Illustrazione tratta da opera di Giacomo Balla

The journal: its history

Corrado Barbagallo founded the “New Historical Journal” in 1917. The First World War was in progress and almost certainly, what was taking place in our country and throughout Europe at that time determined the concept of the journal. It was designed to be “a little different from the norm of other historical Journals” (Our Program, undersigned by the editorial staff, issue n. 1, year n. 1, January-March 1917). The concept of the journal clearly stated the “intention to instigate a new approach to our historical culture and to be consistent with the needs of the time”. In other words, to give more prominence to life events and politics, ever since have been considered the main components of historical writing (Barbagallo himself was, at this time, refocusing his interests away from ancient history and towards contemporary history). He was opposed to the critical-hisitorical style inherited from German historiography. This earlier style, though useful for presenting the source of the subject and methodology, transformed history into philology, palaeography, diplomacy and archaeology, detracting from both the main interest and the general overview. This is a risk, which if one considers carefully, afflicts historical writing time and again. The editorial staff, (Corrado Barbagallo, Guido Porzio, Ettore Rota), reported the initial success achieved by the Journal in the first issue of its 2nd year. This success had been achieved in spite of unfavourable circumstances at the time of its launch. They also reasserted the basic structural concept, i.e. to “make sure that historical writing would essentially become an intelligent interpretation of social facts, especially political ones, within a wider and more comprehensive meaning of the term” (page 3). If we consider, for a moment, official historiography of the period, we can understand how difficult it must have been for those experts (some young and some not so young), to bring about change in the academism and philology that characterised Italian historical culture. We can also understand just how much effort and courage was required to do so. “Historiography, (as Giuseppe Martini quotes in Fifty Years, published in 1967 to celebrate the journal’s fiftieth anniversary issue January- April, pp. 1 ss) had to become a science and not just a simple description of facts”. Barbagallo and other editors were well aware of the problems within historical materialism, although these were filtered by the original interpretation of Arturo Labriola and were, viewed more as inspiration, suggestion or verification than as strictly defined and applied learning. In 1899, Barbagallo himself published an essay entitled, “Historical Materialism”. His ideas were further developed in 1916 in the essay “ The Historical Materialism”. This later essay demonstrates how Gaetano Salvemini’s writings and his political and social action appeared almost paradigmatic to Barbagallo and his staff. However, in the “New Historical Journal”, historical materialism is not mentioned and it is obvious, although whether this was due to the influence of the 1st World War or to Barbagallo’s interpretative style, that the editorial staff of the Journal did not want to follow this particular path. Ups and downs followed: by 1930 the editorial staff consisted of Barbagallo, Gino Luzzatto as general coordinator, Piero Pieri, Porzio and Rota. The Journal was not considered favourably within the political arena of the day. In fact, during 1932 the press campaign was not a success and at the beginning of World War II the journal was forced to reduce its issues and page content in order to survive.

In 1942, as a result of changes in the racial laws, Luzzatto left the editorial staff, to rejoin it only at the end of the war. See the article written by Manuela Doglio on the “New Historical Review”, and “Historiography of the 20th Century (1917-1945)”, III-IV issue 1980, year LXIV. When Corrado Barbagallo died in Turin in 1952, Angelo Tursi joined the editorial staff, which at that time was comprised of Gino Luzzatto, Piero Pieri, Guido Porzio and Ettore Rota. Guido Porzio died in 1958 and Gino Luzzatto subsequently continued Porzio’s work in collaboration with Domenico Demarco, Piero Pieri and Nino Valeri. In 1963, Luzzatto, by then exhausted and suffering from ill health, asked Martini to take over the management of the “New Historical Journal”, although he remained on the Editorial Board until his death the following year. When Martini assumed the editorship he immediately seized the opportunity to help promote young, up and coming writers to publish their research. Underpinned by fifty years of cultural tradition and by an intelligent Publishing House, the Journal was a unique mouthpiece, free of ideological and political discrimination. It had become an excellent training ground for all historical writers; and so it remains to this day. In taking over the editorship, Martini drew up his program with reference to the layout designated by Barbagallo. He disagreed with philology and the negative-positiveness that characterised historical studies. He stressed that, interest and passion for real life stimulate drive and motivation towards study and are “essential for developing new ideas about history or any other subject; culture pines away and becomes a pretext for scholarly, but dreary exercises” (issue January-April 1964, page 5). In Martini’s opinion (in 1964), “historians should not be totally insensitive towards the real problems of the time”. He speculated that perhaps certain attitudes could be caused by antipathy towards methodical arguments and historical research, or by weariness brought about by teaching contemporary history in Universities. The newly created “Society of Italian Historians” did its utmost to introduce this discipline in Universities (See in this Journal the article “Recovering memory: the first ten years of the Society of Italian Historians – 1964-1974, second issue, year 2000, p. 337-364). Martini confirmed that “history had to be considered from a global point of view; that is to say, inclusive of political, cultural, religious, legal and economical events within the society which constitutes its common basis”. This meant acknowledging the need for specific in-depth studies without loosing sight of the general picture. Just as Barbagallo did before, Martini also highlights another defect in our historiography, that is, its “extreme provincialism”. He hoped that foreign historians could contribute research and also write for the Journal. In the first issue under Martini’s management, the editorial staff included myself (I then became full Professor of Medieval History at Milan University), Giorgio Chittolini, who now holds the same Professorship, and Enrico Decleva, who is now Rector of the same University: many historians who are now well known started their careers by writing for the “New Historical Journal”. Martini directed the Journal from 1964 until 1979, the year of his death. During these fifteen years he never strayed from the basic concept he outlined when he began his work.

The Journal’s style reflected Martini’s concept of historical research, his broad culture, his deep humanity, his open-mindedness and his never ending love for freedom of the spirit and of the individual. From the beginning, Martini referred frequently to non-Italian historiography; he enhanced and broadened the methodical vision as well, regardless of the field or the period of the research. Several studies were implemented regarding the history of economic, social, political and cultural structures in the Po valley. His vision also included the Greek and Byzantine East and the Islamic and Iranian world. In 1971, he introduced new literary pages about “History, Psychology and Social Sciences”, which were considered emerging arguments in research at that time. Consecutively he began working on the “Fifty Years General Index” – 1917-1966. 1966 marked the beginning of the listing of foreign historical journals that focused on Italian historical topics. This could not be continued due to the fact that the arrival of foreign journals in Italy was subject (and still is), to long delay and also because multilingual cooperation was needed. It is possible that this activity will be resumed, although the “Bibliographic Bulletin”, which is now published once a year due to lack of space, already provides extensive listings up to the year 2000 (including foreign historiography), not to mention numerous historical reviews such as the one about the French Middle Ages. Writing an account of the meeting organised by the Ecole Française in Rome on the “Annales” and Italian Historiography, Martini passionately supported Italian historiography against the impending threat of indiscriminate imitation from transalpine models that would limit independent historical research. This vision was in line with his intention to open the Editorial Board to historians from different disciplines, so as to receive contributions from a wide source of opinion. Shortly before he died, Martini contacted some of his friends, e.g. Luigi De Rosa (economics historian), Geo Pistarino (expert on Cristoforo Colombo and the Eastern Middle Ages) and Cesare Vasoli (Renaissance-historian) as well as young experts in contemporary history like Enrico Decleva and Giorgio Rumi who gave their support. Martini’s programme was implemented only in 1989, when Alberto Boscolo left not only Milan but the Journal as well, because he was called back to Tor Vergata University in Rome. The Editorial Board was expanded under the management of Gigliola Soldi Rondinini and, since 1973, Liliana Martinelli has given dedicated support to the editorial staff (in fact, a great part of the Journal’s activity relies on her). Roberto Perelli Cippi and Aldo Albonico later joined the Editorial Board and were members until 2000 and Nicola Criniti was also a member of the Editorial Board for a period of time. Over the years other people have joined the Editorial Board, e.g. Antonio Padoa Schioppa, the outstanding expert on Italian law, Cosimo Damiano Fonseca, the well-known Middle Ages expert, and also Grado Giovanni Merlo. Lellia Cracco Ruggini has made contributions regarding ancient history, while Valeria Fiorani Piacentini has contributed towards Islamic studies. When Gino Luzzatto and Giuseppe Martini died, the Editorial Board decided to publish two volumes in their memory. The first volume (January-April 1965 issue) contains essays by Ferdinando Milone, Roberto Cessi, Frederic C. Lane, Bruno Caizzi, Nino Valeri, Enzo Tagliacozzo and testimony by Raffaele Ciasca, Ugo Facco de Lagarda, Ugo La Malfa, Roberto Sabatino Lopez, Piero Pieri, Michael M. Postan, Silvio Pozzani, Cecil Roth, Armando Sapori, Freddy Thiriet, Charles Velinden and the bibliography by Angiolo Tursi. The second volume (“Copybook” n. 35 Writings and Evidences, 1981) contains some of Martini’s most significant essays, such as Regalae Sacerdotium as well as essays by Alberto Boscolo, Paolo Brezzi, Attilio Agnoletto, Gigliola Soldi Rondinini, Luigi De Rosa and the bibliography by Liliana Martinelli Perelli. All these testimonies underline particular aspects of Martini’s personality together with his attributes as an expert and organiser. Work on the Indexes, for the years 1967 to 1991, started in the 1990’s and these were published in 1997. We are currently working on those for 1992 to the year 2000. The Journal publishes three issues annually, consisting of a total of 750-800 pages, based on wide-ranging research and articles of broad historical vision that occupy the first part of each issue. Sections such as “Historical Issues”, “Notes and Documents”, “Interpretations and Reviews” follow, each one with a precise individuality apparent in the heading; “Congresses”, “Reviews” and “Bibliographic Bulletin” (twice a year). When an historian dies, well-known writers contribute obituaries under the column “Historians and Historians” informing readers of the event. The “New Historical Journal” has its own “Library” that includes “Note-Books” which contain individual essays previously published in the Journal; these are thus made available to the wider public. Forty-one “Note-Books” have already been published. Here below we indicate the most recent ones; the issue n. thirty-nine, contains reports drawn up in Milan, in 1999, at the Seminar on, Financing cathedrals and important public works in Middle-Ages – Northern and Central Italy – XII-XV Century. This Notebook includes reports on the “Opera di S. Maria del Fiore di Firenze”, the “Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano”, the “Opera della Cattedrale di Orvieto” and the “Opera della Metropolitana di Siena”; issue n. forty Arts and istory in Lombardy. Writings in memory of Grazioso Sironi, containing essays by the major italian and foreign arts’ historians. Issue n. forty-one, Laura Brazzo, Angelo Sullam and Zionism in Italy, between the end of the century and the Libian war, faces a very topical subject, and were published respectively in 2006 and 2007. The Journal has changed its graphic layout; once, in 1965, and again, in 1989 and had a cover restyling for the first issue of 2007. What has not been changed is Martini’s description of his task, i.e. to “constantly draw experts’ attention to basic issues, to the direction of methodology and to existing correlations between different areas of study, while still recognizing the legitimacy of specific technical research”. This can be achieved only by giving more prominence to a wide range of arguments and authors, young and not so young; some well known and others who hope to become so. This is how it has always been.

Traduzione di Tessa Jane Webster

Top page

  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Twitter
  • Wikio IT
Stampa articolo
Segnala ad un amico