about the 1912 Titanic wreck as well, so that by the time Cameron’s colossal came out, I wasn’t a newbie to the topic.

Just a small digression: yes, I saw Cameron’s Titanic 2 times.  I was going on fifteen, so cinema was one of the few free time activities I was allowed to do (times change, don’t they?) and the film is anyway very good, even though the romance in the beginning is not well developed (why do they fall in love? Just because he represents the freedom she is longing for?). No one can deny you “sink with the ship” as you watch Cameron’s Titanic. The first time I saw it, right in 1997, was after  removing one of wisdom teeth. I did not cry a single tear because of (or thanks to) some Novocain still circulating through my face. Nevertheless, I DID cry when I saw it in English a few weeks later. There was a cinema where films were played in the original language and I had a listening comprehension test to pass. So I caught the opportunity, and, boy, did I cry my eyes out! My school mates made fun of me for days because of my state! Actually I was sadder for the poor Neapolitan immigrant, Fabrizio, than for Leo/Jack. Of course, the width of the tragedy and the final scene made me cry as well. (I recently watched the finale on you tube and I still cry my eyes out, but my favourite character is always Fabrizio and not Jack. I mean, he is sexier, funnier and didn’t even got the girl!)

As a human being and as an historian, I am very fascinated by the complexity of this story. I know that there have been worse tragedies. Hell, I research about worse tragedies! Nevertheless, I could not resist the charm of this particular one.

My romantic side – the human being –  is fascinated by tales about couples who decided to stay together on the ship instead of separating. That is true love, the one I am looking for. (…yes, stop laughing, I am single and yes, I know this kind of expectation is not going to make it change…but I better have it this way than being stuck in a relationship without love!). I know that many marriages at that time had little or nothing to do with love, so I perfectly understand that some women jumped into (half-empty) lifeboats and then decided not to “risk their lives” by searching for their husbands. But…reading that even in that era there were true couples that did not part makes my heart warm. I hope they are somewhere still together! So, sometimes people have luck in love and love exists. For those who never loved, I would like to clear one thing: if you really love somebody, losing him/her is a terrible, unbearable pain. So, it is only natural that you  choose to 99% die together with your beloved partner instead of some-percent-survive and 99% never see your love again. (I keep estimates flexible because in accidents like that everything and everything contrary is likely to happen).

I am also fascinated by the elegance of that ship. Especially externally. I mean, compare it with the shape of one of the Costa ships…there is no comparison. Titanic-like ships (its “sisters” and similar ships as well) are elegant, attractive, beautiful. I cannot say anything about interiors, but I’d wish ships were still built like the Titanic externally!!!

Then, the historian comes out. By having a look at the Encyclopedia Titanica, I got the umpteenth evidence of the strong phenomenon of the  Italian immigration characterised by successful stories and less successful stories that ended up together in the same abrupt stop. Not that I ignore or neglect the relevance (and sufferings) of other nationalities and other immigrants, but as an Italian young woman and an historian working on social history those are the names and stories I notice the most. Many of their names are as usual misspelled or sometimes even willingly anglicised. I was also very impressed by the – very clever – supposition I read somewhere (I forgot where, anyway it is not mine!) that families such as the  Goodwin family (see the story of “Our babe“) stayed together because a mother with children but without husband and older male children would have missed the needed financial support – as hard as it sounds, it could be plausible.

I also made some spontaneous remarks . The tragedy happened in 1912, in an era when on the one side modernisation was taking a huge acceleration, on the other side there were so many remains from the previous world. So, the striking contrast between the hyper-optimistic and positivist assumption that finally unsinkable ships could be built,  and the strongly observed, old-fashioned “women and children first” cavalry rule is remarkable. I know that there were men who were not “keen on observing the rule spontaneously”, but nevertheless there are evidences that the captain, some officers and even some passengers believed in it and complied with it. Some of them even used a gun to “make it get observed”. The contrast and the contradictions modernity/modernisation/cavalry/tragedy seem to mirror the constant state of the Western society between the Second Anglo-Boer war and Hiroshima: positive and dark sides of modernisation, resistance towards modernity, nostalgic attitude towards the past. Also, the metaphor of positivist enthusiasm and of dreams of a better life crashing against an iceberg reminds me of the stormy era 1914-1945 (especially the First World war is often seen as a rupture characterised by harsh disillusions). The same goes for the “Titanic lesson”, and I mean by this the improvement of safety measures on ships after the tragedy. After each tragedy of the 20th century we tried to “learn a lesson”: partly we succeeded, partly not, sometimes we only dreamt of learning and improving something just to be harshly disappointed … and then we have – or had –  to start again. And here we are in the 21st century…well, I am letting you draw your own conclusions. (keywords: wars, crisis, tragedies, wrecks, epidemics…). Interesting to see that people from professional fields other that history draw other conclusions about “Titanic&learning lessons”, such as in this article you can click. An interesting perspective for my “other” job as trainer and lecturer!

Reading, reading, I found out that one of the survivors of the Titanic also escaped internment in Fossoli and the harsh situation of WWII’s Italy (hunger, bomb attacks, terror). Fossoli was the concentration camp set up for several categories of prisoners, including civil prisoners, located near Carpi, Modena. I am currently trying to understand more about the civil prisoners and the labour forces departments of the camp.   The woman’s story is incredible  – if you are meant to live longer, you will, even through a wreck and two world wars- , and the “ethnocentric-egocentric” side in me also makes me think how small the world is.

Alright, enough writing, I am closing my post with this article about the recovered baby corpse. I loved because it is so well written, really touching :;

with two linked images  that symbolise the tragedy according to my sensibility, two grave markers (two paired shoes do not happen to reach the ocean floor together by chance): Titanic shoes debris by NOAA magazine  and Titanic shoes by . (Update: I add a third one – read the related Daily Mail article also). About this, I think these two three first linked pictures are “human remains” without any doubt and are heart-wrenching, while this picture – click here – makes me doubt a little more: I cannot see the second boot, and the amount of things and the shape make me think more of a half-destroyed suitcase or trunk. What do you think? (Historians develop also a few forensic skills, as long as they deal with tragedies…)

and my personal soundtrack for the evening, Simple Minds: a group I love, especially for their Someone somewhere in summertime and Mandela’s day. I was in the mood for Simple Minds, and of course I “knew” they wrote a song called Belfast child. So, that was my choice: a Simple Minds/Big Country/other NW groups compilation featuring Belfast Child. The Titanic was a “Belfast child”, so even though the song has nothing to do with the wreck, I find it a good soundtrack. Not that I don’t like James Horner’s heart-wrenching tunes, but New Wave will always be a great love of mine!! Call it “artistic licence”!

Rest in peace, all of you victims (and survivors who joined you afterwards, since nobody is still living).

For further reading, the web is plenty…so visit blogs and sites in the languages you know: a lot of people did a good job 🙂 honour them and their efforts! Some links are hidden in my text and pics (Italian newspapers above, for example), then search on engines and Facebook. Here below, an Austrian newspaper (link to the on-line archive);

Die Neue Zeitung 17. April 1912 - ANNO archive - (Austrian Newspaper Online) by the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Biblioteca Centrale dello Stato Austriaco)

I recently found two blog entries I appreciated. As an historian and as a curious human being, I was asking myself a few questions (about preservation, salvaging, and the time), and I found these:

I immediately “liked” them! So, check them out…and never stop looking for anything! (said the PhD student who was drowning in sources instead of quickly finishing her duties because she never stops looking for them…).

April 5, 2012

100 years Modena Football Club – 100 anni Modena F.C. – 100 Jahre Modena F.C. – I was there!!!

by felicitamodna82

5th April 1912: Modena Football Club was born.

5th April 2012: in the morning, supporters, fans, ultras are already setting up the party!!! In the evening: the party is up!

100 years without interruption, bankruptcy and always with our glorious canary-yellow tricot!!!!


Modena F.C. was born at the end of the “Belle Epoque”and in the middle of the radicalisation of the Italian society during the Italian-Turkish war, from the union of two pre-existing teams. It was still the former capital of the Duchy, now a small town in the Kingdom of Italy with scarce industrialisation, where the petty bourgeoisie “ruled” the whole city. This petty bourgeoisie was also the main agent in the foundation of this football club (university students and  military personnel included). Only after the Second World War the “people” would come nearer to this “gentlemanly” born sport, and during the Seventies even left-oriented symbols made their appearance among fans :-). Time can change everything, indeed!

A few days after the foundation, tragedy struck – as if the ongoing Libya war and the other prodromes of the First World War showing up in other parts of the world were not enough – : the “unsinkable” Titanic did sink in the Atlantic, bringing along more than 1500 lives.

Back to today, a lot of us fell in love with the team wearing “our” colours, and prove it every week-end by supporting the team at the Braglia or on-line ( as some of us had to migrate somewhere else…).

Il mio amore per te è durato più delle mie relazioni con gli uomini: auguri!!!!

My love for you has lasted longer than my relationships with men: happy birthday!

Meine Liebe für dich hat länger gedauert, als meine Beziehungen mit Männern! Alles Gute!

(which is not really a compliment towards men 😀 )

I never got to go to the stadium before my 18th birthday (my parents did not agree with terrace culture, so I wasn’t allowed to go) but I used to live near to the Braglia and my parrish church was right behind it. So I remember a lot of “nice things” from the ultras and fans during the 80s and the 90s…such as protests, running away from the police and hiding in the parish locals …I finally bought my first ticket in 2000 or 2001. I saw a match in the 3rd league. I later got to see the Second and even the First league with my “canaries”, but Serie A never raised the same warm and gemütlich feelings in me I still connect to my 3rd League memories: authenticity and family-like environment, probably a different society (the world changed a lot between the 90s and the 2000s). Even though I was there when Modena defeated Roma in Rome in 2002 or 2003! 🙂

My public photo album:

My playlist – some videos are by me, some others are not – :

A blog about Modena F.C. History

Reblogging a post by a friend(IT)

Storify page by a friend

Some press articles:

Targa commemorativa - Plaque - Gedenktafel; Caffè del Collegio, via San Carlo, Modena


♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥ ♥

If you love your home town, its cuisine, its language, its warmth, its beauty, you have to love your local team as well!!! My love for my Modenese essence matches my love for our colours. even though I also love the so called ultras mentality, a misunderstood way of life that deserves to be discovered (putting aside stereotypes and prejudices) and that opens the door to real passion and friendly ties.

Tìn la squèdra dla tò zitè! Tifa la squadra della tua città! Support your local football team! Unterstütze die Mannschaft deiner Stadt!

(work in progress!!!)

January 6, 2011

Retroactive history, political interest or just ignorance?

by felicitamodna82

This is fun…

As some of you may know, 2011 will be the 150. anniversary of Italy as a nation (though in an incomplete form, since the so-called Unità has been reached, revised and – well – contested during the 20th century…and although history and identity of Italy are still quite discussed or contested).

As part of celebrations, an exhibition has been organised. Title:

La bella Italia. Arte e identità delle città capitali

(beautiful Italy. Art and identity of capital cities)

There is a little problem. The exhibition should feature art from – I quote –  pre-unification “capital cities”...

Now, anybody who knows Italian history will soon recognize that…Bologna and Palermo WERE NOT capital cities, and have never been capital cities in the immediate pre-unification European asset, just to make it clear. On the contrary,  TRUE AND IMPORTANT CAPITAL CITIES LIKE MODENA AND PARMA (see Duchy of Modena e Reggio, Duchy of Parma) have been completely ignored. Any history student would be granted a “fail” in his/her exam for listing Bologna and Palermo as pre-Italian unification capital cities, these people are granted a lot of (public) money (in heavily indebted Italy) for doing this job BAD…

A mistake in the rationale, a shame and a stupid choice, since Modena and Parma are beautiful cities with wonderful and important cathedrals and well-established art museums and no exibition should be ashamed to feature them.

Politicians already tried to underline the mistake:

Please note that I had to agree with Giovanardi. This hurts! Never had I thought such a thing would happen… 😀

Now, as a historian I should try to understand:

  1. Did they fall victim of a sort-of-a-lapsus, writing “pre-unification capital cities” but thinking “today’s capital cities of Regioni(administrative unit similar to German or Austrian Land)” Or trying to create an innovative and provocative theory, making history from 1970 onwards retroactive? mm…
  2. Are they trying to perpetuate certain mythologies related to the history of unification and to the further political developments (Italy is a good thing, Austrians and Germans are the bad; the asset of nowadays – where a few cities catalyse any possible investment in public money – is the only one possible and so on? )
  3. Are they simply ignorant?

Who knows…

I believe Modena should start a serious reflection about her history, her historians…and definitely do not cooperate if asked for art pieces from her museums for these celebration. Reflect, rethink, boycott.

And, quoting the South Tyrolean slogan:  Los von Bologna! (away from Bologna!). We are only destroying our past and our future! We should re-integrate the old Emilia Longobarda and strengthen our ties to Central Europe (and no, not Eastern-Central Europe and not in the way Marchionne would wish…)

“organizzatori per capitali intendono quelle che hanno avuto un ruolo rilevante” ( “capital cities” are intended by the organisers as cities which played an important role).
What does this mean?
1) capital city has a definite meaning. Say “main city”, “main centre” – more appropriate – and, in any case, define in the rationale how you will use the definition. Rule No. 1 in every scientific work
2) Arguing that Modena and Parma ( even Reggio Emilia) did not play any important role before unification seems hard to every historian…

“Bologna as representative of whole Emilia”…and here once again the ignorance of almost an entire nation, ignoring that Bologna was not Emilia and this idea of Emilia has been invented. This will be finally shown in my Ph.D. Thesis. And…if art historians want to forge a new definition and a new theory, making an “Emilian art” exist” and creating a definition for a representative of this art…well, they should once again re-write their rationale, exposing their theory and using their own scientific language, not “ours”. “Capitali pre-unitarie” has a definite meaning if used without specification (“dell’arte” = “of art”). Even in this meaning, many people would not agree with the Piemontese choice…

Another one, from the Corriere della Sera:

«Forse c’è stato un equivoco — afferma il direttore della Reggia di Venaria, Alberto Vanelli —: questa non è una mostra storica sulle capitali d’Italia, ma una rassegna che punta a dimostrare come l’arte delle varie città, ben prima dell’unità d’Italia, avesse avuto un ruolo universale e unificante.

Then you should, again, read my comments about the way you developed your rationale, or abstract, or exposè, or razionale scientifico, as you prefer. Using the expression “Capitali pre-unitarie”  as shown on the site implies a certain meaning. I will not repeat what I exposed above.

“Creative history” as new level of public use of history?

Once upon a time there was Tyrol. Then Savoia Italy took away a strategic piece of land from it and made “Alto Adige” out of it. Many claim “it’s Italy, they are trentini, they must speak Italian”.

The same happened (beginning actually some years before…) some miles southwards on the Brennerstraße. Former capitals were subordinated to Bologna, the idea of Emilia Longobarda was gradually destroyed until the wonderful creation of Emilia-Romagna and of an Emilian Bologna. Guelph Bologna always fought Ghibelline Modena but only dominated Romagna and belonged later to the Papal State.

Political implications for these ideologies are quite clear. (see above).

I am waiting for my book about Austria to be published and for my Ph.D. thesis to be completed to have the possibility to bring new issues in the cultural and political debate around these themes, using ideas and evidences!

September 15, 2010

Answer to a book review for my Una Regione Ospedale (Italian)

by felicitamodna82

Somehow the Italian blog Frontiere Digitali does not allow me to comment this review, although they are supported by WordPress too. I am waiting for a solution to be found. In the meanwhile, I post my comment here, even though my blog was not meant to write about my scientific activities:

Innanzitutto ringrazio della recensione positiva ed entusiasta e dell’evidente impegno a leggere con accuratezza e a commentare così approfonditamente la nostra opera, peraltro uscita da poco e sicuramente non ascrivibile fra le “letture estive”.

Nell’ambito dello spirito della discussione pubblica sui contenuti, ci tenevo ad aprire un dialogo su un punto. Lei scrive che la mia scelta dei territori da comparare la lascia perplessa, soprattutto sulla base dei dati da me stessa forniti. Nel passaggio principale intendo sottolineare come la Provincia di Modena, in teoria unità amministrativa gerarchicamente inferiore al Land se prendiamo le entità statati Regno ed Impero, non pone problemi dal punto di vista demografico rispetto alla comparazione in quanto, addirittura, più popolosa del Land. Le motivazioni del mio confronto si dilungano però per i sottocapitoli successivi (da pag. 153 fino a pag. 165, più o meno) e delineano diversi paralleli  nelle funzioni dei due territori, oltre ad alcune similarità a livello di società. Non so se questo possa aiutare a chiarire meglio. Ho delineato le linee guida della mia comparazione relative a questa ricerca, lo stesso farò in maniera ben più approfondita (circa due capitoli) nella tesi di dottorato.

Sulle generiche perplessità sulla storia comparata poco posso fare, in quanto ha i suoi sostenitori assoluti, i suoi detrattori e coloro che pensano che rispetto a certi temi possa essere una metodologia piena di risorse e vantaggi. Si può discutere, quindi, su questo, ma la critica alla mia comparazione così presentata appare priva di argomentazione e sembra più un pretesto per attaccare la scelta comparativa in sé, sminuendo il valore della ricerca (il buon giornalista sa che “il mostro si sbatte in prima pagina”, e chiunque legga trova come prima cosa una critica anziché una lode).

Sacrosanta, invece, la critica sulla mancanza di un capitolo conclusivo, peraltro doveroso nella prassi accademica più rigorosa, ma sacrificato per questioni pratiche legate alla pubblicazione, cioè i limiti nel numero di pagine.

Cordiali saluti

Felicita Ratti

The review can be found here:

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