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Encounters in wartime Italy: British soldiers and Italian civilians, 1943-1944

Simonetti, F. (2021) Encounters in wartime Italy: British soldiers and Italian civilians, 1943-1944. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00112440


This thesis explores the history and memory of the wartime encounters between British soldiers and Italian civilians during the Allied occupation of Italy. By shifting the focus away from the widely researched battlefields of the Italian Campaign, this work seeks to examine different aspects of the intercultural relationships taking place in the multifaceted contexts of invasion, liberation and occupation. While the first part deals with the different liberations – or ‘first encounters’ – of Sicily, Naples, and Rome, the second part focuses on the shared experience and issues caused by the Allied occupation – which I referred to as an ‘impossible co-habitation’. This research examines the ‘ordinary’ encounters taking place between soldiers and civilians in Italian cities occupied by the Allies as well as the overlooked experience of British servicemen and servicewomen in the Italian ‘contact zone’. Among the many issues analysed are soldiers and civilians’ perceptions of each other, the exchange of goods and services, the occupation and exploitation of the Italians’ space, soldier-tourism, working relationships, criminality, war weddings, and sexual encounters. This interdisciplinary study is based on the analysis of a rich corpus of mostly unpublished oral history interviews (many of them recorded during my research trips to Italy and Britain), diaries, letters, memoirs as well as on official documentation, photographs, and artworks I researched in both national and local archives and collections. By giving voice to soldiers and civilians, adults and children, men and women, I aim to explore the widest possible range of experiences by moving beyond simplistic explanations based on predominant narratives, towards a more complex social history of wartime encounters. As war disrupts people’s everyday life, forcing individuals to move and leading to previously unimaginable encounters, it can, indeed, destroy and divide. Nonetheless, the wide range of experiences discussed in this thesis will show that war can also provide opportunities for human interconnection and appreciation of different cultures.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:La Penna, D.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature & Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > Languages and Cultures > Italian
ID Code:112440

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