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Table of Contents p. 3

Letter from the Editor-in-Chief Chicago Journal of History

p. 4

Letter from a Faculty Member Matthew Briones, University of Chicago

pp. 5

Maturation of a Historian: Conversation with Walter Kaegi Walter Kaegi, Chicago Journal of History

p. 8

Authorial Voice in Ilkhanid Persian Historiography: Contradiction and Intent in the  Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni Darren Wan, University of Chicago

p. 15

Rivkah bat Meir: Subtle Redefinition of Gender Roles within the Confines of Traditional Jewish Society Michaela Nakayama Shapiro, Northwestern University

p pp. 20

Rationalizing Sex: the Hermaphrodite in Eighteenth Century Medical Writing Sarah Welz Geselowitz, Swarthmore College

Editor-in-Chief Hansong Li

p. 29

Workers’ Demonstrations and Liberals’ Condemnations: the Italian Liberal Press’s Coverage of General Strikes, Factory Occupations, and Workers’ Self-Defense Groups during the Rise of Fascism, 1919-1922 Ararat Gocmen, Princeton University

Senior Editors Sarah Manhardt Paige Pendarvis Miki Takeshita

p. 44

Use Your Buying Power for Justice: the League of Women Shoppers and Innocuous Feminist Radicalism 1935-1948 Kathy Higgins, Smith College

p. 54

Start Here Now: Interview with Constantin Fasolt Constantin Fasolt, Chicago Journal of History

Junior Editors Zoe Chan Michael Goodyear Kevin Otradovec Cover Design Jiaying Xu Designer Annie Cantara

Faculty Advisers Leora Auslander, Professor of European Social History, in the College, and Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor in Western Civilization Dain Borges, Associate Professor of Latin American History and the College Jane Dailey, Associate Professor of American History, the Law School, and the College Jan Goldstein, Norman and Edna Freehling Professor of History, the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and the College Specialist Advisor Nancy Spiegel, Bibliographer for Art and Cinema, Bibliographer for History at the University of Chicago Library


Dear Readers, It is our great pleasure to introduce to you the Spring 2016 issue of the Chicago Journal of History. Conceived as a forum for innovative research and interdisciplinary dialogue, the journal brings together students of all backgrounds to explore a wide range of topics in historical inquiry and allied fields. Thanks to support from our authors, readers and faculty advisers, we continue to publish outstanding essays that reflect our commitment to rigor and diversity. In this issue, you will find topics across a wide temporal, geographical and thematic spectrum. In general, the authors are concerned with tensions between ethnic identities, religious groups, gender divisions and economic classes in complex societies. As editors, we do not impose an artificial common thread to knit these disparate worlds into a single narrative. Rather, it is our desire to leave this interpretation to the readers’ own judgment. The story begins in the High Middle Ages Eurasia. Given its vast territory and internal pluralism, Mongol imperial history demands sources from a variety of traditions and in a plethora of languages. Among the most important is Persian historiography, its primary scholars for this period being Jovayni and Rashid al-Din: while the latter receives much more academic attention, Jovayni has been seen as a mere sycophant. However, according to Darren Wan, student of history at the University of Chicago, Jovayni’s position was in fact the more nuanced. And the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni, once analyzed in this new light, emerges as a useful source that treads the line between two audiences, the ruling Mongol patrons and the downtrodden Persians. Moving into 16th century Prague, you will find yourself reading an extraordinary religious text with Michaela Nakayama Shapiro, student of history at Northwestern University. The title of her article suffices as an eloquent summary of her thesis: “Rivkah bat Meir: Subtle Redefinition of Gender Roles within the Confines of Traditional Jewish Society”. Shapiro argues against traditional scholarship’s uniform understanding of early modern Jewish women as powerless victims to masculine domination in religious life. Instead, she argues that, despite due concessions to the Jewish authority in the treatise “Meneket Rivkah”, Rivkah bat Meir created a niche for women to interpret religion for themselves. If the previous author studies gender in relation to religion, Sarah Welz Geselowitz, student from Swarthmore College, investigates a problematic category of gender as portrayed in medical writings: the Hermaphrodite in the 18th century. According to Geselowitz, critics of the time considered the hermaphrodite as superstitious and contrary to reason on the basis that medical knowledge in human reproduction failed to explain the phenomenon. She concludes that the subjectivities of the hermaphrodites have been permanently lost; there is no way to think what they thought. Still available are the fragments of medical writings about the hermaphrodites. Perhaps more than her excellent textual analysis, the essay’s implications for historical study is remarkable. Ararat Gocmen, student from Princeton University, tracks two Italian newspapers: La Stampa’s and L’Illustrazione italiana’s coverage of workers’ activism from 1919 to 1922, in order to understand the Italian liberals’ changing attitude toward workers’ demonstrations. Hoping to offer an important insight on the rise of Fascism, the author also makes it clear that he undertook this research project in the context of today’s reemergence of far-right movements. In other words, it is his present interest in the leftist, liberal and rightist politics that motivates him to delve deep into historical archives of the past. In this way Gocmen, too, sends his readers a message about the practice of history. Kathy Higgins, a student from Smith College, approaches women’s history at its intersection with consumerism, class divisions, and politics. Rather than isolate a particular identity from others, this paper explores the interwoven dynamics of a complex issue from 1935 to 1948, devoting particular attention to the success and limitations of the League of Women Shoppers, a privileged middle-to-upper-class women’s consumer activist group. Higgins carefully delineates for her readers the position of an organization that both insisted on its own culture and built cross-class coalitions to champion for civil rights and consumer justice, In addition to the five articles authored by aspiring historians, you will also find in this issue the exciting opportunity to converse with some of the most excellent professional scholars in the field of history. On behalf of the Department of History faculty members, Matthew Briones, Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the Collegiate Affairs Committee, congratulates the Class of 2016 historians for their accomplishment, and encourages history majors to carry on the legacy of rigorous inquiry. In a conversation with the Chicago Journal of History, renowned Byzantine scholar Walter Kaegi discusses his passions in early years and how he became a historian. As a member of the Oriental Institute and long-time professor at the University of Chicago, he not only relates his extensive travel experiences in the Middle East and North Africa but also recalls the old days when Harper was still a dark and ill-lit library. Finally, the Chicago Journal of History is fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with our distinguished faculty member, Constantin Fasolt, Karl J. Weintraub Professor of History at the University of Chicago. Professor Fasolt discusses his childhood in Post-World War II Germany, his early encounter with philosophy and history, as well as his opinions on education. He tells us the stories behind the enigmatic course on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, and the ways in which the book may contribute to our understanding of history and politics. The editors are confident that you will be both inspired and challenged by the ideas and perspectives presented in these interviews. The Chicago Journal of History editors invite you to explore this issue and encourage you to share any afterthoughts and criticisms with us. We could be reached on the “Chicago Journal of History” Facebook page and by email: ughistoryjournal@gmail.com. If you live in Chicago, or have the opportunity to visit the University of Chicago, we invite you to join us in our future events. If you would like to receive the copy of a particular issue by mail, please contact the editorial board. We appreciate your readership and your valuable feedback, and we look forward to introducing you to the upcoming Autumn 2016 issue very soon. 3


Letter from a Faculty Member: The History Department faculty would like to congratulate the editors of the Chicago Journal of History  for another wonderful issue.  We would also like to extend our congratulations to our majors graduating this spring: it has been a challenging, but hopefully productive and engaging, four years.  The excellence of the 56 BA theses submitted this year is truly unprecedented.  We hope that you enjoyed the process as much we enjoyed working with all of you. Like many disciplines in the Social Sciences and Humanities around the nation, History finds itself struggling to gain recognition and support from administrations, as cost-cutting and the emphasis on careerist majors seem ubiquitous.  However, our History concentrators continue to prove the relevancy of our field and our work, and History majors at the University of Chicago remain one of the few concentrations left requiring a BA.  We are rigorous and carry high expectations of our students, but we also get to know and support our students in ways that other departments simply can’t. Thank you for the effort, work, and energy you give us.  Our Department is nothing without our undergraduates. Professor Matthew Briones May 10th 2016

Architectural drawing (reproductive print copy) of the Social Science Research Building, University of Chicago. Archived in 1929. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf2-07443], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

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Maturation of a Historian: Conversation with Walter Kaegi Interview conducted by Michael Goodyear, Hansong Li and Kevin Otradovec Walter Kaegi is a scholar of Byzantine and late Roman history. At the University of Chicago he is Professor of History and the College, and a Voting Member of the Oriental Institute. He is the co-founder of the Byzantine Studies Conference, editor of the journal Byzantinische Forschungen and past president of the US National Committee for Byzantine Studies. In a conversation on January 26th 2016, Professor Kaegi shared his insights and stories with the Chicago Journal of History. Chicago Journal of History (CJH: HL): To begin the conversation, we are curious about how you first came into Byzantine history. Has the focus of your academic work shifted over time? And why did you go in those directions? Walter Kaegi, Professor (WK): First of all it was back in elementary school when I decided that I wanted to be a historian, though it was in the senior year of high school that I decided to go into Byzantine history, to study more or less some of the centuries that I work on now, say 4th and 5th century to especially about 11th. In those days I was also influenced by some of the historians who are completely out of interest today, such as Edward Gibbon and Arnold J. Toynbee. But at the time I bought all of the volumes—in hardback—of Toynbee’s A Study of History and later on a couple of supplements. I bought them and those books gave me some inspiration. And later I broadened in use and study of Arabic, and studied more aspects of the Middle East and Levant than originally planned. So I guess you could say that is how I came to studying history. Again once I had some minor interest in U.S. history but I moved away from that to those broader questions. CJH (MG): Among the many books and articles you’ve written and published on Byzantine history, which one of them is of special importance to you? WK: Perhaps the one on Heraclius. CJH (MG): Is there a particular reason for that? WK: Because I ended up bringing in a lot of types of historical sources at every crucial point in time. CJH (MG): To broaden the topic a little more: how do you see your historical scholarship fit into and have effects on the world today? WK: Well, I try to avoid imposing policy questions in what I do, but I am someone who is interested in the contemporary world. I’ve been involved in extensive travel, and that’s not 5

only a part of my travel for researches; I’m fortunate to have been able to travel to a fair number of—to put it broadly— risky places: Iraq in 1988, for example. I was in Damascus under Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president of Syria Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and had to witness and had thoughts on the civil war. My last risky travel was in 2013, visiting the last part of the Roman Empire that I had never visited, eastern Libya, and western Libya, which I had not seen since 1968 at the end of monarchy. I was fortunate enough because I’m also a member of the Oriental Institute, so I was able to use their good offices, and received a rare Fulbright fellowship to get to Iraq in the summer of 1988, where I was given extensive travel rights to be in various places that were otherwise difficult to visit. But way back as an undergraduate, I had been involved in international relations clubs. I had had a good friend, Akira Iriye, who was later chair of the University of Chicago’s history department, and then went to Harvard, who studied JapaneseAmerican war and American foreign policy in the Pacific. So I had strong interest in foreign policy, but I normally stay out of that. I guess I could also say that I am a person born in what U.S. historians call the “Silent Generation”—those who matured after the end of McCarthyism. Since I grew up, only rarely have I ever signed petitions or things of that kind. And I certainly was involved in journalism. Writer Hunter S. Thompson was on my newspaper in elementary and junior high school, and actually he was an influence for my interest in U.S. history, way back. I came from the Ohio valley, so I have been aware of mentalities of southern Indiana and Kentucky, that’s something else. I enjoy visiting U.S. historical sites, but I don’t quite do any researching about them. Last summer in 2015 I taught in Taiwan, and I’m aware of the latest events in Taiwan: now with the deep freeze, where a lot of people died because of it and the crops were badly damaged, that was interesting. I know only a limited amount about the Pacific Rim. CJH (HL): Between Byzantine times and today, have you seen any continuities—for example how key places play similar roles—in North Africa and the Middle East? WK: Yes, certainly in visiting, I was privileged to have seen, in Asiatic and Anatolian Turkey, technological changes occurring with agriculture. Many of these sites I was able to visit, such as Kurdistan, in a more peaceful time there, and in North Africa as well. Going back to high school I was very interested in Algerian revolution against France and wrote in the local newspaper about that. And my wife was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia, so that broadened my interest in a certain way. I would


say that in visiting Algeria, which has all kinds of security problems especially in eastern Algeria near the Tunisian border, I see a lot of continuity of problems. Let’s take a place that’s almost on news every day, the border between Algeria and Tunisia, Kasserine—that’s completely out of control, and it was important in WWII for the U.S. and Germany; I certainly had the good fortune to have a Fulbright that enabled me to do a little teaching in Algeria and see things there. Now, for Byzantium I traveled extensively in the Balkans and have seen changes there. I think right now, people cannot understand Russia when they don’t take Byzantium and orthodoxy seriously, for example, Crimea, and so forth. But I don’t write about policy in the Black Sea region. I think that, in any case, I don’t write about history simply oblivious to the past; I don’t think that, however, the past can solve North African problems—and there are problems—or those in Anatolia and in areas in the east. But travel is something very important, I think, for a historian: long ago, Herodotus would travel, and it is even more so in recent eras. CJH (KO): So I’m really curious, in your opinion do you think that there is a certain trait that characterizes a good historian, based on your experience? WK: Well there are so many different kinds of historians. Of course remember that history comes from the Greek root “investigate, to research,” not to tell a story—which is totally misleading. Sometimes the English language can lead to distortion. So since there are so many different historians, I’ve

known many who work on many different things. Obviously today we have an explosion of publications on history, so that no one can keep up with everything. So when you say historians, I think it is important, when possible, not simply to use the net, but to be able to talk face-to-face whether at the table or in the classroom and certainly I have benefitted also as a historian from questions in the classroom, I mean especially in smaller classrooms. That is: a huge lecture class is going to create very different challenges than something in a smaller context. Contact with undergraduate students has enriched me; it has helped develop me, not just the students. Now I myself enjoy at times sitting with a coffee or tea and writing amidst other people doing other things. Then at other times I cannot work alone, but I certainly have used Regenstein since it was created. I remember, imperfectly, what it was like here before we had a Regenstein. CJH (MG): So the multiple libraries across campus? WK: Well not only that, but you can’t imagine here, the Harper Reading room, that way back then it was dark and ill-lit at night, and so my impression was except for reserve, a lot of people, especially students, grabbed the books and went home. Wherever that was—see, first of all they didn’t even have something like a Harper Café or other things, so it was not very pleasant to stay around. CJH (KO): Right. WK: And not near. I was told by the old-timers what it once was like way back on 60th Street. There was a strip along there. Of course I’ve seen these old library cards where students once lived at 63rd and 64th Street. But of course the campus has changed a lot. I myself, by the way, although I wanted to become a historian, the alternative was to become something totally different, a landscape architect. And so I’ve always been interested somewhat in gardening and I have a house with two big oak trees in the back and things like that. But I didn’t go that way. But I admire this type of art, and that’s a kind of relief from historical work to be able to do something different, whether gardening or other things. Now since they’ve planted things on the Midway, it’s totally different now. I mean we have a large number of rabbits, which you did not see long ago – there was no cover. And the squirrels were always there, though not the rabbits. Then of course the raccoons and so forth. But anyway, that’s just for relief. Some other person is simply going over where the lake is. But as a historian I am not interested in historical fiction. There are enough historical events, whether contemporary or older that are much more interesting to me. CJH (MG): No work by Harry Turtledove or those sort of fiction works?

Courtesy of the Chicago Journal of History

WK: Well, yes. I’ve met him. Historical fiction just never interested me as much as something like historical reality. Now we all know that historical reality is somewhat constructed and 6


that we’re only getting bits and pieces. I enjoy history, but I came into it from reading more on my own, since there was not someone around. I certainly had some excellent teachers at different times in my life. Historical study has changed a lot. Well, you can’t imagine what it was like before. Once one used typewriters. You would assume that people always had good ways for Word processing, but it wasn’t that way a little while ago. I have been privileged to know various colleagues when I first came here, such as the late Eric Cochrane, he was a Renaissance or Late Renaissance, Florentine historian, and was my initial host. He was a very great teacher of undergraduates as well as graduate students and he tragically died early—aged 58—I believe it was. He was concentrated on Florence, and his wife just died. One benefits from colleagues, but one can’t spend all of one’s time in conversations with them or you won’t get any of your own writing or research done. And I certainly had not contemplated going the direction I did when I was in high school or undergraduate. In one sense I knew some of the period, but I had no idea that I would end up going as much into some materials as I did and I’ve become more interested in visual, if you want to say art historical and archaeological, even though I am not and have never been a field archaeologist. I am a great patron of museums of various kinds to look at physical, visual evidence. And now that’s become much more accessible than it once was. You can imagine these old-fashioned slides and lantern slides and so forth. But I’ve studied coins as well and I only use them to a slight degree but they bring a dimension from the past that may give pretty accurate dating while on the other hand that’s not solving a lot of problems, because inscriptions can be very misleading—such as in propaganda and so forth. CJH (MG): What are the major changes that you’ve seen here at the University of Chicago, in your tenure here? WK: Well, I guess the number of undergraduates has changed. But, on a simplistic level, something obvious that changed: I’m someone who never smoked, but when I was an undergraduate (this was not here), but during a 3 hour final exam, some students would smoke a CARTON during the exam. Cigarettes were cheap. But here when I first came, normally, students were smoking—let’s take this building, Social Sciences 106, 107 and so forth, those were all full of smoke. My offices always had an ashtray, and so forth. So that on a very superficial level has been a big change—for students, faculty and staff, that became a gradual change—but only in the mid-80s. CJH (MG): So it didn’t happen immediately after the surgeon general’s warning? WK: Oh no. The surgeon general’s did nothing immediately, except for, a few people who read it carefully. But here, that’s an obvious change. So, by the middle of the 1980s, there had been no written policy not to smoke in the hallways—then gradually policies changed for professors’ offices and administrator’s offices. Regenstein had, at first, smoking everywhere. Then 7

Readers return books to attendants at William Rainey Harper Memorial Library. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf2-03111], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

they split—if you can imagine it—into different reading levels, half of it would be smoke, and half would be non-smoke. Of course, this was true on the airplanes too. But that, on a very superficial level, is a change. And obviously, the numbers of students changed. A much larger number of Asian students, there were always some Asian students, but that changed greatly here between when I started and now. And again, those are just some superficial changes. CJH (MG): Of course. WK: I have been privileged to teach various exceptional students over a long period of time. Including, Tony Grafton, who’s at Princeton. And there are others. CJH (MG): If you could take a civilization core course that was not your own, which would you choose? WK: I’m not sure. I might take something from East Asia, or about China. I’m not sure what that course is called? CJH (MG): East Asian Sequence? WK: Yes. CJH (MG): Is there any particular reason? WK: I’ve always had an interest of course. More recently I actually visited China. It has many different dimensions. Anyway, you asked, that’s the one I’d take–and I’m not speaking of any particular instructor. CJH (MG): No of course, I’m sure a few have taught the sequence over your time here. WK: Yes, and I obviously wouldn’t say Middle East, because I’m close to it, but I don’t teach it.


Authorial Voice in Ilkhanid Persian Historiography: Contradiction and Intent in the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni By Darren Wan, University of Chicago

Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Division orientale. Supplément persan 206, fol. 30v

The Mongol Empire established by Chinggis Khan (d. 1227) was a single polity that spanned from China to the shores of the Caspian Sea. While Mongol expansion across the Eurasian ecumene into China and Eastern Europe continued under Chinggis Khan’s successor, Ögedei Khan (r. 1229–1241), the appanage system of Mongol inheritance encouraged the autonomy of the various domains governed by Chinggis Khan’s other sons.1 The Ilkhanate (1255–1335),2 ruled by the descendants

1 2

Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilisation, 3 vols, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), vol. II, 288–292. The periodization of the Ilkhanate, taken for the purposes of this essay to be 1255–1335, is highly contested. Marshall G. S. Hodgson marked the establishment of the Ilkhanate as 1255,

of Chinggis Khan’s grandson Hülegü (Ilkhan, r. 1255–1265), was one of the four autonomous Mongol appanage polities. The Ilkhanate was formed as a result of the expansionist policies of Möngke Khan (r. 1251–1259), the grandson and third successor of Chinggis Khan, who sought to reinforce the Mongol grip on Southwest Asia. In 1255, he enjoined his brother Hülegü to conquer the as yet unsubdued lands located southwest of the Aral Sea.3 Hülegü’s army was virtually undefeated for five years until the Battle of ‘Ayn Jālūt (1260), when the triumphant forces of the Mamlūk sultan Baybars delimited the western border of the Ilkhanate at Syria.4 Whether Möngke Khan intended Hülegü’s creation of an independent but nominally subordinate appanage is unclear. What the historical documents and chronicles of the time do attest, however, are the ways by which the Ilkhanate shaped the human landscapes of the Iranian Plateau in the century following Hülegü’s conquest. The Persian chronicles of the Mongol Empire are invaluable sources for understanding not only the meteoric rise of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but also the character of the Iranian elite that served the Ilkhans. The most prominent modern scholarly attention on Persian historiography during the Ilkhanid period has been cast on Jāme‘ al-Tavārikh, a world history composed in the early fourteenth century by Rashid al-Din (1247–1318), the vizier to the Mongol Ilkhans Ghāzān (r. 1295–1304) and Öljeitü (r. 1304–1316), both of whom converted to Islam. Because mass conversions of the animist Ilkhanid Mongols to Islam occurred during Ghāzān’s reign, Rashid al-Din was able to view Mongol rule in a fashion similar to that of chroniclers of previous waves of foreign rulers in Persia, like the Seljuq Turks in the eleventh century, who had also adopted Islam. The Mongol conquest of Persia was for Rashid al-Din a fait accompli that called for neither justification nor defense, and his Jāme‘ al-Tavārikh was probably written as an aide-mémoire for his Muslim Mongol patrons.5 ‘Alā’-al-Din ‘Atā-Malek Jovayni (1226–1283), the chronicler

3 4 5

the year that the Ilkhan Hülegü conquered the Iranian Plateau (Hodgson, Venture, vol II, 411.). The end of the Ilkhanate was taken by David Morgan to be 1335, the year of the death of the Ilkhan Abu Sa‘id, the last ruler of the Ilkhanate with any semblance of autonomous authority (David Morgan, The Mongols (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 148–150.). Hodgson, Venture, vol. II, 291. Ibid., 392. Morgan, The Mongols, 17-18. 8


on whom this paper is focused, was, like Rashid al-Din, a vizier to the Ilkhans. From the years 1252 to 1260, he composed the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni, a three-volume chronicle that commenced with Chinggis Khan’s career and ended with Hülegü’s conquest of the Ismā‘īlī Shī‘ī fortress at Alamūt. Jovayni found favor with the Mongol governor of Iran at the time, Argūn Āqā, and traveled thrice to Mongolia.6 In 1257, he marched on Baghdad with Hülegü, who later appointed him governor of the captured city.7 These experiences gave Jovayni unprecedented access to the Mongol ruling elite, and it is with this unique position in mind that the first volume of the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni will be discussed, a volume that focuses on the early Mongol conquests of Chinggis Khan and his immediate successors. David Morgan speculates that, given the shamanist religious proclivities of the Mongol conquerors, early Ilkhanid historiography documents the shock of the Iranian elite at suffering repeated military defeats at the hands of pagans from the Central Asian steppe.8 This is where Jovayni’s circumstances deviate from those of Rashid al-Din, for the former was writing in what Melville calls “the dark period before Ghāzān’s conversion”,9 and did not have the benefit of knowing that the Mongols would later enter the fold of Islam. A critical reading of the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni as veiled polemic can further these views by highlighting the insecurities of a Muslim official navigating new political landscapes and occupying a tenuous position in a polity run by polytheist foreigners. The methodology of this paper is best expressed by Kappler, who writes that “Joveyni écrit une Histoire officielle où il n’est pas libre d’exprimer ses opinions et ses sentiments profonds: pour découvrir ceux-ci, il faut lire entre les lignes.”10 Although the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni is an imperially commissioned chronicle, Jovayni’s authorial voice is detected under a veneer of historical description. The contradictions that pervade Jovayni’s ornate yet measured prose reflect a view that is necessarily conflicted—Jovayni is indebted to the Mongol patrons of his historiographical undertaking, yet those very patrons had inflicted innumerable atrocities on his countrymen. By analyzing the disjuncture in intent between an officially commis6

George Lane, “Jovayni, ‘Alā’-al-Din,” in Encyclopædia Iranica, XV/1, ed. Ehsan Yarshater (New York: Columbia University Center for Iranian Studies, 2009), 64. 7 Charles Melville, “Jahāngošā-ye Jovayni,” in Encyclopædia Iranica, XIV/4, ed. Ehsan Yarshater (New York: Columbia University Center for Iranian Studies, 2008), 378. 8 Morgan, The Mongols, 15-17. 9 Charles Melville, “The Mongol and Timurid Periods, 12501500,” in A History of Persian Literature, Volume X: Persian Historiography, ed. Charles Melville (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2012), 188. 10 “Jovayni writes an official history in which he is not at liberty to express his true opinions and sentiments: to discover these, one must read between the lines.” Claude-Claire Kappler, “Regards sur les Mongols au XIIIème siècle: Joveyni, Rubrouck,” Dabireh 6 (1989): 193. 9

sioned work and a personal expression of grief and loss in the first of the three volumes of Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni, one can discern that under the surface of Jovayni’s pre-Islamic imagery and his religious vision lies his keen criticism of his pagan Mongol patrons. Literary Patronage and Panegyric In keeping with the literary traditions of courtly literature, panegyric on one’s patron is an indispensible element of the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni.11 Due to the nature of such stylistic conventions, differentiating between insincere panegyric and genuine praise is an essential step in uncovering Jovayni’s authorial voice. Franklin Lewis, in arguing that the courtly poet used greater discretion in his panegyric than one would expect, has demonstrated the importance of such an exercise, as the adept poet was functionally in control of the literary exchange between patron and client.12 The customary opening doxology is followed immediately by the exaltation of Möngke, the ruling Khagan of the whole Mongol Empire, of whom Jovayni writes, “the tales of Nushirvān’s justice were hidden thereby and the traditions of Faridun’s wisdom seemed effaced.”13 Drawing on pre-Islamic personages is a common device for Persian panegyric, as is hyperbole. That Möngke’s virtuousness exceeds that of the Sasanian paragon of justice and of the Indo-Iranian mythical personification of excellence demonstrates the extent of Jovayni’s embellishment of his prose, and some of the constraints of writing at the behest of his literary patron. Jovayni emphasizes this feature of courtly prose by writing that the purpose of compiling his chronicle is “in order to perpetuate (takhlid) the excellent deeds and to immortalize (ta’bid) the glorious actions of the Lord of the Age (pādshāh-e vaqt), the youth of youthful fortune and aged resolve”.14 In outlining the goal of his ambitious historiographical endeavor, Jovayni employs imagery relating to time to underline the significance of Möngke’s rule, thereby arguing that his temporal reign is worthy of transcending the limits of his worldly existence. Despite the ingratiating language of his opening panegyric on his patron, however, there is little reason to completely dismiss Jovayni’s text based on his adulation of the Mongols. It is true that the opening panegyric is highly sycophantic and flatters Möngke in every way possible, but this is a necessary 11 12

Ibid. Franklin Lewis, “Sincerely Flattering Panegyrics: The Shrinking Ghaznavid Qasida,” in The Necklace of the Pleiades: 24 Essays on Persian Literature, Culture and Religion, eds. Franklin Lewis and Sunil Sharma (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2010), 219–220. 13 ‘Alā’-al-Dīn ‘Atā-Malek Jovayni, Genghis Khan: The History of the World Conqueror, trans. J. A. Boyle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 2. Translations of this primary text are taken from Boyle’s edition, with slight modifications. 14 Ibid., 3.


feature of a work of courtly literature. Besides, other passages where Jovayni praises Mongol rulers are limited in scope and often refer to specific historical events or corroborate with what we know from other primary sources. For example, in describing the structure of Chinggis Khan’s family, he writes that Chinggis Khan “was wont to urge the strengthening of the edifice of concord (tashyid-e banā-ye movāfaqat) and the consolidation of the foundations of affection (tamhid-e qavā‘ed-e olfat) between sons and brothers”.15 It may appear that in claiming the strength of Chinggisid family unity, Jovayni is being unduly sycophantic, as later in Jovayni’s own text, there is evidence that the antagonistic relationships between the Chinggisids had already become entrenched with the partition of Chinggis Khan’s Eurasian empire into four appanages.16 There is evidence that Jovayni was merely reflecting what he knew from contemporary documents, however, as he supports his claim by retelling a parable purportedly told by Chinggis Khan: a single arrow is effortlessly broken in half, but a bundle of arrows, an allegorical reference to fraternal unity, cannot be broken with ease.17 This parable is found in the Secret History of the Mongols, 18 the only extant Mongolian chronicle from the period. Even though Alan Qo’a, a mythical ancestor of the Chinggis Khan’s Borjigin clan ten generations before Chinggis Khan himself, tells the parable, its similarities to Jovayni’s narrative are striking. While it may have been difficult for Jovayni to gain access to a Mongolian-language text that was taboo for anyone outside the Mongol imperial family, his sustained interactions with the ruling elite possibly allowed him to hear about extracts from the Secret History, just as Rashid al-Din could have learnt about the contents of the Altan Debter through a Mongol.19 Therefore, while it may seem sycophantic and perhaps even somewhat ironic to applaud familial unity among the Chinggisids, Jovayni’s praise stems from information drawn from contemporary primary documents, and reflects the value of his practice of historiography. Jovayni also writes about other merits of the Mongols that are historically defensible, such as their religious tolerance. In his view, Chinggis Khan “eschewed bigotry (ta‘assob)”, and “respected, honored and revered (ekrām va e‘zāz va tabjil mi-karde-ast) the learned and pious of every sect, recognizing such conduct as the way to the Court of God.”20 While an element of hyperbole is undoubtedly involved in Chinggis Khan’s purported humility toward the pious of all religions, other contemporary observers corroborate the policy of reli-

15 16 17 18 19 20

Ibid., 30. David Ayalon, Outsiders in the Lands of Islam: Mamluks, Mongols and Eunuchs (London: Variorum Reprints, 1988), IVa, 133. Jovayni, History, 30. The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century, trans. Igor De Rachewiltz, 2 vols (Boston: Brill, 2004), 4. Morgan, The Mongols, 11. Jovayni, History, 18.

gious tolerance in the Mongol polity.21 Jovayni also extends his praise beyond the court by applauding the military prowess of the Mongols through a rhetorical question: “What army in the whole world can equal the Mongol army?”22 He describes the efficiency of the renowned Mongol military apparatus by comparing the army to “trained wild beasts out after game (sebā‘-e zāri andar shekār)” during times of war, but “in the days of peace and security they are like sheep, yielding milk, and wool, and many other useful things (gusfandān bā shir va pashm va manāfe‘-e besyār).”23 The comparisons of Mongol soldiers to domesticated animals that would have been familiar to an audience with steppe pastoral origins may seem like an attempt to appeal specifically to the Mongols’ sensibilities through imagery with which they would have been familiar. While it may seem offensive to compare the Mongols to animals, it is important to bear in mind that this simile is limited to the Mongol masses and does not include the literate class to whom the chronicle is addressed. Jovayni’s awareness of his audience suggests his value as a chronicler, because he is attempting to view historical incident from the perspective of his patrons. It is for this reason that Kappler highlights the importance of Jovayni’s Tārikh: “Il est difficile de reconnaître les mérites de l’Altérité quand celle-ci est venue par l’invasion, le bain de sang et la terre brûlée. Pourtant Joveyni eut ce talent.”24 Weighing the merits of the Mongol Other despite the horrors of their conquest demonstrates Jovayni’s historiographical flair, and it is in military matters that Jovayni’s apparent contradictions surface most prominently. Reading Jovayni as Polemic Jovayni’s praise of the Mongol military appears to be at odds with his descriptions of the destruction wrought upon myriad regions and cities across Eurasia. He is unequivocal in describing the extent of devastation in his native Khorasan and in Iraq, writing that every town and every village has been several times subjected to massacre and pillage (koshesh va ghārat kardand) and has suffered this confusion (tashvish) for years, so that even though there be generation and increase until the Resurrection the population will not attain to a tenth part of what it was before.25 Jovayni’s emphasis on the extent of the ruination of his country and the decimation of his countrymen may appear to be mere nonchalant description, but the bold, if improbable,

21 22 23 24

Morgan, The Mongols, 41. Jovayni, History, 22. Ibid. “It is difficult to recognize the merits of the Other when they came invading, massacring, and scorching the earth. However, Jovayni had this talent.” Kappler, “Regards sur les Mongols,” 187. 25 Jovayni, History, 75. 10


statistical claims of “every town and every village” and “a tenth part” conceal his genuine sentiment against Mongol violence. His observation is devoid of hope while expressing nostalgia for bygone times, and there is no possibility of reviving the past vitality of Khorasan and Iraq. Jovayni mentions material evidence for these claims, as the “records of ruins and middenheaps (āthār-e atlāl va deman) declare how Fate has painted her deeds upon palace walls.”26 That his claims of violence are supported by incontrovertible evidence of the destruction of previous human inhabitation indicates Jovayni’s ability to manage multiple audiences: he may be making audacious claims accepted by his Persian peers, but even a partisan of the Mongol ruling elite could not deny historical fact. The abovementioned images that paint a vivid picture of the extent of devastation are also standard symbols of lament for lost lovers in Bedouin Arabic poetry, demonstrating one of the ways by which Jovayni speaks to the cultural sensibilities of the Persian literate class, who must have received a classical education. While it may seem inconsistent that he praises the Mongol military apparatus while bemoaning its pernicious effects, it is important to note that despite the change in literary patron from Persian to Mongol, the system of patronage did not change—the task of the historian remained recording, educating, even entertaining.27 In these moderated statements we can read polemic directed against the Mongols intended for his Persian readership. His craft as a historian is elaborated by his praise for and critique of distinct aspects of Mongol rule, allowing him to separate emotions evoked by the violence of conquest from admiration for the efficacies of Mongol military policy. Jovayni’s diatribe against the social mores of Ilkhanid Persia that immediately follows the initial panegyric on Möngke displays even more clearly Jovayni’s distaste for certain unsavory aspects of the Ilkhanid Perso-Mongol milieu. He argues that the people of his age “regard lying and deception as exhortation and admonishment (kezb va tazvir rā va‘z va tazkir dānand) and all profligacy and slander bravery and courage (taharmoz va namimat rā sarāmat va shahāmat nām konand).”28 The parallel structure of this observation, heightened by its rhyme scheme (see Section III), reflects a total inversion of virtue and vice, and the complete degeneration of a society that once upheld masculine and martial qualities (sarāmat va shahāmat) as benchmarks of integrity. Jovayni continues: They consider the Uighur language and script to be the height of knowledge and learning. Every market lounger in the garb of iniquity has become an emir (har yek az abnā’ al-suq dar zayy-e ahl-e fosuq amiri gashte); every hireling has become a minister (har mozduri dasturi), every knave a vizier (har mozavveri vaziri) and every unfortunate a secretary (har modabbari dabiri).29 26 27

Ibid. Melville, “The Mongol and Timurid Periods, 1250-1500,” in Persian Historiography, 187. 28 Jovayni, History, 4. 29 Ibid. 11

After Jovayni observes that a Turkic language of the steppe has been inserted into the cultural fabric of Iran, the list of inversions in social hierarchy continues at length. Wordplay abounds in this passage, such as the use of similar-sounding Arabic trilateral roots (mozavveri and vaziri), the juxtaposition of an Arabic word with a word of Persian etymology, both with the same consonants (modabbari and dabiri), and rhyme (mozduri and dasturi). These pairs of words are phonologically and morphologically similar yet semantically contrary, and underscore Jovayni’s view that the Mongols have reversed the natural order of human society. Humor is used to obscure subtext, as is evident when he writes that “they consider the breaking of wind and the boxing of ears (zart va saf‘) to proceed from the kindness of their nature (lotf-e tab‘)”.30 The exclusive use of Arabic-derived vocabulary may seem appropriately grandiloquent for a piece of courtly literature, but under this veneer of orotund language lies the crude humor of Jovayni’s invective against the iniquitous state of Ilkhanid society. The references to bodily functions and movements denigrate the Mongols by highlighting their purported approval of unrefined physical activities. This harsh polemic is preceded by the doxology and the panegyric on Möngke, demonstrating Jovayni’s audacity at expressing his resentment at the effects of Mongol conquest and rule, albeit in an encoded form most accessible to his Persian peers. The measured prose of Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni reflects Jovayni’s awareness of and his need to accommodate two audiences: his Mongol patrons and his Persian peers. For this reason, the apparent incongruity of praise and polemic in the text is not an unresolvable one. It is hence surprising that, by disregarding the nuances of Jovayni’s authorial voice, modern commentators like David Ayalon are unsympathetic toward Jovayni, arguing that his view on Mongol religious tolerance is “nauseating in its servile flattery”.31 This view neglects the fact that his position as a dynastic chronicler called for him to sift through and differentiate between the laudable aspects and the deplorable conditions of Mongol rule, all while conforming to a hallowed genre of imperially commissioned historiographical writing. It is on this note that we turn to the conventions of the genre and their implications. Stylistic Conventions of Courtly Prose While specific examples of rhyme and parallel structure have been discussed in the previous section, it is expedient for the purposes of this critical reading to generalize these features of Jovayni’s writing as the genre of saj‘, rhymed prose adapted from Arabic literary traditions. The recherché quality of such ornate prose is heightened by the lavish use of Arabic loanwords interspersed with lines of Arabic poetry and Quranic citations throughout the text. The popularization of these stylistic conventions in Persian courtly literature was realized 30 31

Ibid., 5. Ayalon, Outsiders in the Lands of Islam, IVa, 133.


through the praxis of enshā’, a process of modeling one’s prose style after collections of literature and correspondence regarded as the paragon of belles-lettres.32 It is within the Persian cultural milieu from which these courtly scribal traditions sprang that Jovayni practised his craft. What is significant about Jovayni’s maintenance of the literary traditions of the Persian court is that it carries a subtext of cultural resistance against the Mongols. In this reproduction of stylistic conventions of pre-Mongol Iran, there is a didactic purpose of attempting to bring the Mongol rulers, pastoral nomads from the steppe lacking a strong written culture, into the fold of Persian high culture. A similar but more discernible example of the use of literature in acculturating foreign conquerors of Persia can be seen in Nizam al-Mulk’s Siyāsatnāme. No king or emperor can afford not to possess and know this book, especially in these days, for the more he reads it, the more he will be enlightened upon spiritual and temporal matters […] and nothing in the whole realm whether great or small, far or near, will remain concealed (if Allah wills— be He exalted).33 Nizam al-Mulk, a renowned vizier of the Turkic Seljuq Empire, seems to focus solely on the importance of understanding the content of his political treatise. By writing in a somewhat adorned fashion from a Persian frame of reference and in the Persian language, however, there is an element of stubborn dogmatism for him, a servant of the Seljuq rulers, to dictate the principles behind governing Iran. While such didacticism is less prevalent in the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni since it is a piece of historiographical writing, the choice of writing in saj‘ and the extensive use of Arabic can be understood as an attempt to facilitate the process of Mongol cultural assimilation. Not only does the recherché language allow Jovayni to encode polemic, it also perpetuates Persian courtly practices despite the Mongol domination of Iranian politics, encouraging these non-Persian rulers to adopt Persian sociocultural approaches and frames of reference. Religious Visions of Mongol Rule Morgan argues that the main reason for the dismay and consternation expressed by Persian writers in the wake of the Mongol conquests was that it inverted Muslim politico-religious theory: the dār al-ḥarb, or the abode of war, over which unbelievers ruled, was supposed to be eventually conquered by the dār al-islām, or the abode of Islam, through jihād. However, the Mongols, a shamanist steppe people, reversed the supposed natural order of the world: they conquered and pillaged Muslim Persia with ease, resulting in the rule of the dār al-islām by

32

Julie S. Meisami, “History as Literature,” in Persian Historiography, 8. 33 Nizam al-Mulk, The Book of Government or Rules for Kings, trans. Hubert Darke (London: Routledge, 1978), 2.

the dār al-ḥarb. 34 Whether or not Muslim Persian writers had this notion in mind, this inversion of canonical Muslim political thought represents the triumph of the pagans, a historical event that undoubtedly informed attitudes of the Persians toward the Mongol ruling elite. For this reason, an analysis of religious metaphor and imagery is important for understanding the means through which Jovayni rationalized the violence of Mongol subjugation of Persia. Jovayni places the Mongol invasion firmly within a religious conception of historical events, by writing that “for the admonishment and chastisement (tanbih va ta‘rik) of every people a punishment (ta’dib) has been meted out fitting to their rebellion (farākhur-e toghyān) and in proportion to their infidelity (nesbat-e kofrān)”.35 An attempt at rationalizing suffering under the hands of the Mongols is evident in this passage, for the horrors of war are perceived as appropriate recompense for sin. The use of Arabic vocabulary evokes strong religious undercurrents that immediately surface as Jovayni cites stories from the Qisas al-’Anbiyā’, a collection of tales of the prophets, and culminates in the Prophet Muhammad’s alleged view on the punishment of Muslims. When the time came for the reign of the Seal of the Prophets, […] he besought the Lord of Majesty and Glory to grant that all the different punishments and calamities (sonuf-e ‘azāb-hā va baliyyāt) which He had sent to every nation on account of their disobedience might be remitted in the case of his own nation […] but not as regards the punishment of the sword (‘azāb-e sayf) concerning which his prayer attained not the manifestation of acceptance and hit not the target of admission.36 By following the well-worn tradition of ascribing religious significance to historical event, this passage strikes a balance between the munificence of God, demonstrated by His willingness to deliver Muslims from calamity (baliyyāt) that would annihilate their community, and the might of His vengeance, for He would not hesitate to put sinful Muslims to the sword. That even the Prophet Muhammad failed to exhort God through prayer to exempt the Muslim community from the punishment of the sword in the temporal world is a theologically expedient claim, since violence and war, pervasive features of interactions between human civilizations, can always be understood as recompense for impious behavior. Jovayni later cites a ḥadith to legitimize this claim, which is a clear attempt at interpreting the violence of the Mongol conquest through religious terms, as a conquest of the dār al-islām, or abode of Islam. The use of religious metaphor to describe Mongol military action is rendered in a literal sense through Jovayni’s description of the conquest of Bukhara. He writes that Chinggis Khan mounts the minbar of the city’s main prayer hall, and declares, “I am the punishment of God (man ‘azāb-e khodā-am). If you 34 35 36

Morgan, The Mongols, 15. Jovayni, History, 12. Ibid. 12


had not committed great sins (gonāh-hā-ye bozorg), God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”37 While the veracity of the speech cannot be confirmed due to the lack of Mongol documentation, the spirit behind Jovayni’s inclusion of these unequivocal words is clear. The message of the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni that is intended for Persian readers is that the Mongols are the scourge of God sent to punish Muslims for their sins. It is noteworthy, however, that there is no indication that Jovayni believes that God is sympathetic to the Mongol cause. Examples of Mongol irreverence toward Islam abound, and a striking instance of this can be found in the same passage on the conquest of Bukhara. And they brought the cases in which the Qur’ans (masāhef) were kept out into the courtyard of the mosque, where they cast the Qur’ans right and left and turned the cases into mangers for their horses (ākhur-e asbān).38 The audacity of this act of desecrating the sacred Muslim text reads like indifferent observation, but would undoubtedly evoke an emotional response from a pious Muslim reader. The callousness with which the Mongol army defiles the Qur’āns on holy ground is heightened by the use of the Qur’ān cases for ritually unclean purposes, underscoring the utter disregard of the Mongol army and its commanders for Muslim custom. That Jovayni made the authorial decision to include incidents that would inspire hatred among his Muslim peers for their Mongol rulers suggests that his view of the Mongols is not one of blind adulation; rather, he is setting in relief the impiety of the pagan Mongols. It may seem like a contradiction that the Mongol army is a punishment sent by God unto a sinful Muslim community while also being defilers of the Muslim faith, but these views work in concert to demonstrate the religious underpinnings of Jovayni’s worldview, especially when considered alongside pre-Islamic symbolisms that are projected upon the Mongols and the peoples whom they defeated. Pre-Islamic Persian Symbolisms Pre-Islamic imagery drawn from the Shāhnāme, particularly Ferdowsi’s late tenth-century version, regained popularity in the Ilkhanid period due to a revival of interest in reading the Shāhnāme as a work of historiography.39 It is for this reason that evoking pre-Islamic imagery, in which Ferdowsi’s retelling is quoted to the effect of framing the historical narrative, is a literary technique that pervades Jovayni’s writing. Jovayni describes the figure of Temür Malik, the commander of the citadel at Khojend, during the conquest of Khwārazm, a fertile region south of the Aral Sea ruled by the Khwārazm Shāhs. Temür escapes when Khojend falls, but returns years later only 37 38 39 13

Ibid., 81. Ibid., 80. Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, “Le livre des rois, miroir du destin,” Studia Iranica 17 (1988): 31-45.

to be captured by a son of Ögedei Khan, who interrogates him. A soldier whom Temür had struck years ago identifies him, and before his death the following verses from the Shāhnāme are quoted: Sea and mountain have seen how I dealt with the illustrious heroes of the Turanian host. (marā dide dar jang daryā va kuh / ke bā nāmdārān-e turān goruh) The stars bear witness thereto: by my valour is the whole world beneath my feet. (che kardam, setāre govāy-e man ast / be mardi jahān zir-e pāy-e man ast)40 The tension between the Khwārazm Shahs, a Central Asian Muslim dynasty with Turkic origins, and the Mongols is elaborated by means of the Iran-Turan binary that drives the Shāhnāme narrative. The Turanians, the ultimate non-Iranian (anirān) Other, are given due respect in the first verse despite being the figure at which Iranian antipathy is directed, a fitting summary of Jovayni’s attitudes toward the Mongols. This notion is reinforced by evoking geological landforms and celestial bodies that are immutable in human temporal scales as witnesses to the anti-Mongol military action taken by the Khwārazm Shāhs. The tacit approval of these grandiose natural bodies suggests that fighting against the Turanian-like Mongols is an admirable attempt at restoring the natural order of the cosmos, and gives the Iranian-like Khwārazm Shāhs spiritual and moral dominance over the universe despite their military defeat. Another example of the use of Shāhnāme imagery to this end is the recurring use of the figure of Rostam, one of the greatest heroes of Iranian mythology. In the abovementioned passage, Jovayni writes of Temür Malik that “it might be said that had Rostam lived in his age he would have been fit only to be his groom (ghāsheye-dari).”41 The hyperbolic image of the Iranian paragon of heroic machismo reduced to nothing but a servant underscores the extent of Temür Malik’s gallantry in his anti-Mongol struggles. Another non-Persian figure, the last Khwārazm Shāh Jalāl al-Din, is compared to Rostam, again in a citation of verse from the Shāhnāme: When Isfandiyar gazed behind him, he descried him on the dry land on the far side of the stream. (chu esfandyār az pasesh bengarid / bedān suy-e rudesh be khoshgi bedid) He said: ‘Call not this being a man—he is a raging elephant endued with pomp and splendour.’ (hami-goft k’in rā nakhwānid mard / yeki zhende-pil ast bā shākh o bard) So he spoke and gazed thitherwards where Rostam went seeking his way. (hami-goft va mi-kard az ān su negāh / ke rostam hami-raft juyān-e rāh)42 These three verses are aptly quoted, as they follow Chinggis Khan witnessing Jalāl al-Din jumping into the Indus River, drowning himself after his military defeat. Even after suicide, 40 41 42

Jovayni, History, 73. Ibid., 71. Ibid., 107.


often perceived as a display of cowardice, he is compared to a regal creature of grace and majesty, and is exalted beyond mere human terms of reference. In this case, Jalāl al-Din is praised as such through the words of Esfandiyār, Rostam’s nemesis who eventually gets killed by Rostam himself. In this case, the symbolism is turned on its head, as it is Chinggis Khan, the triumphant of the two, who is compared to the defeated Esfandiyār. This contradiction can be read as an attempt by Jovayni to grant the spiritual and moral victory to Jalāl al-Din despite his physical defeat by Chinggis Khan, as he resisted the Mongol conquest of Transoxania till his last moments on Earth. This view is supported by other passages where Jovayni praises Jalāl al-Din. For instance, at the cusp of Jalāl al-Din’s defeat at the hands of Jochi, Chinggis Khan’s eldest son, Jalāl al-Din manages to reverse the outcome of the battle and to defeat Jochi’s forces. In this section too Jovayni quotes the Shāhnāme: What is finer than a furious male lion, his loins girded before his father? (che nikutar az narre shir-e zheyān / be pish-e pedar bar kamar bar meyān)43

as Iranian and the Mongols as Turanian, Jovayni does not perceive the tensions of the Mongol conquest and occupation as one of ethnicity: unlike in preceding Turkic Muslim dynasties, the binary is not centered on conflicts between foreign rulers and their Iranian subjects. Rather, this is fundamentally a conflict of religion, between Muslims and non-Muslims, between the dār al-islām and the dār al-ḥarb. By being compared to the Iranian mythical heroes in spite of their ethnicity, the Turkic Khwarazm Shahs are to Jovayni the quintessence of the Persian ideals of masculine excellence and the last vanguard of the Muslims. In a similar vein, Jovayni perceives the Mongols as a punishment from God for the sinfulness of the Muslim community precisely because of their paganism, because they are the Other embodied by Turan. The rich imagery of pre-Islamic Iran is employed in concert with Jovayni’s religious vision to the effect of crafting a veiled polemic directed toward the Mongols for being the shamanist conquerors of the Muslim lands.

The animal imagery that recurs in Jovayni’s Shāhnāme citations to describe Jalāl al-Din employs the diction of savagery and wrath (in this case, zhiyān), in order to highlight his violent indignation at Mongol incursions into his territory. It is fitting that Jovayni chooses a quote that depicts a warrior more imposing than his father, as Jalāl al-Din’s father, Muḥammad II, is known for his cowardice and ineffectual policies that led to the collapse of Khwarazmian Empire.44 The consistent glorification of Jalāl al-Din throughout the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni through Shāhnāme imagery demonstrates Jovayni’s understanding of Jalāl al-Din’s undying courage as a spiritual and moral victory over the Mongols. The purpose of imbuing distinctly Iranian symbolisms on non-Iranian figures like Temür Malik and Jalāl al-Din, however, is greater than a glorification of their struggle against the Mongols. Melville, for instance, reads this as a means of asserting Iranian cultural identity for the Mongol patrons of this work,45 an aspect of Jovayni’s discourse that was discussed in the third section of this paper. A more critical reading of the use of Shāhnāme imagery to depict figures of Turkic origin could take into consideration Jovayni’s religious vision of the Mongols as elaborated in this paper’s fourth section, which argues that the apparent contradiction between depicting the Mongol defilers of the Muslim faith as a punishment sent by God is a superficial one. This is a valid approach to the text because the primary similarity between the Khwārazm Shahs and the Persians is their religion. By viewing the Khwārazm Shāhs

Much modern criticism leveled at the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshāye Jovayni tends to focus on Jovayni’s seemingly sycophantic attitude toward his Mongol overlords. David Ayalon and Leonard Lewisohn, for instance, have expressed their suspicions about how amenable Jovayni was to Ilkhanid rule, in spite of the Mongol devastation of his homeland.46 This view, however, does not take into consideration Jovayni’s precarious position in high office and the system of courtly literary patronage that was sustained in the Ilkhanate. For this reason, the treatment of Jovayni’s seminal work has to be reconsidered to the end of reevaluating present understandings of the ways by which Ilkhanid rule shaped attitudes of the Iranian elite toward the new Mongol world order. This analysis of the first volume of the Tārikh-e Jahāngoshā-ye Jovayni reveals the literary mastery of an author toeing the line between two audiences: his Mongol patrons who seek fawning adulation from their subject, and his Persian peers who harbor a deep-seated loathing of their conquerors. The apparent contradictions in Jovayni’s writing can hence be understood as a device that obscures his bitter censure of his Mongol patrons, highlighting the tenuous position that the Persian bureaucrat occupied in the Ilkhanid court. It would be injudicious, then, to read Jovayni without considering his commitment to furtive cultural resistance against his pagan overlords, a resistance that wanes in several decades with Rashid al-Din’s confidence at the dawn of the Muslim period of Ilkhanid rule.

Ibid., 51. See p.127 of the second volume of Tārikh-e Jahāngoshāye Jovayni, in which Jalāl al-Din delivers a public speech condemning his father’s cowardice and offering to lead the vanguard against the Mongols. 45 Melville, “The Mongol and Timurid Periods, 1250-1500,” in Persian Historiography, 192-3.

Conclusion

43 44

46

Lane, “Jovayni,” 63. 14


Rivkah bat Meir: Subtle Redefinition of Gender Roles within the Confines of Traditional Jewish Society By Michaela Nakayama Shapiro, Northwestern University Conventional narratives of the Jews during the early modern period largely relegate women to marginalized positions.1 For historians, however, adhering solely to this perspective would risk neglecting the various ways in which women used their subordinate status to their advantage, altering or creating roles for themselves within the niche they were allowed to participate: their home. One of the most remarkable examples was that of “Meneket Rivkah,” a treatise by Rivkah bat Meir,2 the first Jewish text written by a Jewish woman intended for Jewish women.3 Analysis of this momentous primary source document, its contextual information, as well as its role among other contemporary sources, provides a new perspective on women’s roles in Ashkenazi Jewish society.4 Rivkah bat Meir was remarkable for her ability to advance women’s importance in the religious community, while carefully working within the confines of the limitations imposed upon women by the Jewish religious authorities. In this way, the example of her work sheds light on how Jewish women, contrary to popular belief, managed to circumvent and sometimes even subvert restrictions placed upon them in order to attain more voice in the community. Rivkah bat Meir wrote in 16th century Prague, the city home to one of the largest and most vibrant Ashkenazi Jewish communities 1

The early modern period considered in this paper is roughly the time period between the Spanish expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and the French revolution in 1789. 2 Rivkah bat Meir was an educated woman in 16th century Prague who wrote Meneket Rivkah, the most prominent Yiddish text written by a Yiddish woman. Fluent in both Yiddish and Hebrew, Rivkah worked as a writer and preacher on Jewish ethics. These works provide insight into the lives of early modern Jewish women. For more information on Rivkah bat Meir, see Frauke Von. Rohden’s introduction to the 2008 edition of Meneket Rivkah. For more information on Jewish women and Jewish communities in the Early Modern period, see Greenblatt’s To Tell Their Children: Jewish Communal Memory, Ellen M. Umansky and Dianne Ashton’s Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality, and Chava Weissler’s Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women. 3 Prayer books written by women existed at the time, but these books lacked the didactic nature of Meneket Rivkah. For more information on tkhines and Jewish women’s devotional literature, see Weissler. 4 Ashkenazi Jews were Jews of central and eastern European descent. Cohen & Rosman, Rethinking European Jewish History, 24. Ashkenazi Jews were constantly in motion, migrating in search of better economic conditions. They held fluid political affiliations, spoke their own language (Yiddish), and had their own laws customs, collection of autonomous Jewish administrative and social institutions, and civil educational intellectual religious networks. 15

of the time. Jews in Prague lived in ghettos that functioned more as protective sanctuaries than segregated communities. The boundaries of the Jewish quarter were porous, which allowed for extensive interactions between Jews and Christians, a situation characteristic of early modern societies.5 Furthermore, because the Habsburg Empire granted the Jews free trade, the marketplaces where both men and women freely traded served as points of constant contact between Jews and those outside their community.6 Prague, then under the rule of Rudolph II, experienced vast economic and cultural expansion,7 and the Emperor invited Jews into the city to exploit their financial capital through obligatory loans in exchange for privileges.8 Jews historically had a positive relationship with 5

Early Modern Istanbul, Venice, and Amsterdam were home to Jewish communities that constantly interacted with those outside of the community. Rethinking European Jewish History includes a chapter entitled “Jewish Cultural History in early modern Europe, which describes in detail the elements of the early modern period that included mobility and social mixing. For specific communities: Please see Yaron Ben-Naeh Jews in the Realm of the Sultans (19-51) for more information on Jews in Istanbul, Robert C. David & Benjamin Ravid’s The Jews of Early Modern Venice (3-30) for more information on Early Modern Venice, and David Biale Cultures of the Jews (641-666) for more information on Early Modern Amsterdam. Greenblatt, 23. “Christians, be they residents or travelers, could enter the Jewish quarter and interact with its inhabitants.” Greenblatt describes how court painters entered the Quarter, travelers spoke freely with the Jewish inhabitants, and all were allowed to enter their synagogues during services. 6 Greenblatt, 31. Describes how the market place served as a constant point of interaction between Jews and gentiles in Prague. Petrovsky-Shtern, Yohanan. “Early Modern Jewish Communities (Four): Prague.” Northwestern University. Evanston, IL. 5 November 2015. Court painters entered, travelers spoke freely with them, and all were allowed to enter their synagogues during services. Greenblatt, 23. “Christians, be they residents or travelers, could enter the Jewish quarter and interact with its inhabitants.” For more information on Jews and the Habsburg monarchy, please see Jewish Money by Joshua Teplitsky. 7 Rohden, Meneket Rivkah, 3. 8 Petrovsky-Shtern, Yohanan; Rohden, 3. Jews were welcome by the Habsburgs as a source of financial exploitation, which through cooperation with loans to the emperor gained the privilege of engaging in crafts otherwise prohibited in other European countries. Greenblatt, 24. “Under Rudolf, Jews were allowed to take up some trades often forbidden to them in Europe, as, for example, embroiderers, shoemakers, and other crafts related to textiles, and as musicians, some of whom even


the Habsburg monarchy, both benefitting from its protection and depending legally upon it to renew privileges.9 Resentment from burghers (Christian landowners) who suffered from Jewish competition led to sporadic expulsions of Jews from the city, but these expulsions were largely symbolic and as a result, Jews continued to reside in the city.10 Ashkenazi Jews overall held fluid political affiliations because of their constant migration over the European continent. They spoke their own language (Yiddish), lived by their own laws and customs, and enjoyed a degree of autonomy in administration, social institutions, as well as civil, kinship, intellectual, and religious networks.11 Jewish community leaders both represented the community’s affairs before external authorities, and oversaw all internal affairs, including enforcing Halakhah-Jewish laws that regulated the community. 12 Women in this time period faced various limitations under Jewish law, but were allotted almost complete free reign in the household. An ideal woman was to be pure, modest, pious, charitable, and supportive. The ideal of a supportive woman centered on women’s role at home: their diligence in the household allowed their husbands to turn attention to fulfill their duties in the religious

played at court.” Klein, The 1603 Assembly in Frankfurt, 119. “Accordingly, Emperor Rudolf II firmly believed that the Jews had to be aware that they had been ‘granted’ neither a territory nor the ‘seigniorage of a superior status, high authority or sphere’; rather, they were tolerated ‘allein precario’ (until revoked, temporarily] in the empire and therefore they ‘remain obliged to continuous displays of gratitude, subjection and deference’. Each action on the part of the Jews is only possible owing to privileges previously granted by the emperor, which excludes from the very outset every procedure against the emperor and the imperial estates.” 9 Petrovsky-Shtern, Yohanan; concludes that there was a triangle of power in early modern Prague: the emperor was interested in the personal protection of Jews due to personal connections and the financial benefits of loans to the monarchy, while the burghers suffered from Jewish competition and thus resented the Jews’ presence in the market. Greenblatt, 117. “Jews in Prague had been aligned with the royal House of Habsburg as their protectors, their presence in Prague stridently opposed, at times, by burghers and by certain guilds.” 10 Greenblatt, 22. “Indeed in 1541 and against in 1559, Emperor Ferdinand, bowing to pressure from burghers, ordered expulsions of the Jews from Prague. In each case, a few wealthy families were allowed to remain in the city, and neither expulsions lasted long.” Petrovsky-Shtern, Yohanan; concludes that these expulsions were mainly symbolic, and served as a method for the historically proJewish Habsburg monarchy to appease anti-Jewish fervor. 11 Cohen and Rosman, 24. 12 Goldberg, Crossing the Jabbok in, 66. Jewish community leaders needed to ratified by external civil authorities, and decided all external affairs of the community. Rohden, Meneket, 2. Communal leaders enforced Jewish law, Halakah within the communities. Weissler, 51. There were different sets of laws for each gender within Jewish law, among which there were different provisions.

community.13 Women were supposed to be “house makers, mothers and unobtrusive submissive facilitators of spiritual and material accomplishments of husbands and sons,” and to help men fulfill their duties women needed rudimentary spiritual and religious education.14 Women’s general absence in the public sphere had its basis in the rabbinical authorities’ fears fostered by stereotypes about women and their sexual allure.15 Synagogues’ original architecture thus did not provide space for women; instead, they sat in a gallery formed from an external addition to the building.16 Another reason women were banned from participation was that they were expected to focus on the family and their duties within the domestic sphere. While faith for women amounted to no more than prayers and charitable deeds, faith for men encompassed that in business practice, charity, and regular attendance of synagogue.17 A woman should not lose herself in worship for the sake of her family’s wellbeing, as this would compromise the duty God set for women.18 Jewish women were essentially bred for marriage, the purpose of which was to connect wealthy and scholarly families. This, on the other hand, provided them with easy access to Jewish education, albeit a limited one.19 Women’s education, with the exception of that of the wealthiest Jewish women, consisted of learning the mechanics of reading with little emphasis on comprehension, while others had no formal education at all. However, the knowledge explosion thanks to the emergence of the printed book gave women easier access to knowledge previously unavailable to them. The fear that

13 Greenblatt, 53. 14 Rosman, Poland: Early Modern (1500-1795) 15 Fine, Judaism in Practice, 101. Maria & Kazimierz Piechotka, Wooden Synagogues, 36. “Religious rules required separate entrances for men and women.” Fine, 112. Examines The Tashbetz (Samson ben Tzadok) on removing women from the synagogue, “….it is not appropriate to allow a beautifully dressed-up woman to be among the men and right there in the presence of God….His objection is based on the fear that sexual thoughts will cross the mind of a man who is leaning over a woman’s lap to circumcise the baby whom she is holding. Fine, 107. “On the role of women in Jewish law and society, see especially, Judith Romney Wegner, Chattel or Person: The Status of women in the Mishnah….Chapter 3 is devoted to the status of a wife in rabbinic legislation, and chapter 6 explores the exclusion of women from the public domain.” For more information on women and sexual allure in rabbinic texts, see Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and gender in Rabbinic Judaism Chapter 11 on Medieval Rabbinism and the ritual marginalization of women. 16 Greenblatt, 31. 17 Ibid., 53. 18 Fine, 206. 19 Rohden, 1. For more information on early modern Jewish women and marriage, please see the chapter entitled “Virginity: women’s body as a state of mind-destiny becomes biology” of Adelman’s The Jewish Body , and the chapter entitled “Mothers and children as seen by sixteenth-century rabbis in the Ottoman empire” of Landman’s Sephardi Family Life in the Early Modern Diaspora. 16


women would not receive “religiously correct” instruction forced rabbinic authorities to the understanding that women’s education could no longer be ignored.20 Although male writers’ attempted to silence women who initiated their own rituals, studied traditional texts, and spoke in public,21 women took advantage of the long tradition of female teaching of religious knowledge to undertake a leadership role in their education.22 In 16th century Prague, many women taught Torah to other women, composed prayers for one another, and prayed together.23 The early modern period overall featured increased social mobility with the growing participation of women and different socioeconomic classes of men in reading and writing, communal cohesion, and crises of authority in light of the messianic fervor that took over the continent, all of which affected the way women participated in the religious community. 24 The rise of messianic fervor centered on Shabbetai Zvi, an enigmatic Jewish scholar who claimed to be the Messiah and caused the Jewish world to experience the largest wave of Messianic sentiment since the rise of Christianity.25 Women seized the opportunity amid prophetic fervor to participate in extra ritual activities: marginalized in public acts of worship, women found an influential voice in prophetic calling.26 The movement overall created a sense of unity among Jews by presenting the need to communally address the movement, but it also threatened the community by challenging the legitimacy of rabbinic forms and authority.27 A more direct way in which women interacted with Jewish worship and spirituality was by composing tkhine—special prayers written by learned Jewish women for their uneducated Jewish female readers.28 These prayers dealt with the exclusion of women from prestigious roles in Judaism by imagining women who were more powerful and honored than they were.29 The rise of tkhines as a genre emerged from women’s desire to control and increase their participation in the Jewish ritual worship, 20 Chava Weissler, Voices of the Matriarchs, 5. Cohen & Rosman, 105. Rosman, “Poland: Early Modern (1500-1795).” 21 Fine, 52. 22 Rohden, 8. Rohden discusses the tradition of female teaching of religious knowledge. For example, several decades after Rivkah wrote, Hannah bat Judah Leib composed a sermon on her experience as a teacher and preacher to women. However, this tradition extended as far back as the Middle Ages, particularly in northern Italy where there was evidence of women writing sermons and elegies. 23 Ibid. 24 Cohen & Rosman, 102. Social mobility of society and communal cohesion. Greenblatt, 7. Growing participation of women and different socioeconomic classes of men in reading and writing. Cohen & Rosman, 106. Crises of authority. 25 Fine, 470. 26 Weissler, 12. Fine, 473. Women took advantage of prophetic fervor to attain a greater voice in the community. 27 Cohen & Rosman, 108. 28 Rohden, 2. 29 Rosman. 17

and these prayers represented one of the many sources available during this time that described women’s roles in Ashkenazi Jewish society. 30 Tkhines, which come from the Hebrew word meaning ‘to supplicate,’ are recited in private by Jewish women in central and Eastern Europe.31 These prayers provided evidence for their lives by offering information on what they were thinking as they performed religious duties and household tasks.32 Because these prayers were written in the vernacular, Yiddish, they would be readily comprehensible to women who were rarely taught more than the bare fundamentals of Hebrew, and sometimes completely illiterate.33 Most girls studied to master phonetic Hebrew reading that could easily be adapted to the reading of Yiddish texts written in Hebrew letters.34 Unlike Jewish liturgy that was fixed, regulated, and written in the sacred scholarly language of Hebrew, Tkhines were inherently amenable, and allowed for modifications over time as women incorporated their own spiritual experience.35 Tkhines also further elaborated on women’s capabilities by developing the image of women who could be ‘like men’ through the use of parallels between women’s rituals in the home and those of rabbis in the synagogue. The comparison was remarkable: despite the obvious separation of masculine and feminine spheres, their rituals were parallel. 36 For example, the tkhine for candle lighting in The Three Gates prayer book, attributed to Sarah bas Tovim, compared the actions of a high priest and that of a woman lighting Shabbat candles. As Chava Weissler noted, the prayer placed women squarely in the central priestly role, “…may my [observance of the] commandment of kindling the lights be accepted as the act of the High Priest when he kindled the lights in the dear Temple was accepted”37 Other sources that offered insight into Jewish women’s lives included Yiddish books, anthologies, archival sources, traditional rabbinic literature, and collections of tkhines.38 Women’s devotional literature presented both well-known and obscure biblical women to provide images of role models of women living religious lives.39

30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

39

Weissler, 12. The word “to supplicate” in Hebrew is ‫ןֵנַחְתִהְל‬, and phonetically, le-hithanen.    Rohden, ix. Fine, 62. Rosman. Ibid. Weissler, 59. Ibid., 60. Moshe Rosman in his article entitled “Poland: Early Modern (1500-1795) listed various sources into Jewish women’s lives, including: Yiddish books such as Shmuel Bujh and Ze’enah u-Re-enah that instructed women in the observance of commandments; morality anthologies and behavior manuals like Meneket Rivkah and Brantspiegel; Tkhine collections such as those written by Leah Dreyzl bas Moses, Rachel Leah Horowitz; and many others, and traditional rabbinic literature such as The Memoirs of Ber of Bolechow and Rabbi Moses Isserles’ Shulhan Arukh (code of Jewish law). Weissler, 7. According to Chava Weissler, Tkhines incorporated both folk customs and heroes, which included practices not mandated by Jewish law, and popular biblical matriarchs such


Rivkah bat Meir, drawing upon the popularity of Yiddish ethical works, wrote “Meneket Rivkah” with the same sentiment as Jewish women wrote tkhines. The work belongs to the genre of ethical literature written in Yiddish, which was popular among women in the 16th and 17th centuries.40 It was both a prescriptive and descriptive document, enumerating how a woman should act in the domestic and social spheres, with each chapter providing a unique understanding of a different aspect of a woman’s’ sphere of conduct.41 It is also a didactic document, using stories, warnings, and metaphors to instruct women in household matters, specifically on how to raise children. Without explicitly advocating for women’s education, in fact practically neglecting the subject entirely, Rivkah bat Meir in her manual allows the reader to presume what knowledge she believes women should have. By walking her audience through the thinking process involved in understanding the rabbinical texts she cites, she teaches women how to read analytically, and her references to these religious and moral texts without explanation implies she believes women should already have engaged with them as she has. Most importantly, Rivkah’s own intellectual prowess, evident in her translations from Hebrew to Yiddish and her ability to engage with various religious texts including the midrash—ancient commentary on Hebrew scripture—served as an example to her audience. Rivkah was evidently a role model for Jewish women’s education in her day and age, and she provided unusual insight into the daily lives of early modern Jewish women.42 Her father was the teacher and master rabbi Meir Tikotin, and her upbringing in a scholarly family allowed her to study Hebrew and the Torah as a child, and possibly the basics of rabbinic literature as well.43 Her formal title of ha-rabbanit denoted her as a female rabbi or teacher, and she also held the functional title of ha-darshanit, female interpreter.44 In her writing, Rivkah bat Meir explained her desire to transmit her knowledge to others, stating that she was writing this manual out of “moral obligation to pass along her knowledge about the correct implementation of the commandments.”45 Her use of equivocal phrases and diction such as “perhaps,” represented a mixture of modesty and self-confidence necessary to balance her unprecedented intellectual ability with the stereotypical characteristics of a pious woman.46 Even the printer of her manual wondered at her skill,

40 41 42 43 44 45 46

as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. These women were figures with whom the female readers could identify with. Schiller, Women! Yiddish! Ibid. Ibid. Rohden, 4-5. Ibid. Rohden, 11. Ibid. Rivkah in the introduction she wrote for her own manual said, “whoever should pay attention to my words, perhaps I will gain some merit from them,” As Rohden noted in the introduction, this method represented Rivkah’s characteristic mixture of modesty and self-confidence. Rivkah in her manual repeatedly alternated between decisive statements using “this means” or “you should do this,” and hesitant statements such as “I could…explain the verse as follows,” or “I should ask another question.”

asking, “Has it ever happened in countless years, that a woman has written something of her own accord? I let it, therefore, be printed…. It shows that a woman can also compose words of ethical instruction and good biblical interpretations as well as many men.”47 Chapter Five, devoted to a discussion on childrearing, stands as a testament to her skill in remaining within the confines of communal values. While her content remained traditional, demurring to the male-dominated hierarchical structure, her form reveals a very different perspective on women by elevating the status of their duties and implicitly emphasizing the importance of girls’ education in the context of the home. Rivkah bat Meir’s greatest achievement was her ability to write such a document without compromising her community’s social norms, an incredible feat for a woman of her time. She avoided obvious displays of knowledge and taught without explicitly stating whether the interpretations she listed were her own by using carefully crafted phrases such as, “this is to be understood as follows….”48 This method provided her with the freedom to state her own interpretations, or those of others she agreed with, without repercussion. Retaining her modesty was integral to maintaining her reputation, which explains why she adhered to the conventional standards for pious women of her time by refusing to presume to be all knowing in her understanding of biblical and rabbinical verses. For example, she ended a passage that deliberated on the meaning of the word “pain” with the statement, “But we do not want to talk of this— ‘One does not question God’s judgments,’ we cannot understand it (anyway).”49 She also subscribed to the traditional positions to which women were relegated by advocating that women should not aim to participate in ceremonies from which they were historically excluded, such as a sons’ circumcision, and to not venture beyond home more than necessary.50 Stressing the importance of woman’s duties to her household over those of worship, she also stated, “It is better for her [the Jewish mother] to stay at home and think of synagogue [than] to go to synagogue and think of home.”51 Rivkah not only adhered to the traditional narrative of the woman’s role in the household, but also encouraged the system whereby girls’ main purpose in life was marriage. She stated that a mother’s duty was to encourage her son to study in order to be “given the daughter of a Torah scholar with a lot of money…”52 because at this time, having connections to an educated family increased a family’s social power. In addition to prescribing the traditionally restricted roles Jewish women were demoted to, Rivkah bat Meir also altered the status of these roles by emphasizing the Jewish woman’s importance to the family--the basis of the communal structure. She opened the chapter with a description of how the Jewish mother functions as the representative of morality at home, serving as the moral compass of the entire household. Everything at home revolved around her example, whereby her success, in instilling Jewish morals to her hus-

47 48 49 50 51 52

Ibid, 80. Ibid., 151. Ibid., 152. Ibid., 160. Ibid., 159. Ibid., 173. 18


band and children, would bring her great honor.53 Although this important position would grant woman power at home, it might also attribute to her all responsibilities for any immoral action committed within the household. The failure to correctly instill the community’s morals reflected on the woman, and on the woman alone. Rivkah’s warning of the consequences of failing to fulfill one’s womanly duties ensured women to undertake their tasks seriously, and this didactic method recurred throughout the chapter. Another essential task for women was caring for their children without outside help. This independence, along with Rivkah’s emphasis on the importance of such sacrifices women made for their family in their duties such as enduring the pain of nursing the child, represented the respect Rivkah had for women’s household duties. Yet, once again, she warned that the consequence of failing to do so would be dire, “she squanders (her reputation)” and will thus “suffer from this her whole life.”54 Rivkah further emphasizes that women must also take their didactic role seriously, an opinion which she explains through the use of the metaphor of a board, “When one speaks with a child about inconsequential things, it is like when one has a board, and wants to write on it something useful. Along comes someone else and fouls the board so that he cannot write on it.”55 Evidently what a woman says or does has a great effect on the child, and to further emphasize a woman’s didactic importance, she discusses the “[wisdom] and righteousness”56 necessary for women to properly educate their children. In saying so, she subtly elevated the importance of her manual because of its own didactic intentions. The subtlety of Rivkah’s writing style makes it difficult for the reader to discern where exactly her intentions lay, particularly on women’s’ education. While referencing these texts is not the same as explicitly advocating for women’s education, her assumption that her audience, young Jewish women, could understand her references and follow her arguments implied she thought they should have basic knowledge of rabbinical texts. She often brought forth a topic without introducing it on the premise that women would be familiar with her discussion of the Yiddish literature, as she did when she advised women on how to educate their sons, “one should tell him about Chenaniah, Mishael, and Azariah….”57 She also translated these documents into Yiddish, increasing their accessibility to women who typically did not understand Hebrew. Furthermore, she avoided using gender specific denominations when describing how women should educate their children, which “may imply that the request also include[ed] girls.”58 She solely mentioned that the education she previously described was for boys at the end of the chapter, and then proceeded to devote minimal attention to girls’ education, which seems odd given the obvious respect she has for her own education. Also, given her educational background, she would understand that the religious education received by most Jewish males was the primary means of achieving power and pres-

53 54 55 56 57 58 19

Ibid., 150. Ibid., 155. Ibid., 162. Ibid., 169. Ibid., 163. Ibid., 164.

tige. Therefore, her expectation that women should have at least a minimal intellectual foundation within the sphere of the home has shocking implications. Rivkah expressed her support of women’s education in the domestic sphere by example of her own education, and by the way she teaches girls how to think critically. She showed her extensive knowledge of the midrash by repeatedly referencing differing interpretations of the same passages, and determining which one she deemed most accurate. She then demonstrated to her audience how she accomplished this by providing her train of thought in interpreting and making sense of the text. One example was her explanation of the biblical verse regarding Deborah the Prophetess, “the stars fought from heaven.”59 After providing the quotation without explanation, she then anticipated her audience’s initial response to it by asking, “how did the stars fight?”60 Given that Rivkah bat Meir is a learnt woman, it would have been unlikely that she should interpret this passage literally, but she understood that this is how a less educated woman would see it. Her attempt to portray her audience’s perception reveals her understanding of what constituted girls’ education at the time. Her next step was to provide the logical progression of her ideas: how the stars served as a metaphor for the Jews’ “forebears” who fought their enemies to bring benefits to the Jews, and these benefits shone like stars.61 Her example taught them how to read analytically, a skill that women at the time would neither normally learn, nor be encouraged to do so. Another didactic method Rivkah employed was her repeated use of “we” in her explanations of passages, a tactic aimed to create solidarity with her audience and to add to her reputation as a role model.62 “Meneket Rivkah” also exposed women to the kind of writings most of them would never have encountered, and even if they had, would not have been able to understand due to linguistic and intellectual boundaries. She further encouraged women to be confident in their importance, “but for a woman who is upright and smart, thinks of the goal of it all, and puts all her efforts into…. one never knows what the future holds.”63 Rivkah bat Meir’s vast knowledge of rabbinical ideas, remarkable enough of its own accord, along with her ability to communicate them effectively to a less educated audience, is quite astounding. What makes her even more remarkable was that despite her audacity in writing such a document, she continued to command the respect and approval of male figures in the authority. Traditional in content yet subversive in form, her manual exemplifies how women were capable of subscribing to female stereotypes while simultaneously deviating from them by creating their own means of worship at home. Most importantly, Rivkah bat Meir epitomized women’s abilities to alter male-dominated societal practices by using the inferior position to their advantage. This insight is in stark contrast to the dominant view that 16th century Jewish women played solely passive roles in the Jewish community. 59 60 61 62 63

Ibid., 177. Ibid. Ibid. Schiller. Rohden, 155.


Rationalizing Sex: the Hermaphrodite in Eighteenth Century Medical Writing By Sarah Welz Geselowitz, Swarthmore College In eighteenth-century Europe, medical writers rejected the existence of human hermaphrodites as contrary to reason. This paper examines the underlying logic of this “rationalization” through textual analysis of James Parsons’ 1741 Mechanical and Critical Enquiry Into the Nature of Hermaphrodites. For Parsons, the “unreasonableness” of the hermaphrodite body lay not in its sexual ambiguity per se, but in the failure of contemporary theories of reproduction to satisfactorily explain composite male-female offspring. Introduction In early childhood, both Ann and “Elizabeth”1 appeared to be physiologically typical girls. But when Ann was five or six, wrestling with a group of playmates, she sprouted a pair of testicles. Some six years later, as she was kneading dough, her penis suddenly protruded. A physician, upon examination, declared Ann a hermaphrodite. “Elizabeth’s” penis emerged under quite different circumstances. When she was seven years old, her parents brought her to the doctor with “some complaint near the groin.”2 The doctor consulted a surgeon, who declared, to the parents’ astonishment, that “Elizabeth” was in fact a boy. What had appeared to be the child’s labia was in fact a scrotum; what had appeared to be a clitoris was in fact a penis buried in tissue. The surgeon operated, “[freeing] the penis from its confinement” such that the child could urinate standing like a typical boy.3 Ann was born in 1647, Elizabeth around 1772.4 With over a century between them, these two cases—published in London by a physician and and surgeon respectively—mark opposite ends of a general shift in attitudes toward hermaphrodism. In many ways, the two subjects’ bodies were analogous. Both, according to their examiners, had scrota that resembled labia; both had the appearance of a vagina; both seemed also to have penises. (Ann’s was four inches long when erect; Elizabeth’s was originally buried in tissue, its existence established only by surgical intervention.) Yet 1 2 3 4

The actual name of this person is unknown; in his 1787 account of the case, Thomas Brand refers to “the child.” I have chosen the name “Elizabeth” for ease of writing about this child. Brand, Thomas. The Case of a Boy Who Had Been Mistaken for a Girl (London, 1787), 5-6. Brand, 7. Allen, Thomas. “An Exact Narrative of an Hermaphrodite Now in London.” Philosophical Transactions 2 (1666): 624; Brand reports that the child was seven years old in 1779 (pp. 5).

their observers interpreted these analogous bodies in fundamentally different ways: in the mid-seventeenth century, physician Thomas Allen declared Ann a hermaphrodite, while in the late eighteenth century, surgeon Thomas Brand declared Elizabeth a boy. In so doing, Brand rejected the category of “hermaphrodite” not only for his own patient, but for all human subjects5—in stark contrast to Allen’s employment of the term as an unproblematic category. For Brand, rejecting the category of “hermaphrodite” was a rational act. The existence of hermaphrodites was a “[doctrine] which had no foundation in truth”; it “only existed in the wild and extravagant imaginations” of its proponents; the application of the term “hermaphrodite” historically lacked “just or demonstrable grounds.”6 The hermaphrodite, in other words, belonged to the realm of imagination. Brand framed its rejection as an act of reason, a recovery of truth, a reorientation toward the justifiable and the demonstrable. Modern scholars share Brand’s association between the erasure of the hermaphrodite and the rationalizing impulse. In her study of biological anomaly in the eighteenth century Royal Society of London, Palmira Fontes Da Costa groups hermaphrodites with other “monstrous formations” that “defied” an “‘Enlightenment’ approach to nature based on the search for order and regularity.”7 In rejecting the category of the hermaphrodite, Da Costa argues, medical writers “[used] the discursive arsenal of enlightened rationality to contain and eradicate the monstrous from English culture and society.”8 The aim of this paper is to interrogate the connection between “rationality” and the erasure of the “hermaphrodite.” How did the hermaphrodite become linked to the irrational? What about this anatomical category placed it at odds with reason, and how was that tension resolved? I approach these questions through close textual analysis of one of the most forceful and influential attempts to debunk human9 hermaphrodism: James Parsons’ 1741 book A Me5 6 7

8 9

Brand, 4. Ibid., 4. Da Costa, Palmira Fontes, The Singular and the Making of Knowledge at the Royal Society of London in the Eighteenth Century (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 16. Ibid., 148. Parson’s argument deals explicitly with human hermaphrodism as opposed to animal hermaphrodism. In his Enquiry, he freely 20


chanical and Critical Enquiry Into the Nature of Hermaphrodites (hereafter referred to as the Enquiry). A physician and Fellow of the Royal Society, Parsons argued that so-called “hermaphrodites” were actually people, particularly women, with deformed genitals. Like Brand, he framed the erasure of the hermaphrodite in terms of rationality according to which belief in hermaphrodism was a “vulgar Error.”10 For Parsons, the “unreasonableness” of the hermaphrodite lay not in the sexually ambiguous body itself. Rather, the hermaphrodite was “unreasonable” because its formation in the womb could not be reconciled with prevailing notions of human generation (reproduction),11 as shaped by 18th century European understandings of God and nature. By debunking the hermaphrodite, Parsons disseminated his own favored theory of human reproduction. Literature Review: Hermaphrodites as Monsters “What, but Ignorance or Superstition,” asked James Parsons in his Enquiry, “could perswade men to imagine, that poor human Creatures [i.e. reputed hermaphrodites]… were Prodigies or Monsters in Nature?”12 Nearly three centuries later, we would do well to ask similar questions. What criteria did early modern Europeans use to diagnose “monstrosity”? What connotations did this term hold? And how did hermaphrodites relate to the broader class of “monsters”? The answers to these questions are hazy. Like the constantly shifting category of “hermaphrodite,” the early modern European category of “monster” was unstable. “Perhaps the most striking aspect of monstrosity during the eighteenth century,” observe Curran and Graille, “is that thinkers had no standard lexical, nominal, or anatomical means of defining the concept.”13 Throughout the early modern period, the word slipped between the medical, literary and theological realms, acquiring different meanings against different “reli-

10 11

12 13

21

acknowledges that among some smaller classes of animals, such as snails, all individuals are hermaphrodites. This uniformity, Parsons argues, demonstrates that is the “Law of Nature” of these species to be double-sexed, just as it is is the “Law of Nature” of humans to have only one sex (pp. 4). Parsons, “A Letter,” 650. This paper uses the modern term “reproduction” and the early modern term “generation” interchangeably. Parsons would later replace the term “generation” with “propagation,” due to his conviction that all life was created in the moment of Creation; mortal animals, therefore, could not be said to generate new life. (See Parsons, James. Philosophical Observations on the Analogy Between the Propagation of Animals and That of Vegetables [London, 1752], 2.) Parsons, James. A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry Into the Nature of Hermaphrodites (London, 1741), xvi-xvii. Curran, Andrew and Patrick Graille. “The Faces of EighteenthCentury Monstrosity.” Eighteenth-Century Life 21, no. 2 (May 1997): 12.

gious and/or ideological backdrops.”14 The instability of the term “monster” has made it fertile ground for scholarship, as historians seek to grasp at its shifting meanings. Modern scholars have used a range of vocabulary to describe the fate of “monsters” in natural philosophy throughout the early modern period: “normalized”15, “pathologized,”16 “[naturalized]”17, “medicalized.”18 Most generally, the literature describes a shift, culminating in the Enlightenment, by which biological anomalies moved from the realm of the “supernatural” toward incorporation in a natural order. As anomalies moved into the realm of nature, scientific practitioners increasingly used them to reveal properties of nature’s “normal” functioning.19 Medical writers pointed to headless human foetuses20 and puppies without mouths21 as evidence that fetal nutrition did not occur through the mouth. Likewise, infants without brains provided evidence that embryological development did not depend on that organ.22 In Wonders and The Order of Nature, Daston and Park relate changing ideas of monstrosity to a radical shift in the sensibilities of the European elite and their social networks: “princes, clerical administrators, preachers, teachers, court artists and storytellers, naturalists, theologians.”23 14 15

16

17

18 19

20 21

22 23

Ibid. Daston, Lorraine, and Katharine Park. Wonders and the Order of Nature (New York: Zone Books, 1998), 205; Moscoso, Javier. “Monsters as Evidence: The Uses of the Abnormal Body During the Early Eighteenth Century.” Journal of the History of Biology 31, no. 3 (September 1998): 378. Moscoso, 378; Da Costa, Palmira Fontes. The Singular and the Making of Knowledge at the Royal Society of London in the Eighteenth Century (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 142. Da Costa, The Singular and the Making of Knowledge, 130; Curran and Graille, 2; Vázquez García, Francisco and Richard Cleminson, “Subjectivities in Transition: Gender and Sexual Identities in Cases of ‘Sex Change’ and ‘Hermaphroditism’ in Spain, c. 1500–1800.” History of Science 48, no. 159 (March 2010): 10. Da Costa, The Singular and the Making of Knowledge, 144. Moscoso points to a shift in this direction in the early eighteenth century; Bates challenges this chronology by arguing that monsters constituted part of an ordered world as early as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (See Bates, Alan. “Good, Common, Regular, and Orderly: Early Modern Classifications of Monstrous Births.” Social History of Medicine 18, no. 2 [August 2005].) Moscoso, 377. Da Costa. “The Medical Understanding of Monstrous Births at the Royal Society of London During the First Half of the Eighteenth Century.” History and Philosophy of Life Sciences 26. no. 2 (2004): 164. Ibid., 165. Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 18.


Their broad synthesis tracks the European elite’s relationship to “wonder” and “wonders” from the twelfth through eighteenth centuries. By “wonders,” the authors refer to a shifting canon of objects, phenomena and organisms understood to be “rare, mysterious and real,” from monstrous births to comets to African pygmies.24 They argue that in the late seventeenth century, elite Europeans came to associated “wonder” and “wonders” with the “disruptive forces of enthusiasm and superstition and religion in politics” that had ravaged Western Europe during the previous 200 years of civil strife.25 Rupturing a centuries-long tradition of engagement with wonders, elite Europeans disassociated themselves from “wonder” (the emotion) and “wonders” (its objects). This rejection of wondrous anomalies coincided with a developing view of nature as fundamentally ordered, uniform, and regular. Monsters, once celebrated for their singularity, became repugnant manifestations of disorder and irregularity. Daston and Park make the crucial point that the Enlightenment impulse for order was a historically produced sensibility that shaped the elite’s relationship to the physical world. Palmira Fontes Da Costa builds on this narrative of an elite search for order through her more localized study of the Royal Society of London during the eighteenth century. In the Singular and the Making of Knowledge, she argues that the Royal Society engaged in an “‘Enlightenment’ approach to nature based on the search for order and regularity,” which “monstrous formations continued to defy.”26 Da Costa points to Parsons’ erasure of the hermaphrodite as “the most radical attempt [of a Royal Society member] to integrate the monstrous within the natural and social order.”27 By attempting to erase the category of “monster”— by pathologizing or medicalizing physiological anomalies— scientific practitioners such as Parsons attempted to impose order on a fundamentally disordered world. According to Da Costa, hermaphrodites in particular stand, as representative of an un-orderable nature. Da Costa suggests that “sex” is an artificial category imposed on diverse bodies. Yet by attacking the category of “hermaphrodite,” and reinterpreting reputed hermaphrodites as deformed men and women, writers like Parsons helped “[consolidate]...a binary understanding of sexual order,” consisting of the mutually exclusive categories of “male” and “female.”28 Da Costa’s work here intersects with a number of other scholars who consider the decline of “hermaphrodite” within the consolidation of a modern sexual binary.29 24 25 26 27 28 29

Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 17. Ibid., 331. Da Costa, The Singular the Making of Knowledge, 16. Ibid., 16. Ibid., 133. See Vázquez García and Cleminson (2010); see also Braunshneider, Theresa. “The Macroclitoride, the Tribade, and the Woman: Configuing Gender and Sexuality in English

Although Da Costa diagnoses the Royal Society’s concern with integrating phenomena into an ordered understanding of nature,she leaves open the question of why and how the hermaphrodite, specifically, became a target of this rationalizing impulse. One explanation is that the hermaphrodite body inherited the negative associations of monstrosity; to erase the hermaphrodite was to “contain” the disorder that it represented. Indeed, Kathleen Long traces an earlier tradition that associated the hermaphrodite with “subversion” and “strife,”30 while Daston and Park trace the association between hermaphrodism and “the sexually, theologically, and morally charged issues of sodomy, tranvestism, and sexual transformation” since the sixteenth century.31 Yet even if these moral and social anxieties influenced medical writers, their presence does not explain how the hermaphrodite became unreasonable as an anatomical category. Before the eighteenth century, the existence of hermaphrodites was seldom questioned32, and natural philosophers and medical experts drew on multiple models of the body to explain their existence.33 On what grounds did eighteenth-century writers now reject their existence? Parsons’ Enquiry provides a valuable case study of the logic of “rationalization.” For Parsons, the “irrationality” of the hermaphrodite body lay not in its sexual ambiguity (per se) nor in its monstrosity ( per se) but in its incompatibility with modern understandings of generation. His Enquiry calls for the reconsideration of longstanding anatomical categories, in light of new understandings of reproduction and embryology. Yet, as this paper explores, Parsons’ natural philosophical arguments intersected with theological, moral, social and professional concerns. Contextualizing the Enquiry Parsons’ involvement in the the debate over hermaphrodism began with the spectacle of a “monstrous” body. In 1740, London newspapers began advertising the commercial exhibition of an “African hermaphrodite.” “Mas, Mulier, Maurus, Mundi mirabile Monstrum!”34 declared the ad-

30 31 32

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Anatomical Discourse.” Textual Practice 13. no. 3 (1999). Long, Kathleen P. Hermaphrodites in Renaissance Europe (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006), 1-2. Daston, Lorraine, and Katharine Park. “The Hermaphrodite and the Orders of Nature.” A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1 (1995): 423. Da Costa, Palmira Fontes. “‘Mediating Sexual Difference’: the Medical Understanding of Human Hermaphrodites in Eighteenth-Century England,” in Cultural Approaches to the History of Medicine, ed. Willem de Blécourt and Cornielie Usborne (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). 127. Daston and Park, The Hermaphrodite and the Orders of Nature.” London Daily Post and General Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, August 27, 1740; Issue 1823. 22


vertisements: “Man, woman, Moor, marvelous monster of the world!”35 As Da Costa remarks, such advertisements appealed to both “sexual voyeurism” and the exociticm of the subject’s “African origins.”36 The advertisements included rich “top-down” descriptions of the subject’s body, moving from face to voice to shoulders and chest to arms to to thighs and legs.37 Lastly, the advertisements provided Latinlanguage descriptions of the genitals38—perhaps especially titillating to those who could not read them.39 Both educated and popular audiences engaged with this “monstrous” spectacle. Medical experts publicly debated the classification of the so-called “famous African”40 as “male,” “female,” or “hermaphrodite.” In October of 1740, the London Daily Post reported a “Dispute lately arisen between several Physicians and Surgeons concerning the African Hermaphrodite.”41 Later advertisements capitalized on this elite debate over the body’s sex, drumming up interest in the body’s ambiguity. One advertisement publicized the contradicting opinions of three medical experts (James Douglas, John Freak, and William Cheselden) who classified the subject as “female,” “male” and “A wonderful Mixture of both Sexes,” respectively.42 Disagreement among medical experts magnified the sense of mystery around the body on display. Advertisements invited readers to become participants in the viewing this enigma: to see for themselves the body that was “the just Admiration of the most Learned and Curious of both Sexes.”43 Such advertisements built popular interest in the exhibit through reference to the educated elite; Parsons, in turn, 35 36 37

38 39

40 41 42 43 23

My translation. Da Costa, “‘Mediating Sexual Difference,’” 130. “The Subject with which we hope to entertain the Curious, is a Black Native of Angola in Africa, about Twenty-five Years old ; of Masculine Features, which however seem perfectly Feminine in the Circumstance of Smiling or Joy. The Voice, when deliver’d in a low Tone, is quite a Woman’s; if aloud a Man’s, and remarkably so in Expressions of Energy or Passion. There is no Appearance of a Beard. The Chest and Shoulders are very robust and spread; the Paps hard and flat: the Muscles above the Elbow vastly strong and brawny: The Arms and Hands neat and slender: The Thighs and Legs a perfect Model of Female Proportion.” (London Daily Post and General Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, August 27, 1740; Issue 1823.) London Daily Post and General Advertiser, Wednesday, August 27, 1740; Issue 1823. “To a popular audience,” explains Da Costa in “‘Mediating Sexual Difference,’” “Latin kept concealed what was normally hidden. At the same time, it drew attention to what might be revealed through the live exhibition” (129). London Daily Post and General Advertiser, Tuesday, December 9, 1740; Issue 1912. Ibid., Thursday, October 9, 1740; Issue 1860. Ibid., Thursday, April 2, 1741; Issue 2010. Ibid.,Tuesday, December 9, 1740; Issue 1912.

capitalized on the public’s interest in expert opinions. In July of 1941, he published (and advertised in newspapers) his Enquiry, arguing that the “famous African” was in fact female. Parsons thus took advantage of a moment of heightened interest in hermaphrodism to publicly demonstrate his own medical expertise, asserting his role as an informed judge of ambiguous bodies.44 Moreover, through his broader theoretical rejection of hermaphrodism, Parsons asserted his role as an advocate for “Truth”45 and “publick Good.”46 Hermaphrodism, he explained in the Enquiry, was an outdated belief in need of“[reform].”47 He linked the propagation of this misguided belief to social evils, including the violent persecution of reputed hermaphrodites48 and their exclusion from appropriate sexual roles as women.49 Parsons also expressed theological concerns with the prevailing belief in hermaphrodism. As he explained in his speech introducing his Enquiry to the Royal Society, “Physical Knowledge”—such as that provided by his Enquiry— ”[is] most conducive… to furnish the Minds of Men with the justest Notions of the great AUTHOR of Nature.”50 An incorrect understanding of the sexually ambiguous body, Parsons implied, corresponded with incorrect notions of nature and its “author” (God). In addition to building his reputation with the reading public, Parsons “capitalized” on this opportunity to ingratiate himself to his peers and superiors in the Royal Society. He formally dedicated his Enquiry to the Royal Society, on the grounds that “Such a Society… are the best Judges, and the fittest Protectors, of every Essay opposed to vulgar Error.”51 By dedicating his book as such, Parsons gained the Society’s patronage. He simultaneously established himself as an integral member of the Society, whose work furthered the Society’s collective goals. Parsons’ Enquiry, then, emerged at the intersection between popular hype and educated debate. Parsons advertised his book in the same newspapers that had listed the exhibition of the “famous African,” making it available to the same audience; furthermore, buying the book cost about as much as seeing the spectacle.52 The low cost, combined 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Da Costa argues that monstrosities provided medical professionals with opportunities to publicly assert their expertise. See “The Medical Understanding of Monstrous Births,” 160. Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, iv. Ibid., xii. Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, iii. Ibid., xvi-xviii. Ibid., xvi-xvii. Parsons, James. “A Letter From James Parsons, M. D. F. R. S. to the Royal Society.” Philosophical Transactions 41: 650-652. London, 1741: 650. Parsons, “A Letter,” 650. Da Costa points out that the Enquiry cost “three shillings and sixpence, almost the same price of the exhibition of the African,” which cost one or two shillings. See “‘Mediating Sexual


with Parsons’ care in translating all quotations into English, made the Enquiry accessible to a broad range of readers. Yet the Enquiry targets not only the “Vulgar”53 but also certain “Men of Science”54 for their belief in hermaphrodism. And indeed, Parsons’ peers in the medical community, including the prominent anatomist and surgeon William Cheselden, continued to espouse hermaphrodism as an anatomical category.55 The exhibition of the so-called “African hermaphrodite” provided Parsons with the opportunity to intervene in the debates of the “vulgar” and learned alike. At the heart of these debates, stood the body of the “famous” African – yet little remains of the person to whom this much documented body belonged. We have the advertisements’ voyeuristic textual descriptions of the body; we have equally thorough accounts of the body by Parsons and the anatomist William Cheselden;56 we have the closeup illustrations of the genitals accompanying Parsons’ and Cheselden’s texts. Perhaps most promisingly, we have a brief comment by Parsons, stating that the person “was carried from Angola in Africa, amongst other Slaves, to America, from whence she was brought to Bristol.”57 We are left with fragments of history: of a person enslaved, repeatedly uprooted, and incessantly gazed upon. But this person’s subjecthood remains out of reach. We cannot know the “famous African’s”58 relationship to their own body—neither the sensations they experienced through that body, nor the meanings they attached to it. Nor can we know the “famous African’s” relationship to categories like “male,” “female” and “hermaphrodite.” This person is documented only as an object of many gazes. Sexing the Sexually Ambiguous Body Those who gazed upon the body of the “famous African” disagreed about the meanings of the fleshy shapes they saw: large clitoris, or penis? Closed-up labia or scrota? A girl’s small breasts, or a man’s chest? The parsing of these individual body parts intersected with, but did not wholly determine, the sexing of the body as a whole. Put differently, medical experts disagreed about the combination of body parts (and in some accounts, behavior) that designated a subject as “female,” “male,” or “hermaphrodite.” In eighteenth-century medical writing, some of the most explicit instructions for sexing the body concerned the term Difference,’” 130-132. Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, liv. Ibid., lii. Cheselden, William. The Anatomy of the Human Body, 5th ed. (London, 1740), 314. 56 Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 133-137; Cheselden, 314. 57 Ibid., 134. 58 London Daily Post and General Advertiser, Tuesday, December 9, 1740; Issue 1912. 53 54 55

“hermaphrodite.” For many of Parsons’ contemporaries, the term was synonymous with the sexually ambiguous. That is, any person of indeterminate sex was to be classified as a hermaphrodite. The entry on “Hermaphroditus” in the 1726 Physical Dictionary reads: such are called Hermaphrodites, the cooformation of whose Genitals are amiss, so that the Pudends or privy Parts of either sex seem to be wanting, or else both appear in the same Person. Those which have the Man’s parts most apparent are called Androgyni. But, the most learned Authors are of the Opinion, That no Hermaphrodite whatever hath the perfect Genitals of both Sexes.59 This definition posits the impossibility of a subject with “perfect” (fully developed) male and female organs. But for this writer, perfect organs of both sexes are not a criterion for hermaphrodism; indeed, any individual with either no sex organs or some mix of sex organs qualifies as a “hermaphrodite.” Parsons’, however, narrowed this definition of “hermaphrodite” to exclude such sexually indeterminate individuals. Before refuting the possibility of hermaphroditism, his Enquiry defines the “hermaphrodite” as “an animal,60 in which the two sexes, Male and Female, ought to appear to be each distinct and perfect, as well as with regard to the Structure proper to either, as to the Power of exercising the necessary Offices and Functions of those Parts.”61 His justification of his criteria is cursory: “This definition naturally arises from the very Term.”62 By Parson’s definition, it is not enough for a body to be sexually ambiguous; to the contrary, he demands the unambiguous presence of both male and female sex organs, each set complete and fully developed. Not only that, but the “hermaphrodite” body must be capable of generation in both the male role (impregnating a woman) and the female role (being impregnated by a man). By the narrowing of the category of “hermaphrodite,” Parsons’ definition ironically expands the categories of “man” and “woman” to contain a greater degree of fluidity. For Parsons, a hermaphrodite was (hypothetically) a person with clear and distinct organs of both a male and a female; however, anyone with ambiguous organs must be classified as either “male” or “female.” The binary sex categories must 59

Blankaart, Steven. The Physical Dictionary. 7th ed. (London, 1726), 182. 60 The use of the word “animal” here does not definitionally preclude humans; eighteenth century writers regularly classified humans as animals. The 1736 Lexicon Technicum defined “animals” simply as “such Beings, which, besides the Power of growing, increasing, and producing their Like, as Plants and Vegetables have, are endowed also with Sensation and spontaneous Motion.” (See Harris, John. Lexicon Technicum, 5th ed. [London, 1736]). 61 Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 1-2. 62 2 24


also expand to contain individuals with secondary sex characteristics associated with the other sex. “Beards like Men and Hair on some of their Breasts” among reputed hermaphrodites do not point to a “Masculine Nature”; after all, Parsons point out, many women without any “Masculine Nature” have beards, while men without beards are “produce as many Signs of Virility, as any others whatsoever.”63 The second major effect of Parsons’ narrowed definition is to locate the classification of the hermaphrodite in the generative power of the organs. In order to be fully male and female, the hermaphrodite must be capable of both pregnancy and impregnation. In clarifying these details, Parsons creates a clear distinction between male and female organs that transcends their shape or appearance. The interpretive confusion between penis and clitoris, labia and scrota that pervades early modern accounts of the sexually ambiguous body is resolved.64 Reproductive capacity, or lack thereof, determines the sex of the organ and thereby the sex of the subject. Parsons’ redefinition of the “hermaphrodite” allowed him to re-interpret bodies that had historically earned this label, rewriting them as men and, especially, women. Indeed, much of the Enquiry is devoted to reassessing old accounts of so-called “hermaphrodites,” such as Thomas Allen’s 1666 account of Ann.65 Invariably, Parsons concludes that these historical bodies lacked the fully developed double organs that qualify them as “hermaphrodites.” By quietly shifting the criteria for hermaphrodite, Parsons had removed the grounds on which historical accounts of hermaphrodism had stood. Monstrosity, Nature and God Parsons’ rejection of the existence of hermaphrodites extended beyond the lack of empirical evidence. Not only did history fail to provide examples of human hermaphrodites, Parsons argued, but their very existence was impossible on theoretical grounds. His greatest theoretical concerns related to womb as a theater for the works of God and nature. The existence of double-sexed offspring, Parsons argued, could not be reconciled with correct notions of generation (reproduction). By the mid-eighteenth century, the mechanisms of generation—the processes by which new living organisms were generated—remained controversial among London’s medical community. Medical writers debated the fundamental nature of the female’s egg, the male’s semen, and their respective roles in producing an embryo. Yet participants in this debate tended to assume the predominance of a pre63 64

A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 23-24. These pairs of sex organs were a site of conflation and confusion for observers of Ann and “Elizabeth” (see “Introduction”) and “the famous African.” 65 Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 14. 25

formationist model of reproduction: that is, that the entire organism was pre-formed in the body of one of the parents before the moment of conception. “[Y]et whether the Animalcule [the microscopic organism] was lodged in the Seed of the Male, or the Female Ova,” explained a medical lexicon in 1743, “is a Matter of Controversy.”66 Other lexicons, such as the 1736 Lexicon Technicum, elide this controversy by treating the latter model (ovarianism) as discredited by the former model (animalculism.)67 Despite the ascendancy of these preformationist models, mid-century medical texts continued to recognize the problems posed to these theories by various atypical offspring, such as hybrids and monsters. The most basic preformationist model would predict resemblance between a single parent—either the mother or father—and the offspring. Yet a robust theory of generation must explain offspring that resembled both parents (hybrids, like mules) and neither parent (monsters). Some texts circulating at mid-century found these atypical cases sufficient proof against preformationism. In his Anthropologia Nova (1707), reprinted in 1717 and 1727, Drake rejected preformationist theories, both animalculist and ovarian, for failing to “[account] fairly and fully for mix’d Generation,” such as the offspring produced by a donkey and a horse. “For if that Hypothesis be true,” Drake reasoned, “the Sperm of an Ass is full of little Asses, and the being nurs’d by the Mare should never make Mules of them, because the Species is pre-determined, and the creature not only form’d, but living.”68 Other writers attempted to reconcile hybrids and monsters to preformationism through additional mechanisms of embryological development, such as the controversial mechanism of maternal imagination. The effect of the mother’s imagination on the embryo in her womb, argued the physician Daniel Turner in 1730, best explained cases such as a human with the head of the horse. For “if the Animalcule… was originally perfect and of its own kind,” he reasoned, no amount of “[jumbling]” in the womb could produce “the brutal [head] upon the human.”69 Yet the mother’s strong impression of a horse, conveyed to the embryo, could change the shape the pre-formed organism. Likewise, in his Anatomy of the Human Body, Cheselden raised “mixed generation” as the “strongest objection” against his own favored theory, animalculism, which seemed to predict offspring “entirely of the same species with the

66

Quincy, John. Lexicon Physico-Medicum; Or, A New Physical Dictionary, 2nd ed. (London, 1722): 91. 67 Harris, John. Lexicon Technicum, 5th ed. (London, 1736). (See the entry on “Animalcula.”) 68 Drake, James. Anthropologia Nova: Or, A New System of Anatomy, 2nd ed. (London, 1717): 186. 69 Turner, Daniel. The Force of the Mother’s Imagination Upon Her Foetus in Utero (London, 1730), 89.


male animal.” 70 Yet considering the “influence womens fears or longings frequently have upon their children in utero,” he reasoned, it seemed likely that the “mother’s blood...should be thought a sufficient cause of the resemblance between these animals and their mothers.” 71 A second common metric for evaluating theories of generation involved their conformation to a loosely shared set of principles about the workings of “Nature.” In particular, the assumption of an efficient and unwasteful Nature posed a challenge to animalculism. If the pre-formed organism existed in the male semen, how could one account for the millions of organisms that, failing to find an egg, died uselessly? Proponents of this theory frequently turned to the analogy between animal and vegetable reproduction to neutralize this objection. “In plants,” points out Drake, “a very few of the whole that reproduced, fall into the earth, and produce plants, and as in plants the greatest part of their seeds are the food of animals, so the greatest part of the animalculae may as well live a time to enjoy their own existence, as any other animal of as low an order.”72 Drake implies that neither undeveloped plant seeds nor animal embryos are “wasted”; the former become useful as animal food, whereas the latter enjoy a full life as low-order animals. In other mid-century texts, concerns about Nature took a theological bent or intersected with concerns about God. Two years before the publication of Parsons’ Enquiry, monstrosity and theology intersected in an essay published in the Philosophical Transactions. In 1739, Royal Society Fellow Philip Henry Zollman published “Some Reflections on Generation, and on Monsters, With a Description of Some Particular Monsters.” The essay was Zollman’s translation of a francophone piece by Daniel De Superville, a French Huguenot theologian exiled to the Dutch Republic. Although Zollman was not the original author of this essay, he nevertheless brought it into the “scientific community” of the Royal Society.In the essay, De Superville draws on his own mechanical explanation of monstrosity in order to build credibility for an animalcular model of generation. By this model, he claims, “one may easily account for those monstrous Births, when two Foetuses are joined together, or Children and Animals are double, in the Whole or in Part.”73 De Superville argues that organisms with double or superfluous features can be explained by the entrance of two animalcules into the same egg: “they touch, they close, they unite, they crowd each other: The Parts of the weakest, being too much crowded, cannot extend or display themselves.”74 He then provides a diverse catalog of monstrous births that, he be70 71 72 73

Cheselden, 270. Ibid. Drake, 270-271. De Superville, Daniel and Philip Henry Zollman. “Some Reflections on Generation and On Monsters.” Philosophical Transactions 41 (1739): 301. 74 Ibid., 302.

lieves, can be explained through this phenomenon: an eightfooted pig, a three-eyed foal, a sheep fetus with no nose and a trunk on its forehead, a human fetus with “no Mark of the Sex” and a piglike tail, and so on.75 De Superville’s account of monstrosity answers not only the mechanical challenge of accounting for offspring that do not resemble the parents; it also resolves an urgent theological problem posed by preformationism. If each organism was created by God’s hand, why are some imperfect? “For supposing every Animalculum to be an Embryo created,” De Superville muses, “I cannot imagine them to be created imperfect.”76 By placing the origin of monstrosity in the moment of conception, De Superville neutralizes this theological problem; the mechanics of conception, not the hand of God, produces monsters. Unlike De Superville, Parsons believed the pre-formed embryo to exist in the mother’s ovary. This model, like De Superville’s animalcular model, raised questions about monstrosity. How could God’s own act of creation result in an imperfect organism, such as a child exhibiting both sexes? “[S]ince we know the common Standard of Nature in human bodies,” Parsons reasoned, is, that there should be but one Sex in one Body, it is impossible that there should be the least Imperfection in the Rudiments of any of the Ova, since they were implanted in Females from the Beginning of Time, by the Almighty Fiat, and were under the Restriction of that Law, that every Day’s experience confirms to us is certain.77 Parsons’ ovarian model of reproduction, together with his assumption that a double-sexed body was an “imperfect one,” rendered true hermaphrodism unthinkable. Rather, he placed the determination of the organism’s sex in the moment of Creation; only when a given embryo developed after conception was it liable to structural changes that obfuscated its true sex. Parsons’ observations of a fetus with a large clitoris, with which he closes his book, provide a mechanism for the obfuscation of the female fetus’s true sex. He observes that, at a certain stage in its development, the female fetus has a proportionally larger clitoris than a grown woman. In most cases, the fetus grows and “the neighboring parts of the Pudenda grow more in proportion to than the Clitoris.”78 But in other cases “the clitoris “continues it’s growth… maintaining it’s first proportional size.”79 It is such abnormal development, not the coexistence of two sexes in a single body, that creates the appearance of hermaphrodism. Yet each fetus has its true sex, determined by God at the moment of Creation. Not all monsters were rendered implausible by Parsons’ 75 76 77 78 79

Ibid., 303-304. Ibid., 305. Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 6. Ibid., 147. Ibid., 147-148. 26


understanding of generation and the nature of God. Seven years after the Enquiry, he published his “Account of a preternatural Conjunction of Two Female Children.” This contribution to the Philosophical Transactions explains conjoined bodies and other cases of monstrosity through the joining of two fertilized ova after conception80—a theory not unlike De Superville’s. In the essay, Parsons argues that preformationism presents the most just notion of God; only a negligent God would leave the work of generation to such particulars as the amount of semen, as previous theories held. In such a hypothetical world, he writes, “Accidents and Chances against the Welfare of all animal Beings would be so numerous, and the State of Nature so miserable, that the greatest Part of the inhabitants of the Earth and Waters could not avoid being monstrous, and full of Confusion: The Almighty would have produced an Effect contrary to his Divine Goodness, and Care for His Creatures.”81 Here, as in De Superville’s essay and Parsons’ Enquiry, the monstrous body provides an arena in which to work out the implications of preformationism. Read together, these texts suggest the complex relationship between monstrosity, theology and generation in mid-century medical thought. For De Superville, the ability of his animalcular theory to explain monstrosity lends credibility to the theory. For Parsons, the combination of theological concerns and ascription to a preformationist theory detracts credibility from the category of hermaphrodites. Other categories of monsters were not, for Parsons, rendered implausible by his ovarian model of generation; rather, cases of monstrosities, such as conjoined children and extra body parts, were explained by this theory. Each of these cases posits a different relationship between theories of generation, monstrosity, and belief in an ordered nature. Taken together, they complicate Da Costa’s suggestion that monsters categorically “defied” an “‘Enlightenment’ approach to nature based on the search for order and regularity.”82 Rather, this analysis suggests that the discursive fate of a given “monster” varied considerably depending on its relationship to prevailing theories of the natural world. We cannot attribute Parsons’ attempts to eradicate the “hermaphrodite” merely to the “monstrosity” of that figure, though monstrosity played a role. Rather, Parsons targeted the hermaphrodite for erasure because of its perceived incompatibility with modern theories of generation. Ancients and Moderns

rance of the human body. The ancients, he recounted in the Enquiry, believed that the sex of the child was determined by the “Strength or Quantity” of the mother’s and father’s “semen.”: “if both were equal in Quantity and Quality, a Child of both Sexes was begotten.”83 And indeed, Parsons acknowledged, this erroneous understanding of generation might seem to render hermaphrodism plausible: “[W]ere we to have regard to this [theory of generation], we might still be liable to be born away by this Hypothesis, as Authors have been hitherto, which would inevitably seduce us to believe that there are Hermaphrodites in human Nature.”84 But, Parsons argued, the moderns should be resistant to such seduction, thanks to their superior access to an accumulation of knowledge about the human body. In the first place, awareness of “the Uses of Ovaria… [and] the Fallopian Tubes” undermined the ancient idea that both men and women both contributed semen.85 Ancient theories pointed to this mixing of male and female semen to explain hermaphrodites; thus, the rejection of those theories demanded a reconsideration of the plausibility of hermaphrodism. Furthermore, Parsons reasoned that modern knowledge of the clitoris should reduce confusion about sexually ambiguous bodies. Before the discovery of this female organ, he speculated, large clitorises were frequently mistaken for penises; this misunderstanding created the appearance of individuals with both a penis and a vulva, giving rise to the idea of hermaphrodites.86 Armed with awareness of the clitoris, Parsons concluded, modern observers should not confuse women with large clitorises for hermaphrodites. In sum, the Enquiry suggests that modern knowledge of female anatomy, both internal and external, ought to undermine belief in hermaphrodism. Yet belief in hermaphrodites persisted—hence the Enquiry. Parsons framed his work as “the Expulsion of superstitious Mysteries and Errors:”87 an attempt to purge the public of persistent ignorance, rooted in ancient understandings of the world. Though Parsons’ learned peers had thrown away ancient theories of generation, he complained, they continue to believe in the hermaphrodites that only outdated theories could explain. His work suggests a belief that the proliferation of modern theories does not automatically imply awareness or acceptance of all their implications. The Enquiry thus represents a call to update the categories that structure the world—male, female, hermaphrodite—in light of new understandings of generation. Epilogue: Animal Hermaphrodism

Parsons framed his conclusions about hermaphrodism in opposition to a benighted past, characterized by igno80

Parsons, James. “An Account of A Preternatural Conjunction of Two Female Children.” Philosophical Transactions 45 (1748): 536. 81 Ibid., 534. 82 Da Costa, The Singular and the Making of Knowledge, 16. 27

Parsons’ treatment of hermaphrodites received significant 83 84 85 86 87

Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 8. Parsons, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry, 8. Ibid., 100-101. Ibid., 9. Ibid., iv.


recognition. In the next fifty years, a number of English-language essays and encyclopedias cited Parsons as an authority, perpetuating his relegation of the “hermaphrodite” to the superstitions of the past.88 The Enquiry also enjoyed recognition abroad: Louis de Jaucourt’s 1765 Encyclopédie entry “Hermaphrodite” credits Parsons with “demonstrat[ing] skillfully and briefly that the existence of hermaphrodites is solely a popular misconception.” Yet the decline of “hermaphrodite” as a category was not a total or linear process. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, the possibility of high-order animal hermaphrodites—perhaps even humans—was reimagined. In 1779, surgeon and animal enthusiast John Hunter read his “Account of A Free Martin” before the Royal Society of London. Hunter pointed to free martins (cattle today understood to be chromosomally atypical) as an example of high-order animal hermaphrodites. He noted that hermaphrodites were common among lower orders of animals, and speculated that “it becomes no great effort or uncommon play in nature to unite the in those animals in which they are commonly separated.”89 Although Hunter admitted to the rarity of hermaphrodites among dogs and men, he made no theoretical arguments against the possibility.90 Twenty years later, Everard Home presented the Royal Society with evidence of the former, in his “Account of the Dissection of an Hermaphrodite Dog.”91 Other intellectuals recovered the possibility of the human hermaphrodite, as well. In his Essay on Generation, published in English translation in 1792, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach raised the possibility. Rejecting preformationist models, Blumenbach argued that “the unorganized matter of generation” developed through an internal drive called the Bildungstrieb or “formative nisus.”92 Blumenbach attributed the existence of hermaphrodites, along with “monstrous” offspring and offspring that resembled a different species, to “deviations of the formative process from its usual course.”93 Half a century earlier, Parsons had grappled with the problem of whether God could create “imperfect” (hermaphrodite) embryos; Blumenbach’s model neutralized this concern by attributing the creation of the embryo to the “formative nisus,” and not the hand of God. In addition to providing a theoretical basis for hermaphrodism, Blumenbach pointed to recent empirical evidence in favor of the phenomenon. “In out skeptical days,” he wrote, the possibility of human hermaphrodites, and that of 88 89 90 91 92 93

See footnote 12. Hunter, John. “Account of the Free Martin.” Philosophical Transactions 69 (1779): 280. Ibid., 281. Homes, Everard. “An Account of the Dissection of an Hermaphrodite Dog.” Philosophical Transactions 89 (1799): 157178. Blumenbach, J.F. An Essay on Generation (London, 1792), 20. Ibid., 79.

other warm-blooded animals, has been much doubted. And yet Baron Haller of this university, and Mr. John Hunter of London, have given relations of the most careful dissections of such animals, especially in the cow, and goat tribes, which leave no room for further doubts in this matter.94 For Blumenbach, recent empirical examples of warmblooded hermaphrodites, like those provided by Haller and Hunter, undermined the “skeptical” rejection of hermaphrodites as a category. Yet Blumenbach’s work elided the definition of hermaphrodism on which those earlier arguments were made.or Blumenbach, a hermaphrodite may be constituted by “imperfect marks of organs of the other sex,”95 whereas Parsons demanded both male and female organs in their fully developed forms. In the fifty years between Parsons’ Enquiry and Blumenbach’s Essay on Generation, the hermaphrodite was defined and redefined; the mechanisms of generation were imagined and reimagined; the relationship between hermaphrodism and generation was considered and reconsidered. In this process, the bodies of reputed hermaphrodites—Ann, “Elizabeth,” “the famous African,” and numerous others— were written and rewritten. Their fleshy parts were imbued with one meaning and then another. But those bodies, and those subjectivities, are lost. We are left instead with the “hermaphrodite” of Parsons and Blumenbach: an object of medical discourse, entangled in concerns about theology, monstrosity, reproduction, and even time. At mid-century, Parsons made belief in hermaphrodism a relic of the superstitious past. Blumenbach, at the end of the century, made doubt about hermaphrodism a relic of a “skeptical” past. The hermaphrodite never constituted a stable category; rather, this chimerical figure stood between superstition and truth, skepticism and empiricism, past and present.

94 95

Ibid., 81. Blumenbach, 81. 28


Workers’ Demonstrations and Liberals’ Condemnations: the Italian Liberal Press’s Coverage of General Strikes, Factory Occupations, and Workers’ Self-Defense Groups during the Rise of Fascism, 1919-1922 By Ararat Gocmen, Princeton University

Workers occupying a Turin factory in September 1920. “Torino - Comizio festivo in una officina metallurgica occupata.” L’Illustrazione italiana, 26 September 1920, p. 393

This paper outlines the evolution of the Italian liberal press’s coverage of workers’ demonstrations from 1919 to 1922. The goal is to show that the Italian liberal middle classes became increasingly philofascistic in response to the persistency of workers’ demonstrations during this period. The paper analyzes articles from the Italian newspapers La Stampa and L’Illustrazione italiana, treating their coverage of general strikes, factory occupations, and workers’ self-defense groups as proxies for middle-class liberals’ interpretations of workers’ demonstrations. By tracking changes 29

in the liberal press in this way, it illustrates how working-class radicalism contributed to the rise of fascism in Italy.1 1

I would like to thank Professor Joseph Fronczak for his guidance in writing this paper, especially for his recommended selections from the existing historiography of Italian fascism that I cite throughout. I am also grateful to Professors Pietro Frassica and Fiorenza Weinapple for instructing me in the Italian language


Historians of Italian fascism often divide the years leading up to the fascists’ rise to power—from the immediate aftermath of the First World War at the beginning of 1919 to Benito Mussolini’s March on Rome in October 1922—into two periods. The biennio rosso (red years) encompasses the emergence of the radical working-class movement from 1919 to 1920, a period marked by numerous workers’ demonstrations and significant revolutionary activity from the Italian Left. In contrast, the biennio nero (black years) refers to the growth of the fascist movement and of fascist violence against workers from 1921 to 1922, during which Italy witnessed an explosion in both membership in and the number of fasci (local branches of the fascist movement).2 This historiographical periodization of 1919-1922 into ‘red’ and ‘black’ intervals is indicative of a crucial reality of the era: beyond the politicians of the Liberal, Socialist, and other parties who concerned themselves with parliamentary matters, the primary actors in Italy between the end of the First World War and the March on Rome were socialist workers and conservative industrialists, and, moreover, communist reds and fascist blackshirts. Thousands of Italian workers joined labor unions—especially those unions with radical inclinations—during the biennio rosso, representing a widespread mobilization of the working-class masses.3 In response, urban industrialists and rural property owners organized themselves into their own associations, acting in concert to counter the economic and political threat that was the working-class movement and contributing to the anti-labor violence of the biennio nero.4 Throughout both periods, communist and fascist revolutionaries actively sought support from the ranks of labor and capital, respectively. While the fascists were after industrialists’ financing,5 the communists solicited workers’ support for their revolutionary program.6 The ubiquity of workers’ demonstrations in 1919-1922 Italy and the fasci’s constant efforts to suppress them reflect the importance of these ‘red’ and ‘black’ actors to historical narratives of the rise of Italian fascism. While many more

2

3 4 5 6

over the past year and a half, without which I would have been unable to engage in the Italian-language archival research necessary for this paper. Finally, I owe much to Professor Rebecca Rix for teaching me how to properly work with primary-source documents in her historical methods course. Roberto Franzosi, “The Rise of Italian Fascism (1919-1922): Changing Social Relations in Revolutionary Periods,” Working Paper (The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America of Columbia University, 2013), http://italianacademy.columbia. edu/sites/default/files/papers/Franzosi.pdf, 3-5. Angelo Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 1918-1922, trans. Peter Wait and Dorothy Wait (London: Methuen, 1938), 66. Frank M. Snowden, The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 19191922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 94, 148150. Ibid., 147. Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 19191929 (Bath: The Pitman Press, 1973), 37.

workers’ demonstrations took place during the working-class mobilization of 1919-1920, strikes—sometimes even large ones—remained a persistent phenomenon in the two years of violent fascist reaction that followed.7 Additionally, while the fascist movement was too small to be a threat to striking workers during the biennio rosso, the end of 1920 saw an outburst in fascist violence against workers that continued throughout the biennio nero.8 Reds’ demonstrations and blackshirts’ suppressions of them thus pervaded 1919-1922 Italy. Historians have thoroughly documented the impact of these workers’ demonstrations on conservative industrialists and the growth of the fascist movement. The fasci recruited thousands of new supporters at the end of 1920 and the start of 1921, an accomplishment which both Adrian Lyttelton and Angelo Tasca attribute primarily to the blowback from Italian workers’ occupations of factories in September 1920.9 According to Frank Snowden, those factory occupations, in the context of the heavy strike activity of 1919-1920, also led employers to “[push] industrial conflict to an open [and violent] showdown” and to actively support the fascist movement.10 In this way, historians have identified the persistency of workers’ demonstrations as a boon to the fascists’ recruiting efforts and the foremost cause of conservative industrialists’ support for fascism. Yet historians of Italian fascism have paid insufficient attention to the liberal middle classes’ evolving interpretations of these workers’ demonstrations over the 1919-1922 period. They have instead placed their analytical focus on the actions and reactions of the era’s primary ‘red’ and ‘black’ actors, those who threatened middle-class liberals from the Left and Right, respectively.11 As Snowden asserts, “the chief sources of Italian fascism lie in the frontal clash between landlords and peasants,” as well as between industrialists and workers, “over the issue of control of the land, the labor market, and the local government.”12 With this analytical framework in mind, historians have inadequately studied the role of liberal middle-class philofascism in the fascists’ rise to power, glossing over the precise reasons for which that philofascism formed and the different degrees to which it did so among different subsets of the liberal population. In particular, they have failed to consider the ways in which the persistency of workers’ demonstrations changed the liberal middle classes’ interpretations of the working-class movement over time, contributing to the development of philofascist sentiments among middle-class liberals and expanding the Italian public’s support for the fascist movement beyond Mussolini’s

7 8 9

Franzosi, “The Rise of Italian Fascism (1919-1922),” 9. Ibid., 14-17. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 38; Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 79. 10 Snowden, The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 143. 11 Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 30. 12 Snowden, The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 2-3. 30


squadristi (armed fascist squads) and the industrialists who funded them. When historians have addressed the question of middleclass liberals’ reactions to workers’ demonstrations, they have done so in an analytically sloppy manner. Citing the liberal press as a surrogate for the liberal middle-class citizenry, Lyttelton exemplifies the various problems within the existing historiography when he declares that, in the immediate aftermath of the biennio rosso, “the Fascist movement was welcomed by the great majority of the Liberal press as a sign of the revival of the bourgeoisie.”13 First, Lyttelton presents the Italian liberal press of 1919-1922 as homogeneous, when, in reality, different liberal publications diverged in their interpretations of workers’ demonstrations. Additionally, in referring to a capital-L“Liberal press,” he fails to distinguish between the Liberal-party politicians who focused on the parliamentary implications of fascism and the liberal middle-class citizens who thought about its more general societal implications; Charles Maier makes a similar error when discussing “liberals’ [efforts]”—by which he means Liberal politicians’ efforts—“to collaborate with Fascists” after 1920.14 Finally, Lyttelton employs the language of “bourgeoisie,” which, though certainly reflective of the jargon that the Italian liberal press used in the 1919-1922 period, leads to carelessness in historical analysis by improperly grouping the liberal middle classes into the same sociopolitical category as conservative industrialists. Given these shortcomings, the historiography of Italian fascism demands an analysis of the ways in which liberal middle-class interpretations of workers’ demonstrations evolved over the course of the biennio rosso and biennio nero. Drawing on Lyttelton and taking the liberal press as a proxy for the liberal middle classes, I pursue such an analysis in this paper. In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, middle-class liberals condemned general strikes as unpatriotic, economically disruptive, and politically divisive acts that threatened the potential for industrial recovery and national unity in Italy. Though there was disagreement among the liberal middle classes about the merits of the workers’ reasons for striking, they were unanimous in their criticism of workers’ demonstrations as harmful to the Italian patria (fatherland). With the 1920 factory occupations and the concurrent emergence of workers’ self-defense groups, the liberal middle classes began associating workers’ demonstrations with physical and ideological violence. Finally, during the biennio nero, middle-class liberals blamed workers’ demonstrations for the continuing armament of the fasci and the increasingly popular appeal of fascism. Some even expressed explicitly philofascist sympathies, citing the fascists’ successful suppression of disruptive and divisive workers’ demonstrations.

The persistency of general strikes, factory occupations, and workers’ self-defense groups over the 1919-1922 thus turned Italian middle-class liberals increasingly sympathetic to fascism. Though the liberal middle classes were not unanimous in their philofascist sentiments in the months just before Mussolini’s March on Rome, the writer Renato Simoni was accurate in the declaration he made in his summer 1922 column for the newspaper L’Illustrazione italiana: “the [workers’ demonstration], which was supposed to be a large protest against fascism, has enabled fascism to demonstrate its merits.”15 Not all middle-class liberals were convinced by these merits—that is, by the way fascists violently challenged the radical labor activity and ceaseless workers’ demonstrations of the biennio rosso—but some certainly were.

13 14

15

31

Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 38. Charles S. Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the Decade after World War I (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 322.

A Word on Method Though liberal journalists were members of the liberal middle classes, the sentiments that they expressed toward workers’ demonstrations in their articles and columns were not fully representative of those of all middle-class liberals in 1919-1922 Italy. These journalists formed a sort of liberal intelligentsia, and the intelligentsia and the masses did not have to agree on all matters political. For that reason, the claims that I make about the liberal middle classes’ changing interpretations of general strikes, factory occupations, and workers’ self-defense groups are necessarily extrapolations from my analysis of the liberal press’s interpretations of those demonstrations. Yet there remains merit in using the liberal press as a proxy for the liberal middle classes. For the Italian middle-class liberals during the biennio rosso and biennio nero whose lives did not revolve around parliamentary matters, and who were not the primary actors creating the political realities of the era, the newspapers that they read shaped their interpretation of those political realities. In this way, widely read liberal publications’ coverage of workers’ demonstrations in 1919-1922 Italy sheds light on the liberal middle classes’ reactions to those demonstrations. The liberal press’s coverage influenced, shaped, and even determined their reactions. On this basis, my analysis draws on the historical archives of two newspapers that were popular among the Italian liberal middle classes during the biennio rosso and biennio nero: La Stampa and L’Illustrazione Italiana, both of whose historical archives are fully digitalized and freely accessible online. Unfortunately, the historical archives of other major Italian newspapers popular during the 1919-1922 period, including Il Messaggero and Il Corrierre della Sera, are either inaccessible online or are digitally accessible only at a financial cost. However, this paper’s limited scope, combined with the completeRenato Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 6 August 1922, p. 156. « Così lo sciopero, che doveva essere una grande protesta contro il fascismo, ha dato modo al fascismo di mostrasi benemerito. »


ness of La Stampa’s and L’Illustrazione’s online archives and the diversity of viewpoints that they express between them, make it unnecessary to pursue access to these other newspapers’ archives. Founded in Turin, La Stampa was one of the foremost liberal dailies in pre-fascist Italy. Since the Risorgimento, it had been one of the strongest, most vocal voices for liberalism and democracy in the nation and was thus a favorite of the liberal middle classes.16 During the war, it generally agreed with the political positions of Giovanni Giolitti, the politician and former prime minister who was against Italy’s participation in the First World War17 and whose “grand design” for the Italian government’s domestic policy was that of a “reforming ministry with Socialist support.”18 In this way, La Stampa was the voice of what could be called social liberalism—an ideology of liberal democracy that was sympathetic to the social and economic issues faced by workers and the lower classes—in the liberal press. L’Illustrazione italiana was a Milanese weekly that was, on the other hand, more tailored to an upper middle-class readership and thus more skeptical of the working-class movement. Though its popularity suffered a decline in the aftermath of the First World War,19 it still maintained a large liberal middle-class audience during the 1919-1922 period.20 The newspaper was unique for the articles that famous Italian writers, like the renowned playwright Luigi Pirandello, contributed to it, as well as for the photos and illustrations that it published.21 Though its coverage was generally more oriented to the arts than to politics, each issue contained at least a couple pages of commentary on current events, whether in the columns of the aforementioned Renato Simini, writing under the pseudonym Nobiluomo (Nobleman) Vidal,22 or in published series of photos.

16 17

18 19 20 21 22

Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. “La Stampa,” accessed 29 November 2015, http://www.britannica.com/topic/La-Stampa. Giolitti opposed Italian participation in the war when he was prime minister in the first half of the 1910s and emphasized the war’s disastrous consequences after it ended in 1919. Enciclopedie Treccani, s.v. “La Stampa,” accessed 30 November 2015, http:// www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/la-stampa/; Giovanni Giolitti, “Discorso per le elezioni della XXV legislatura,” La Stampa, 13 October 1919, p. 1; Leonardo Rapone, “Giolitti. Le conseguenze per l’Italia della Grande guerra,” Italianieuropei, 21 September 2011. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 21. “L’Illustrazione italiana,” Biblioteca Provinciale Italiana Claudia Augusta, accessed 29 November 2015, http://www.bpi. claudiaugusta.it/en/periodicivari.cfm. Anna Tonelli, E ballando ballando: La storia d’Italia a passi di danza (1815-1996) (Milan: FrancoAngeli, 1998), 148, n. 97. “L’Illustrazione italiana,” Biblioteca Provinciale Italiana Claudia Augusta, accessed 29 November 2015, http://www.bpi. claudiaugusta.it/en/periodicivari.cfm. “Renato Simoni,” Fondazione Franco Fossati, accessed 28 December 2015, http://www.lfb.it/fff/giorn/aut/s/simoni.htm.

Using the historical archives of both La Stampa and L’Illustrazione italiana, I draw on the various differences between the two publications—one a daily, the other a weekly; the former’s social liberalism versus the latter’s skepticism of the working-class movement; La Stampa’s imageless coverage compared to L’Illustrazione’s visual approach—to make claims about the liberal press’s general coverage of workers’ demonstrations during the biennio rosso and biennio nero. I also highlight the instances where the two publications diverge in their coverage, demonstrating, for example, that middle-class liberals did not unanimously embrace philofascism by the time Mussolini pursued the March on Rome. Given the limited scope of this paper, I treat the individual workers’ demonstrations that I investigate as case studies of liberal press coverage in 1919-1922 Italy. To ensure the generalizability of the claims that I make for this period, I have selected one workers’ demonstration for each of the four years that make up the biennio rosso and biennio nero. My four case studies are: the general strike of July 1919, the factory occupations of September 1920, the arditi del popolo’s demonstration of July 1921, and the general strike of August 1922. The four demonstrations were not identical. Two (1919, 1922) were general strikes in which workers refused to attend work, another (1920) involved factory occupations during which workers’ took command of their workplaces, and another (1921) featured the paramilitary exercises of an armed workers’ self-defense group. However, to the liberal press covering these different events—scioperi, occupazioni, guardie rosse—they were all simply dimostrazioni: public displays of workers disrupting economic activity, asserting their class consciousness, and engaging in an activity that provoked violence along class lines. The different events also shared similarities beyond the coincidence that they took place in the summer. 23 All of them featured workers engaging in public protest, whether by abstention from the workplace or by workplace occupation, and workers’ self-defense groups were present at half of them (1920, 1921). For these reasons, I classify all four events as manifestations of the same phenomenon—workers’ demonstrations— and analyze La Stampa’s and L’Illustrazione italiana’s changing coverage of them during the biennio rosso and biennio nero based on this premise. Using the four case studies, I track the evolution of middle-class liberals’ interpretations of workers’ demonstrations from 1919 to 1922: from their condemnation of it as an unpatriotic, economically disruptive, politically divisive act in 1919; to their reinterpretation of it by 1920 as a cause of violence; and eventually to their belief during the biennio nero that it was the reason for the fascist movement’s continuing armament and growing appeal to the liberal middle classes.

23

On the possible casual relationship between the summer heat and working-class radicalism, I have nothing to say. 32


The General Strike of July 1919 In the immediate aftermath of the First World War and only a few weeks after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the socialist parties and labor unions in Italy, France, and England planned an international general strike for 20-21 July 1919,24 the aim of which was to condemn and demand an end to Allied governments’ military interventions in the new Russian and Hungarian Soviet Republics.25 Italy had experienced significant radical labor activity during the immediate months prior to the demonstration, with workers’ councils emerging in large numbers and general strikes occurring throughout the country since the start of the summer. In line with this growing revolutionary fervor, the vision underlying the planned strike was that of the scioperissimo: “the climactic supreme strike” that would unleash socialist revolution in Italy.26 In a front-page editorial less than a week before the planned international general strike, La Stampa expressed sympathy for the basis on which Italian and other European workers intended to strike. The demonstration was a “protest by the Italian, French, and English proletariat against the Allied governments” for the inconsistency between their words and actions, as exemplified by their conduct toward socialist Russia and Hungary. Despite the Allies claims to “[fighting] for liberty … the equality of peoples and classes, [and] the betterment of all,” the results of their wartime policies were “the hegemony of some nations over others … the sharpening of [socioeconomic] differences, [and] the destruction of collective wealth.” Praising socialists’ opposition to and criticism of Italy’s participation in World War I, the newspaper presented itself as united with the workers in their opposition to and criticism of the Allies’ interventions in Russia and Hungary.27 Yet, in the same editorial, La Stampa criticized Italian workers on multiple fronts for their plans to participate in the international general strike. The newspaper questioned the alleged internationalism of the proposed demonstration, noting that, whereas Italian laborers planned to strike for two straight days, their French counterparts planned to do so for only twenty-four hours and the English workers did not intend to at all. It also highlighted the fact that the Italian government, unlike the governments of France and England, was not militarily intervening in Russia or Hungary, casting doubt on the direct purpose of the general strike in Italy and the meaningful changes in policy that could result from it. Above all, however, La Stampa emphasized the economic disruptiveness and political divisiveness of the demonstration.

24 25

Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe, 117. “Il manifesto per lo sciopero del 21,” La Stampa, 16 July 1919, p. 1. 26 Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe, 117-118. 27 “Come si prepara la manifestazione del proletario internazionale: La protesta dei popoli,” La Stampa, 16 July 1919, p. 1. 33

The strike would have “damaging effects … on the national economy” and “would be a disaster for all … bourgeois and proletarian alike.” Furthermore, it would divide the Italian working class along ideological lines: the “Italian populace [was] made up of innumerable proletarians who [were] not socialists,” so the strikers could not truthfully present themselves as a “universal proletarian force.” Overall, the strike would make it impossible to achieve the “new society”—in which everyone was of the “same mind” and was “cooperative, informed, and efficient”—that Italy so badly needed in the aftermath of the war.28 In this way, La Stampa’s editorial condemnation of the planned international general strike embodied the newspaper’s visions of national unity in postwar Italy. By sympathizing with the workers’ reasons for striking, the newspaper demonstrated the potential for agreement along class lines, namely, for shared political sentiments between workers and the liberal middle classes. By criticizing the actual tactic of the general strike, it also showed how divisive acts like worker demonstrations could undermine that potential for agreement; besides, there was no need for a strike when “parliamentary political pressure alone could easily” change the policies of the Italian government—for example, its official position on foreign socialist states.29 Finally, La Stampa emphasized that the fate of national unity in postwar Italy rested on the economic stability of the country: both workers and industrialists would benefit from the nation’s economic recovery after the war, a cause that superseded class-specific interests. With its praise of the Italian railway workers’ later decision to not partake in the 20-21 July strike, La Stampa clarified its conception of workers’ roles in its envisioned “new society” and of the threat that workers’ demonstrations represented to that vision. The newspaper declared that “the renunciation of the strike is a credit to the strong organization of Italian railway workers [and] will be reason for unanimous relief [in] Italy,” underlining how important the cooperation of labor unions would be to the stable recovery of the Italian economy after the war. Furthermore, it asserted that the railway workers’ decision to abstain from the strike did not contradict their devotion to the cause of the laborers who did participate: “the Union of Railway Workers [did] not go back on its moral solidarity with all the other categories of workers in the international demonstration against the peace of Versailles” and instead merely “[demonstrated] a clear awareness of its own force and responsibility in … the national life” of Italy. The newspaper thus characterized the railway workers’ renunciation of the strike as an act of “patriotism” while condemning the strike for the “serious harm” it would cause Italy’s “already grave economic situation.” La Stampa’s envisaged “new society” would consider cooperative workers

28 29

Ibid., 1. Ibid., 1.


patriotic and striking workers irresponsibly disruptive.30 The day before the start of the general strike of 20-21 July, La Stampa outlined its expectations for how the strike would interfere with everyday life in Rome. During the scioperissimo, the newspaper alleged, “the streetcar conductors and coachmen would completely be on strike,” ensuring delays in travel time for Rome’s inhabitants. Additionally, the strike would close down the majority of the city’s retail and entrainment outlets—consumers would lose access to most stores, markets, theaters, and cinemas.31 The newspaper also engaged in more explicit forms of fear mongering, warning of potential violence by publishing a note transmitted to it by the press agency L’Agenzia Stefani regarding crimes that had taken place the day before the planned general strike; in particular, a number of attacks had been made on railway lines since the railway workers’ announced their decision to abstain from the demonstration. In response to these attacks, the “heads of the political and economic organizations favorable to the general strike … must think about the danger with which their activities coincide” and be aware that the authorities are ready to react against “the agitators of unrest.”32 By publishing this note and predicting the aforementioned disruptions to everyday life in Rome, La Stampa thus propagated the notion that the international general strike would represent an act of patriotic irresponsibility on the part of participating Italian laborers, in contrast to the patriotic and responsible decision of the nation’s railway workers to abstain from it. However, as a result of much less participation by workers than expected, La Stampa’s predictions of the strike’s disruptiveness proved to be exaggerated, as suggested by its front-page headline on the day after the demonstration’s conclusion: “the general strike unfolded without incident throughout Italy.” The newspaper maintained its praise for the railway workers’ decision to not partake in the strike: “if the economic and moral consequences of the strikes were less grave [than expected], one owes it to the fact that the railways continued to function.”33 It published another note from L’Agenzia Stefani that emphasized the normalcy of the transportation situation in Rome, demonstrating the extent to which it had overestimated the strike’s effects.34 Yet La Stampa also commended the Italian working class as a whole for the fact that “the two days of striking passed with

30 31 32 33 34

“I Ferrovieri italiani rinunciano allo sciopero: La decisione del Comitato Centrale del Sindacato,” La Stampa, 17 July 1919, p. 1. “Che cosa sarà Roma in questi due giorni: Un comizio con Turati annunciato per lunedì,” La Stampa, 20 July 1919, p. 1. “Attentati con esplosivi a linee ferroviarie: Nuovo monito governativo,” La Stampa, 20 July 1919, p. 1. “Lo sciopero generale svoltosi senza incidenti in tutta Italia,” La Stampa, 22 July 1920, p. 1. “Il contegno dei ferrovieri superiore ad ogni elogio,” La Stampa, 22 July 1920, p. 1.

maximal order, without the smallest incident taking place.” It celebrated the “discipline and sense of responsibility of [Italy’s] working masses,” especially those workers who chose to entirely abstain from the demonstration after realizing that “the Italian proletariat had compelled itself to do the work” to which the French and English proletariats had refused to fully commit.35 By emphasizing how most public services and private businesses were operating regularly during the two days of the strike, by underlining the “absolute calm” that characterized cities over the forty-eight-hour period,36 the newspaper showed that, in their mass abstention from the general strike, Italian workers proved themselves capable of being responsible patriots and invested participants in the politics of national unity that La Stampa envisioned for postwar Italy. The newspaper’s praise here for Italian workers demonstrates the extent to which it viewed their original plans for the scioperissimo as a serious threat to that vision. In his analysis of the Italian public’s reactions to the general strike of 20-21 July 1919, Maier fails to take into account this emphasis that the Italian liberal middle classes placed on the need for national unity in the aftermath of the First World War. Maier’s narrative is consistent with La Stampa regarding the dearth of workers’ participation in the strike and the lack of economic disruption that emerged from it: in the eyes of the socialist agitators and radical laborers who organized it, the strike represented “the failure of the scioperissimo.” According to Maier, the strike nevertheless set “bourgeois opinion … on edge,” mobilizing the various forces of the Italian bourgeoisie—“veterans’ associations, fasci, and old conservatives”—into active condemnation of working-class radicalism and of the Italian government’s handling of it. In Maier’s account, the July demonstration, in the broader context of the “cresting and ebbing of the 1919 strikes” in Italy, “stiffened bourgeois resistance” and strengthened antisocialist sentiments among the bourgeoisie.37 However, by adopting “bourgeoisie” as an analytical category, Maier loses sight of the liberal middle classes’ unique perspective on and opinion of the 20-21 July strike and the strikes of 1919 more generally. Maier’s conception of the Italian bourgeoisie recklessly groups together the various socioeconomic classes and political interest groups that actively opposed working-class radicalism: conservative industrialists, fascist militants, Liberal politicians, and middle-class liberals alike make up this classification. In this way, he glosses over the liberal middle classes’ focus on the threat that workers’

35

“Lo sciopero generale svoltosi senza incidenti in tutta Italia,” La Stampa, 22 July 1920, p. 1. Both English and French workers’ organizations had eventually decided to completely abstain from the international general strike, despite their governments being the ones intervening in socialist Russia and Hungary. 36 “Le due giornate di sciopero: I ferrovieri sono rimasti in servizio,” La Stampa, 22 July 1920, p. 3. 37 Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe, 117-118. 34


demonstrations represented for postwar national unity. Maier’s use of bourgeoisie as an analytical category also masks the differences that existed among the Italian liberal middle classes in their interpretations of the strike. For example, it causes him to lose sight of a concern of upper middle-class liberals in particular, as epitomized by L’Illustrazione italiana’s coverage of the 20-21 July strike: there were dangerously close links between the Italian working class and the new socialist states in Russia and Hungary, In its coverage a week before the general strike, L’Illustrazione italiana adopted a language that was far more critical than La Stampa of Italian workers’ reasons and plans for the demonstration. Their reasons for demonstrating against France and England’s interventions in socialist Russia and Hungary dumbfounded Renato Simini, the newspaper’s weekly column writer on all matters political. While the “English proletariat … [limited] itself to striking morally” and France’s strike “[would] last only for the twenty-four hour that [coincided] with Sunday’s work holiday,” Italian workers planned to strike for a forty-eight hour period that included a busy Monday, despite the Italian government’s complete nonintervention in the new socialist states. In this way, the “strike served the cause of [not the Italian] proletariat … but certainly the cause of the English and French and Spanish and Portuguese and Swedish and … German proletariats.”38 It did nothing for the Italian working class, whose government was not intervening in Russia and Hungary. Instead, it merely helped the working classes of other European nations in their fight for a cause for which they themselves refused to strike. Simoni’s criticism of Italian workers’ plans to participate in the general strike reflected his concerns about their relationship with Bolshevism, which he considered a foreign threat to Italy’s liberal middle classes. He characterized France’s and England’s military interventions in Russia and Hungary as “languid,” implying a preference for a more targeted and inspired intervention in these countries. He also complained that “Italy did nothing to impede the prospering of soviets in Russia,” whereas “Russia made use of Angelica Balabanoff,”39 a major figure in the European socialist movement that was politically active in Italy,40 “to sticks its nose in the [nation’s] matters.”41 While Italian workers wanted to strike against Allied intervention in the socialist states, the socialist states were intervening in Italy and interfering with its politics. Following Simoni’s article in that week’s issue were a se-

38

Renato Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione Italiana, 20 July 1919, p. 58. 39 Ibid., 58. 40 Encyclopedia of the Jewish Women’s Archive, s.v. “Angelica Balabanoff,” accessed 24 December 2015, http://jwa.org/ encyclopedia/article/balabanoff-angelica. 41 Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione Italiana, 20 July 1919, p. 58. 35

ries of photos of the events in Hungary that provide further insight into L’Illustrazione’s concerns about international Bolshevism. A number of photos depicted Hungarian communists’ military struggle against the intervening French and English forces, illustrating the intimidating organization and coordination of the Hungarian radicals. Additionally, one photo noted the presence of Italian socialist deputies in Budapest, demonstrating the newspaper’s worries about the Italian Left’s interactions with and relations to international Bolshevism.42 L’Illustrazione thus rejected the basis on which—as a protest against Allied intervention in socialist Russia and Hungary—workers planned to participate in the 20-21 July strike. In contrast to La Stampa’s sympathies with the Italian workers’ objections to the intervention, L’Illustrazione was sympathetic to the intervention itself. Bolshevism in Russia and Hungary and the Italian proletariat’s willingness to demonstrate in its defense represented a threat that Italian middle-class liberals needed to take seriously. Notwithstanding their differing positions on Allied activity in socialist Russia and Hungary, L’Illustrazione agreed with La Stampa in its condemnation of the Italian workers’ actual decision to strike. In the aftermath of the strikes that had already taken place throughout 1919, Simoni expressed a sense of strike-related fatigue: “once again a strike—is it possible that we can be granted a month of tranquility and of work?” Furthermore, Simoni emphasized that, while the strike would disrupt everyday life for the bourgeoisie, the poor and lower middle classes would be the ones primarily suffering the economic hardship it would cause. “There will be a scarcity of goods,” the train and streetcar stoppage will force the poorer classes to “stay in their cities, villages, and hamlets as if in prison,” and “there will be less food in the marketplace.” In this way, L’Illustrazione matched La Stampa its its predictions of the 20-21 July general strike’s economic disruptiveness. Italian liberals were in agreement that warravaged Italy could not handle the economic instability that the strike threatened.43 In its celebration of German national unity, L’Illustrazione also implicitly matched La Stampa in its calls for such unity in postwar Italy. In his column, Simoni complained that “we [Italians] strike for others [while] others work for us and prepare goods to sell to us, devouring our wealth.” In the same article, while discussing an Italian socialist’s recent claim that Italy was “a fatherland that deserved to be defended,” Simoni declared that “Italy is not a fatherland, or at least it is not considered as such by the socialists that [tried] to sabotage” its efforts during World War I. Comparing Italian workers to their German counterparts, he praised the latter for their 42

“Il tentativo di sollevazione antibolscevica a Budapest,” La Stampa, 20 July 1919, pp. 61-63. 43 Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione Italiana, 20 July 1919, p. 58.


“steadfastness, activity, [and] earnestness” in their work while condemning the former for their “public demonstrations, frenetic speeches, and constant strikes.” Germany was thus a “fatherland that deserved to be defended,” but Italy had yet to become one.44 The political divisiveness of the 20-21 July general strike would only make it more difficult for Italy to become such a patria. Overall, the Italian liberal press’s coverage of the 20-21 July 1919 general strike emphasized the strike’s economic disruptiveness and political divisiveness, which together threatened the possibility of national unity in postwar Italy. While La Stampa was sympathetic to Italian workers’ reasons for striking whereas L’Illustrazione italiana expressed concern about their relations with Russian and Hungarian Bolshevism, both publications condemned the strike as unpatriotic and antithetical to their visions for an Italy united across class lines. The two publications’ coverage is indicative of the Italian liberal middle classes’ unanimous focus in 1919 on achieving national unity in postwar Italy and condemnation of workers’ demonstrations as a threat to such unity, as well as of the disagreements among middle-class liberals about the threat of international Bolshevism and its relationship with the Italian working-class movement. The Factory Occupations of September 1920 Between the general strike of 1919 and the factory occupations of September 1920, especially in the early months of 1920, middle-class liberals witnessed an outburst in both the number of workers’ demonstrations in Italy and the number of workers participating in them.45 This immediate period before the factory occupations represented the peak of the working-class movement during the biennio rosso, as the hopes that La Stampa had expressed after the failure of the 1919 general strike about workers embracing a politics of national unity proved to be naive. Indeed, it is with these prior months of radical labor activity in mind that, over the course of the 1920 factory occupations, the Italian liberal middle classes began to reinterpret workers’ demonstration as a cause of violence rather than merely an unpatriotic act. In Tasca’s narrative, the Federation of Metallurgical Workers (FIOM), reacting to employers’ refusal to agree to a new wage agreement and too exhausted to carry out another lengthy strike, “ordered its members [on 30 August 1920] to occupy the factories” where they worked.46 Amidst the widespread radical labor activity that had taken place throughout that year, many of the workers who participated in the factory occupations were motivated by the ideology of maximalism: the “theory and practice to base an organization [for the working-class movement] on the factory councils [that] had achieved a fair degree of maturity and power” in Italian cities 44 45 46

Ibid., 58. Franzosi, “The Rise of Italian Fascism (1919-1922),” 9. Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 75.

and whose aims were revolutionary, in contrast to the reformmindedness of the Socialist Party.47 The goals of FIOM’s leadership were less ambitious, as they merely wanted to “provoke government intervention” and “cherished the hope that [the occupation’s] political outcome might lead to the socialists taking a share” in the national government. However, the movement to occupy the factories quickly spread across Italy and took on a revolutionary character, as “the control of the factories passed into the hands of workers’ committees [that] did all they could to maintain output” while “red guards” emerged to protect the participating workers.48 In its initial coverage of the occupations, La Stampa emphasized the surprising ability of the workers’ committees to maintain order and production in the factories. A front-page article from the September 3rd edition of the newspaper explained that the first few days of the factory occupations were characterized by a degree of “obstructionism [which became] more accentuated” as time wore on, and that this was to be expected given the workers’ “lack of managerial intellect.” However, the newspaper underlined the commendable efforts of the workers’ councils to maintain production and order within the factories: “the workers [at each factory remained] … gathered up in their respective departments … [tending] regularly to their work,” while red guards maintained “scrupulous surveillance” over the factory’s internal order and the security of its entrances.49 In its early coverage of the factory occupations, La Stampa thus expressed tacit admiration for the workers’ ability to effectively organize themselves, as disruptions to production had been minimal up to that point. It sympathized with the workers for their management efforts during the occupations just as it had with workers’ reasons for wanting to participating in the 1919 international general strike. However, reminiscent of its publication of L’Agenzia Stefani’s warnings about the violence taking place immediately before the 1919 strike, La Stampa’s early coverage of the occupations also reflected the newspaper’s worries about the unrest that could emerge from them. The front page of the same September 3rd issue discussed a number of instances of violence that had occurred during the first few days of the occupations. The newspaper reported that royal guardsmen and the police scuffled with workers outside the Fiat factory in the Turinese district of Lingotto, at whom they later shot after a bomb was thrown from the first floor of the factory.50 Workers at another Fiat factory allegedly assaulted and shot a factory watchman for writing “Socialist swine” on a union poster.51 In another case, workers occupying the factory of a

47 48 49

Ibid., 73. Ibid., 76. “Gli stabilimenti torinesi sotto il ‘regime’ operaio,” La Stampa, 3 September 1920, p. 1. 50 “L’irruzione della Polizia alla Fiat-Lingotto,” La Stampa, 3 September 1920, p. 1. 51 “Clamoroso episodio in Corso Dante: Scambio di rivoltellate,” 36


French firm operating in Italy took its expatriate senior manager hostage.52 Thus, despite any appreciation it had for the workers councils’ attempts to maintain order in the occupied factories, La Stampa flagged the early violence that resulted from them as a cause for concern. Though the occupations as a whole had not yet necessarily become violent, the first days of the demonstration suggested that it contained the potential for widespread violence. The newspaper’s early distress about the factory occupations foreshadowed its increasingly critical coverage of them over the course of September 1920. Ten days after the start of the occupations, the newspaper offered a detailed description of the red guards who were protecting the occupying workers; it called them members of a “Worker Police Corps [that] made use of … war and military phrases,” implying that they were a combative and bellicose group of radicals.53 A few days later, the publication alluded to the growing “desolation of city streets” and declining financial means of working-class families, highlighting the increasing disruption to the economy and everyday life caused by the factory occupations.54 By mid-September, La Stampa condemned “the hundreds of bullets fired” over the course of the occupations and accused the red guards of “[being] very irritable and very easily alarmed … when there [was] no real basis for such alarm.”55 Finally, in late September, as it discussed the impending resolution of negotiations between workers and their employers to end the occupations, the newspaper dejectedly listed the names of workers who had been recently killed and declared that it “[hoped] to no longer have to record [the] victims of this sad period.”56 In this way, over the course of the factory occupations, La Stampa reinterpreted the workers’ demonstration to be a fundamental cause of violence. While it continued to acknowledge the economic disruptiveness of the occupations, the newspaper’s focus turned to the violence that emerged from the demonstration and the red guards’ contribution to that violence. Its coverage no longer featured any appreciation for the workers’ attempts at maintaining order. Instead, its pages were full of condemnations of the deaths and unrest La Stampa, 3 September 1920, p.1 . “Un ostaggio… francese,” La Stampa, 3 September 1920, p. 1. “Le ‘guardie rosse,’” La Stampa, 9 September 1920, p. 3. This characterization of the red guards as a military-like band of radicals is ironically reminiscent of historians’s later descriptions of fascist paramilitary groups. 54 “La situazione a Torino,” La Stampa, 13 September 1920, p. 1. 55 “La giornata nelle officine,” La Stampa, 16 September 1920, p. 3. 56 “I funerali delle altre vittime,” La Stampa, 27 September 1920, p. 3. It is unclear who killed the workers, but the lack of mention of any perpetrators suggests it was the police or some other government security forces whom La Stampa did not wish to indict. There also exists the possibility that the killers were early fascist squadristi, though La Stampa made no mention of fascism or squadrismo in its coverage of the occupation. 52 53

37

caused by the occupations. La Stampa’s reinterpretation here of workers’ demonstrations as an inherently violent phenomenon is consistent with the existing consensus among historians of Italian fascism that the September 1920 factory occupations drastically altered “bourgeois” sentiments regarding the radical workingclass movement. While industrialists had already viewed radical laborers as a threat in the years before the occupations, the disorder and disruptions that emerged from them provoked a previously unseen degree of fear in the Italian bourgeoisie. According to Snowden, “the strength and unity of the Occupation movement” came as a shock to the wealthier substrata of Italian society; “particularly worrying was the solidarity of the working class as a whole in response to the agitation of the metallurgical workers,” as well as the organized, armed threat that the red guards represented.57 As a result of the factory occupations, employers began to emphasize and condemn the violence of workers’ demonstrations and the working-class radicalism implicit in that violence. Lyttelton and Tasca also identify the factory occupations as the direct cause of the rapid growth of the fascist movement at the end of 1920 and the start of 1921. Lyttelton discerns “fear and indignation [in] bourgeois opinion” in the aftermath of the strike, arguing that fascism’s rapid growth in the months immediately after the occupations was precisely a result of this fear and indignation.58 Tasca is even more emphatic in his view of the occupations’ causal significance, declaring that “the occupation of the factories gave the bourgeoisie a psychological shock [that] guided” the violent actions they later took against the working-class movement: “the hour of fascism had come.”59 However, while both Lyttelton and Tasca devote more time to analyzing the reactionary sentiments that the factory occupations inspired in Italian industrialists, La Stampa’s increasing criticism of the working-class movement in its September coverage of the occupations demonstrates that they had a similar psychological shock on the liberal middle classes. The potential for violence that middle-class liberals had previously identified in workers’ demonstrations, both during the July 1919 general strike and at the start of the September 1920 factory occupations, had become a violent reality, leaving them more hostile to and worried about the working-class movement than they had ever been before. Expanding on its unsympathetic position toward the working-class movement from the 1919 general strike, L’illustrazione italiana covered the events of September 1920 in a way that went beyond La Stampa’s focus on the physical violence resulting from the factory occupations and that emphasized the mentality of class warfare—the ideological violence—embodied in the demonstration. The newspaper’s initial characterization of the occupations suggests that it 57 58 59

Frank M. Snowden, The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 146. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 37. Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 80-81.


shared La Stampa’s original view that the workers councils were a benign threat. According to L’Illustrazione, just as “little boys [played] shopkeeper, grocer, salesman, [and] sailor” to feel what it was like to be an adult, Italian workers were childishly taking over factories in order to feel what it was like to be a production manager. For this reason, the revolutionary aspirations of the maximalist working-class movement represented nothing more than the “infancy of a [naive] new society [that mimicked] the toils of grown-up society.” In L’Illustrazione’s view, and as alluded to by La Stampa, the occupying workers simply lacked the technical knowledge and intelligence necessary to efficiently run factories on their own.60 The factory occupations were an inconvenient nuisance to Italian society but were too “childlike” and uncoordinated to pose an existential threat to it. Like La Stampa, L’Illustrazione also expressed early signs of concern about the dangers that could potentially emanate from the factory occupations. In its first issue after the start of the occupations, the newspaper took note of the the worrisome ideology of class struggle underlying the efforts of the workers’ councils and offered a defensive response to it: “not on the side of management is their hatred and contempt for the [working] masses,” as the occupying workers so claimed, but rather “in the masses [was] there hatred and contempt for management.” Additionally, L’Illustrazione discussed the Italian and Russian radicals’ shared failure to realize the importance of managerial and engineering knowledge to the successful operation of factories, demonstrating the newspaper’s focus on the disconcerting ideological links between Italy’s maximalist workers’ councils and Bolshevik Russia’s soviets. Finally, the newspaper placed emphasis on the disconcerting paramilitary character of the factory occupations, paralleling La Stampa’s characterization of the red guards as a “Worker Police Corps.”61 L’Illustrazione’s coverage of the occupations developed over the course of September 1920 in a way that the underlined the ideological violence of the demonstration—that is, the war against the “bourgeois” classes that the occupations represented. During the second week of the occupations, the newspaper detailed how the Italian middle classes were so taken back by the occupations that it feared “irritating the workers with patriotic celebrations [of the recapture of Rome that were] unpleasant to the proletariat.” In the same issue, weekly column writer Renato Simoni further captured middle-class liberals’ growing sense of class insecurity: “we pass from danger to danger! Oh how tragic is the life of the poor bourgeois in Italy!”62 Seven days later, he criticized the occupying workers for being “unsatiated and insatiable” in their

demands to their employers and accused them of “wanting the industrialists, after having licked off all the salt, to eat the plate too”: the workers “were not content with [mere] control of the factories [but demanded] the factories and the industrialists [themselves].”63 In the newspaper’s view, the occupiers did not merely want to secure a stronger position in wage negotiations or increased workers’ participation in management decisions. Rather, their motivating ideology was allegedly a violent one that sought to devour their employers and endangered the “poor bourgeois.” This latter comment reflects L’Illustrazione’s view that, with the September 1920 factory occupations, workers’ demonstrations attained a new ideological character that middle-class liberals interpreted as a fundamental challenge to the possibility of middle-class life. The same week, Simoni’s fellow L’Illustrazione writer Ugo Ojetti, a prominent novelist and art critic,64 echoed the other’s commentary on the insecurity of the liberal middle classes, authoring a satirical piece in which a liberal “bourgeois” engineer asked: “the occupation of my workshop, of my machines, of my company, even the appropriation of my persona, are those not tragic?”65 In Ojetti’s conception, the factory occupations were an act of ideological violence by which workers not only took control of middle-class liberals’ workplaces but also appropriated their identities as skilled laborers and factory managers. As a demonstration of workers’ will to self-management, the occupations threatened to render middle-class life impossible. In all these ways, L’Illustrazione italiana joined La Stampa in giving voice to the psychological shock that the Italy’s liberal middle classes experienced in response to the factory occupations. While La Stampa responded to the occupations by emphasizing the physical violence inherent in workers’ demonstrations, L’Illustrazione reacted to them by underlining the ideological violence and mentality of class warfare that they embodied. The occupations thus led middle-class liberals to reinterpret workers’ demonstrations as fundamentally violent and to become more vocally opposed to the working-class movement than they previously were, just as the occupations galvanized conservative industrialists—those to which Snowden, Lyttelton, and Tasca devote most of their attention—into supporting the fascists. This reinterpretation prefigured middle-class liberals’ later assertions during the biennio nero that the violence of workers’ demonstrations made fascism more appealing to the Italian public.

60

63

Renato Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 12 September 1920, p. 324. 61 Ibid., 324; “Le ‘guardie rosse,’” La Stampa, 9 September 1920, p. 3. 62 Renato Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 19 September 1920, p. 352.

The Arditi del Popolo’s Demonstration of July 1921 The fascist movement burgeoned in the months after the

Renato Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 26 September 1920, p. 388. 64 Enciclopedie Treccani, s.v. “Ugo Ojetti,” accessed 30 November 2015, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/la-stampa/. 65 Ugo Ojetti, “La guardia rossa e l’orologio,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 26 September 1920, p. 392. 38


factory occupations. As the fasci grew in size and strength,66 they began to undertake “punitive expeditions” against working-class and labor organizations throughout Italy.67 Mussolini’s squadristi terrorized the workers and radicals who had been agitating and participating in demonstrations during the biennio rosso, “[looking] on [the] murder [of workers] as a sport.”68 It is under these circumstances, in the middle of the biennio nero’s first year, that the red guards from the factory occupations and other armed allies of the working-class movement formed the arditi del popolo (infantrymen of the people)69 and took up the cause of protecting Italian workers from fascist violence. However, the liberal middle classes would soon blame this self-defensive move on the workers’ part as the reason for the further growth and development of the fascist movement. On 6 July 1921, the newly unified arditi del popolo, comprising “all the proletarian organizations [that were] separate during the war,” organized a demonstration at the Botanical Gardens of Rome to celebrate the recent merger of these workers’ self-defense groups.70 During the demonstration, a representative of the local labor union condemned “the white reaction supported by the Government and paid for by industrialists and the ruling bourgeoisie.” A spokesperson for another union later deplored that fascists were “making use of the name of the fatherland to perpetrate reprehensible acts of the most savage kind.” In response to the fascists’ activities, the arditi del popolo were “making their first appearance” after having recruited “around three thousand young men under their banner.”71 The Italian working-class movement, which had previously armed itself during the strikes and factory occupations of the biennio rosso, now armed itself in self-defense from the fascist violence of the biennio nero. La Stampa’s coverage of the arditi del popolo’s demonstration in Rome aimed to delegitimize the newly formed workers’ self-defense group, doing so in a manner reminiscent of the newspaper’s condemnation of the red guards that were active during the factory occupations of September 1920. La Stampa emphasized the combativeness of some of the workers who were present; for example, the royal guards had no choice but to arrest “the most quarrelsome and hotheaded” of the demonstrators.72 Additionally, while describing instances of violence involving “a young man struck with a blow to the 66 67 68 69

Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 90. Ibid., 103. Ibid., 126-127. Arditi del popolo literally translates to “the daring ones of the people,” though a more appropriate, historically contextualized translation would be “infantrymen of the people,” as arditi was the name given to assault infantrymen in the Italian army during World War II. 70 “La ‘giornata proletaria’ a Roma,” La Stampa, 7 July 1921, p. 1. 71 “Tre battaglione di « arditi del popolo »,” La Stampa, 7 July 1921, p. 1. 72 “Tafferugli, cariche di cavalleria, arresti e feriti,” La Stampa, 7 July 1921, p. 1. 39

head falling to the ground” or “a manual laborer struck and [with] his hands on his bloody head,” the newspaper employed the passive voice and thus obscured the direct agency of the policemen and fascist squadristi in the events. It even characterized such incidents as “scuffles” and “skirmishes” rather than as obvious acts of police and fascist violence against demonstrating workers.73 In this way, La Stampa underlined that violence was present at yet another workers’ demonstration while absolving the perpetrating policemen and fascists of their responsibility in that violence. As it had done in its coverage of worker demonstrations in prior years, it presented the outbreak of violence as inherent to the strike rather than the direct consequence of the state and fasci’s violence toward workers. La Stampa’s delegitimization of the arditi del popolo’s 6 July demonstration went beyond merely the violence that emerged from it; the newspaper also aimed to present the new workers’ self-defense group as an agent of the Left rather than a universal force for the protection of the working class. La Stampa declared that “in each category of workers there has … prevailed the concept of non-participation in the proletarian rally” organized by the arditi del popolo, discrediting their claims to fighting for the protection of the Italian working class as a whole. Instead, the newspaper asserted, the Rome demonstration “had clearly assumed the character of reaction by communist and anarchist forces against the fasci.”74 La Stampa thus inverted the arditi del popolo’s claims to being a protective force struggling against the fascist reaction against workers, identifying in the declarations made at the 6 July demonstration an ideology of far-left reaction rather than one of workers’ self-defense. The newspaper further attempted to present the group as one of radical left-wing militancy by referring to it as the “arditi rossi (red infantrymen), as the popolo (people) call them.”75 By applying the adjective rossi to the arditi del popolo and alleging that the popolo itself saw the group as a ‘red’ agent of revolutionary communism and radical anarchism, the newspaper demonstrated its disdain for workers’ attempt at self-defense even when under widespread attack by fascists. A week after the arditi del popolo’s 6 July 1919 demonstration, the National Council of the Fasci of Combat, “although declaring itself ready to disarm if its adversaries honestly and completely would disarm,” announced that it “considered untimely, at the immediate moment, any agreement with enemy or hostile parties.” La Stampa rightfully detected a “certain contradiction” in this announcement by the fascists, noting that it was inconsistent for “one to declare itself ready to disarm and to exclude, at the same time, any [possibility of ] agreement [to achieve] the disarmament.” The newspaper’s explanation for this contradiction was that it reflected a “compromise, between the central leaders of fascism [who 73 74 75

“Episodi vari—Colluttazioni,” La Stampa, 7 July 1921, p. 1. “La ‘giornata proletaria’ a Roma,” La Stampa, 7 July 1921, p. 1. “Episodi vari—Colluttazioni,” La Stampa, 7 July 1921, p. 1.


were] favorable to pacification, and the local organizations [who were] against” such a peace.76 In this way, despite pointing out the self-contradiction underlying the fascists’ refusal to disarm, La Stampa did not place much blame on them. Instead, the newspaper attributed the fascists’ decision to what it implies were understandable internal disputes between the sensible, peaceful leadership of the movement and the less reasonable, potentially more violent general membership of the fasci. La Stampa also held the arditi del popolo at least partially responsible for the fascists’ refusal to immediately disarm. The newspaper asserted that “that which is boiling up, the formation of antifascist forces that took place in Rome a few days ago, and the simultaneous debut of the « Arditi del Popolo », have offered fascism a motive to cry provocation and interrupt their attempts” at peace and disarmament.” The public exercises of the arditi del popolo in Rome had thus frustrated and angered the fasci into continued armament, which they might have considered stopping had it not been for the 6 July demonstration.77 Even bearing in mind La Stampa’s tendency in the years prior to condemn and criticize all manifestations of workers’ demonstrations—whether general strikes, factory occupations, or red guards—the newspapers’ decision to blame the arditi del popolo for the fascists’ refusal to disarm is noteworthy. The workers’ self-defense group had emerged only seven days prior to the National Council of Fasci’s announcement, making the fascists’ demand that the arditi del popolo be the first to disarm an obvious maneuver to shift blame onto workers for both movements’ taking up of arms. Furthermore, the arditi del popolo’s 6 July demonstration had been a protest against the violence that fascists had perpetrated against workers in the months since the September 1920 occupations of factories; it did not represent the start of a violent workers’ offensive. La Stampa was aware of both of these facts, so its decision to blame the arditi del popolo for the National Council of Fasci’s refusal to disarm and stop fascist violence against workers is indicative of an anti-worker, pro-fascist bias on the newspaper’s part. Overall,78 La Stampa’s coverage of the arditi del popolo’s July 1921 demonstration in Rome emphasized the violent nature of the workers’ demonstration just as it had during the factory occupations of September 1920. What was new

76

“La ripresa delle violenza: Il rimedio,” La Stampa, 14 July 1921, 1. 77 Ibid, 1. 78 Petronio, “Conversazioni romane,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 12 June 1921, p. 712; Petronio, “Conversazioni romane,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 3 July 1921, p. 8; “La finanza,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 3 July 1921, p. 22. For whatever reason, none of the June and July issues of L’Illustrazione italiana made any mention of the arditi del popolo. I therefore limited my analysis of the liberal press during the arditi del popolo’s demonstration of July 1921 to La Stampa’s coverage of the events.

about this coverage was that, in the political context of the biennio nero, the newspaper blamed the arditi del popolo’s demonstration in Rome for the continued armament of the fascist movement. Thus, by 1921, the liberal middle classes began to view workers’ demonstrations as a contributing factor to the growth and development of the fasci. They no longer viewed workers’ demonstrations as mere acts of violence but also as a leading cause of the violence that fascist squadristi perpetrated. The General Strike of August 1922 Fascist violence against working-class and socialist organizations continued into the second year of the biennio nero, with the fasci launching a new offensive against working-class radicalism at the start of the summer of 1922.79 In response to this new wave of fascist violence rising throughout Italy, leaders of the various factions of the working-class movement proclaimed a general strike on July 31. According to the “secret action committee” that officially made the call for the nation’s workers to strike, it was acting in “the defense of the political and syndical liberties threatened by the insurgent reactionary forces.” The committee protested “all actions violating the civil liberties protected and guaranteed by [Italian] law,” and it called for workers to “stand in defense of that which is most sacred to every civilized man: freedom.”80 In its proclamation, the secret action committee thus employed a rhetoric devoid of any allusions to class warfare or labor’s struggle against capital, which is peculiar considering the maximalist ideology that motivated the workers’ demonstrations of the biennio rosso. Contrast the way the secret action committee formulated the strike to the class-based framing of the Communists— “the struggle that is being initiated must carry the proletariat to a position of power relative to the bourgeoisie”—or even the Socialists—“the socialists today as always are with the proletariat”—and the gestures to universalist liberalism implicit in the committee’s proclamation stand out even more sharply.81 The strike’s official aims were, in this sense, solely “legalitarian.”82 The working-class movement called for it not in the name of workers’ emancipation but in a desperate cry for the state to bring an end to fascist violence. The proletariat demanded not the end of their oppression by the forces of capital but merely the restoration of their basic liberal freedoms. The organized fascist response to the proclamation of the general strike was, as one would expect and the working-class organizations should have expected, extremely violent, threat-

79 80

Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 80-81. “I documenti che proclamano lo sciopero,” La Stampa, 1 August 1922, p. 1. 81 “Gli appelli dei communisti e dei socialisti,” La Stampa, 1 August 1922, p. 1. 82 Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 216. 40


ening to “take the place of the [impotent] state” and bring an end to the workers’ demonstrations by whatever means necessary.83 According to Tasca, despite the fundamentally liberal rhetoric used by the secret action committee in their proclamation of the strikes, the fascists received support from liberal newspapers, many of which had originally “blamed the fascists for contributing towards socialist participation by their excesses.” However, at this point in what had become a de facto civil war, “the conservative and ‘liberal’ press,” along with the Italian bourgeoisie more generally, “congratulated the fascists who were containing and extending, in the name of the state, the work of destruction” and suppression of workers’ strikes.84 L’Illustrazione italiana’s coverage of the August 1922 general strike is consistent with Tasca’s claims about the philofascism that had taken hold of the liberal press by this period. In its printed issue for the week during which the general strike took place, the newspaper directly addressed the question of fascism’s appeal to middle-class liberals. The publication castigated workers for their decision to go on strike, yet again detailing the costs that society incurred as a result of the workers’ demonstration: according to L’Illustrazione, “the tyranny of the reds” temporarily shut down public services, wasted public funds, and destroyed the national credit. Yet the weekly also mocked the strikers for their inability to significantly disrupt everyday life in Milan, describing the ways in which the city’s trains, telegraphs, and postal system remained functioning throughout most of the strike despite what it claims were the striking workers’ best efforts: “the strike is dying in front of a laughing public.”85 In this way, the magazine condemned the disruption that the strike caused in Milan while simultaneously making fun of its inability to paralyze life in the city, a pair of remarks whose inconsistency is indicative of the newspaper’s continued disgruntlement with and hostility toward the working-class movement. L’Illustrazione, however, went beyond criticizing the striking workers and condemning the economic disruptiveness and violence of the strike, using that criticism as justification for its praise of the actions taken by fascists against the strikes. Explaining how the “the fascist reaction [to the general strike in Milan] produced a broad and immediate consensus in public opinion” that was sympathetic to the fascists, the issue included an entire page favorably depicting “blackshirts [replacing] workers on train platforms and other public services.”86 The publication thus not only offered an account of increasing public advocacy for the fascist response to the general strike but itself expressed support for the fascists. It also provided an analysis of the Italian public’s philofascist

83 84 85

Ibid., 220. Ibid., 221. Renato Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 6 August 1922, p. 156. 86 “Nelle vie di Milano durante lo sciopero: I fascisti provvedono ai servizi pubblici,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 6 August 1922, p. 165. 41

turn to the Right, declaring that “fascism has protected our right to feel Italian” and that, while “we, the masses, we, the tranquil population … are threatened with thirst and hunger by the activity of the red organizations … the fascists focus only on responding to those who cause it.” Thus, in L’Illustrazione’s conception, with the proclamation of the general strike on the evening of July 31st, “the public [was] called to judge [between] the two disagreeing parties … the fascists and the socialists”; since “there [was] no government” left to resolve the people’s problems, the public ended up siding with the fascists, who emerged as the ones “who [helped] us, [defended] us” from the industrial sabotage perpetrated by the working-class movement.87 The workers’ demonstration, which in the summer of 1921 was perpetuating fascist violence by merely giving existing fascists further reason to be violent, was in August 1922 turning middle-class liberals into explicit supporters of fascism. This narrative of increasing liberal middle-class support for fascism in response to the general strike appears to confirm Tasca’s account of the liberal press during this period. Simoni asserted that “the strike, which was supposed to be a large protest against fascism, has enabled fascism to demonstrate its merits”: the workers’ demonstration itself became one of the primary factors triggering increased liberal middle-class support for the fascist suppression of work stoppages.88 In a similar fashion, Tasca argues that the general “strike, which was to have made the state enforce respect for the law and protect workers from fascist violence, only succeeded in uniting the legal and the illegal forces of reaction—the state and the fasci” by galvanizing liberals into supporting the fascists.89 However, both L’Illustrazione and Tasca overstate the general strike’s influence on liberal sentiments toward fascism. Even after the proclamation of the general strike, liberal middleclass discourse had not yet entirely given in to philofascism. For example, La Stampa reacted to the proclamation of a general strike in a manner critical of the working-class movement but not explicitly sympathetic to fascist violence. The August 1st edition of the newspaper declared that “intransigent socialism and communism … with their senseless proclamation … of the national general strike … [compromised], in a manner still incalculable but certainly grave, the possibility of pacification and of equilibrium about which the entire proletariat … felt a sense of urgency and for whose immediate realization they begged.”90 La Stampa therefore agreed with L’Illustrazione in its characterization of the general strike as an instance of the working-class movement failing to anticipate the unintended consequences of its actions: the strike

87

Simoni, “Intermezzi,” L’Illustrazione italiana, 6 August 1922, p. 156. 88 Ibid., 156. 89 Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 220. 90 “Lo sciopero generale proclamato in tutta Italia dall’Alleanza del lavoro: La crisis orientata verso una reincarnazione Facta,” La Stampa, 1 August 1922, p. 1.


hurt the workers more than it helped them by inspiring liberal middle-class support for further fascist violence against them. Nevertheless, unlike L’Illustrazione, La Stampa did not express explicit support for fascist suppression of striking workers. Instead, it encouraged fascists to “not [oppose] violence with violence, to not [threaten] … to replace the State” in their attempts to maintain law and order in Italy. The de facto position of La Stampa may have been limited and tacit acceptance of the fascists’ activities; its favorable acknowledgment of the “fervent patriotism” to which the fascists aspired suggests this possibility.91 However, La Stampa’s rhetoric, devoid of any explicit praise for fascist violence against workers, differed considerably from that of L’Illustrazione, which unequivocally declared that the emergence of the general strike in the summer of 1922 made fascism more appealing to it and to the Italian public. The differences between L’Illustrazione italiana’s and La Stampa’s coverage of the general strike demonstrate that, though some middle-class liberals had turned to philofascism by the summer of 1922 in response to the persistency of workers’ demonstrations over the biennio rosso and biennio nero, others remained unwilling to express explicit support for the fascists. Though, by 1922, all middle-class liberals characterized the general strike as an act of workers’ violence against the Italian patria, only some believed it necessitated a more violent fascist response and thereby endorsed the fascist movement. Conclusion The 1922 general strike represented the “Caporetto of Italian socialism”: the Italian working-class movement collapsed in the summer of 192292 in a manner reminiscent of the Italian army’s “disaster [at the battle] of Caporetto” during the First World War.93 By 28 October 1922, with Mussolini’s entry into power with the March on Rome, the fascists were victorious.94 The ‘black’ actors of biennio nero had crushed their ‘red’ rivals of the biennio rosso. In this paper, I have tracked the evolution of La Stampa’s and L’Illustrazione italiana’s coverage of general strikes, factory occupations, and workers’ self-defense groups from 1919 to 1922, taking it as a proxy for the liberal middle classes’ changing interpretations of workers’ demonstrations over the period. By the general strike of July 1919, middleclass liberals viewed workers’ demonstrations as a source of economic disruption and political divisiveness and therefore considered them unpatriotic acts that threatened national unity in postwar Italy. As a result of the factory occupations of September 1920, they reinterpreted workers’ demonstra91 92 93 94

Ibid., p. 1. Tasca, The Rise of Italian Fascism, 232. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, 27. Ibid., 77.

tions to be fundamentally violent, both in the physical violence that emerged from them and the violent ideology that underlay them. With the arditi del popolo’s public exercises of July 1921, middle-class liberals began to hold demonstrating workers responsible for the continued growth and development of the fascist movement, blaming them for giving fascist squadristi further reason to perpetrate acts of violence against the working class. Finally, with the general strike of August 1922, middle-class liberals acknowledged that the persistent strike activity of 1919-1922 had rendered fascism appealing to them. Though they were not unanimous in their philofascist sympathies, some had explicitly endorsed the fascist movement by the summer of 1922. Beyond acquiring a more diverse collection of sources from the liberal press of the biennio rosso and biennio nero— for example, articles from Il Messaggero and Il Corrierre della Sera—one could extend the analysis in this paper to account for not only changes in liberal middle-class interpretations of workers’ demonstrations but also any precise actions taken by middle-class liberals in response to such demonstrations. How many middle-class liberals left the Liberal Party after this or that general strike to join the ranks of the fasci? Did any liberal middle-class organizations—for example, societies or working groups of the liberal intelligentsia—formally endorse and enter the fascist movement? One can only answer such questions with a different set of sources than those that I use in this paper. For example, the diaries and private letters of middle-class liberals who witnessed the events of the biennio rosso and biennio nero, as well as the membership records of the local fasci, would be necessary to evaluate the specific actions taken by the liberal middle classes in response to workers’ demonstrations. In general, it remains important to further analyze the precise reasons and ways in which Italian liberals became increasingly philofascistic from 1919 to 1922. This topic is relevant not only for the historiographical debate on the rise of Italian fascism but also for understanding far-right antiliberalism—whether in the form of fascism, traditionalist conservatism, or racist xenophobia—as a more general phenomenon. Under what conditions and in response to what events do these various reactionary ideologies grow more appealing to middle-class liberals? I have shown in this paper that economically disruptive and politically divisive expressions of radicalism—in this case, workers’ demonstrations in 1919-1922 Italy—have the potential to estrange the liberal middle classes into supporting the antiliberal Right. With the reemergence of far-right movements throughout the Western world today—from France’s National Front to Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency to the Northern League in Italy—these questions will become increasingly relevant to European and American politics and government. To help prevent the reemergence of fascist and other far-right regimes, historians can and must endeavor to inform society about the circumstances under which middle-class liberals have historically sleepwalked into supporting the forces of reaction. 42


Appendix A: L’Illustrazione italiana’s Coverage of the July 1919 General Strike. “Il tentativo di sollevazione antibolscevica a Budapest.” La Stampa, 20 July 1919, pp. 61-63.italiana, 26 September 1920, p. 393

Appendix B: L’Illustrazione italiana’s Photo Journalism during the August 1922 General Strike. “Nelle vie di Milano durante lo sciopero: I fascisti provvedono ai servizi pubblici.” L’Illustrazione italiana, 6 August 1922, p. 165

43


Use Your Buying Power for Justice: the League of Women Shoppers and Innocuous Feminist Radicalism 1935-1948 By Kathy Higgins, Smith College During the summer of 1938 Sylvia Rubin of Atlanta, Georgia took a trip to New York City to visit Russek’s Department Store on Fifth Avenue with eight of her friends. This, however, was no ordinary shopping excursion. Armed with picket signs, Sylvia and her “smartly clad” companions arrived at the department store via taxi to protest the living and working conditions of Russek’s employees. Sylvia, who had initially expressed her trepidation about her endeavor, remarked “somehow I felt myself a part of something big and I was right at home. Possibly, I thought, it would start people thinking…Suddenly I felt glad to be there- glad to be helping the fur workers protest against the injustice they were suffering”.1 Sylvia and the other woman present at the small strike on that summer day in 1938 were members of the League of Women Shoppers (LWS), a consumer activist group born out of both the Great Depression and the political climate generated by the New Deal. Although the LWS emerged during a veritable golden age of countless and diverse consumer activist groups, all with separate agendas2, the LWS distinguished themselves from the pack through their commitment to direct action through picket lines, publicity stunts, boycotts3 and their concern with the conditions under which goods were produced.4 By 1939, at the height of its popularity, and just four years after its establishment in 1935, the LWS claimed 25,000 members and 14 different chapters in cities across the United States, all dedicated to the same principle of “using your buying power for justice”.5 This seemingly innocuous organization of female socialites, housewives and professionals possessed radical roots and attracted women inclined to socialist and 1

2

3 4 5

Sylvia Rubin, “Dear New York League” The Woman Shopper. Sept-Oct 1938, Box 1, Folder 1. League of Women Shoppers Papers, Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College, Northampton, MA (hereafter SSC). Glickman, Lawrence B. “The Strike in the Temple of Consumption: Consumer Activism and Twentieth-Century American Political Culture.” (The Journal of American History, 2001), 100-102 Bender, Daniel E., and Richard A. Greenwald. Sweatshop USA : the American Sweatshop in Historical and Global Perspective. (New York : Routledge, 2003), 111-112. Deutsch, Tracey. Building a Housewife’s Paradise : Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century. (Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 111. Pamphlet , Box 1, Folder 2. League of Women Shoppers Papers, SSC.

communist ideologies, thus instilling the LWS with the will to support the labor movement and a pervasive consciousness of class issues in American society. The average LWS member was a privileged middle- or upper-class white woman enthusiastic about improving the consumer market and curbing the exploitative capitalist system. The organization began in 1935 in the New York City apartment of Aline Davis Hays6, who would later become its first president, as a way for socialites like herself to discuss and solve the strikes occurring at local department stores.7 The prospect of securing higher quality products and lower prices while simultaneously promoting workers’ right to organize appealed to many left-leaning middle class women who, like Sylvia Rubin, seized the chance to be a part of “something big”. Many members were actually married or closely related to New Deal policy makers or belonged to this category themselves.8 In 1937, after receiving a copy of the “Consider the Laundry Worker” circular distributed by the LWS, Eleanor Roosevelt herself mentioned the group in her “My Day” newspaper column observing, “It seems to me that by furnishing authentic information this organization is doing a service to industry, the public and to labor”.9 LWS members aimed to achieve exactly that. The papers of the Chicago, New York, and Washington LWS branches demonstrate a staunch dedication to tracking and analyzing legislature and disseminating information about unions, civil rights, and consumer justice. Driven by an increased awareness of the consumers’ role in the economic system that emerged from the Great Depression, LWS members sought to assist both labor unions and recovery efforts initiated by the government. In the process of learning about the labor movement and related legislature, LWS members also developed an anti-racial discrimination 6 7

8

9

Aline Davis Hays was married to Arthur Garfield Hays, a notable civil liberties lawyer involved in several high-profile cases. Storrs, Landon R. Y. Civilizing capitalism : the National Consumers’ League, women’s activism, and labor standards in the New Deal era. (Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 54. Goldstein, Robert Justin. Little “Red Scares” : AntiCommunism and Political Repression in the United States, 1921-1946. (Farnham, Surrey, England ; Burlington, VT : Ashgage Publishing Company, 2014), 213. Roosevelt, Eleanor. “My Day” July 9, 1937. A Comprehensive Electronic Edition of Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” Newspaper Columns. George Washington University. 44


campaign and became a part of the nascent long civil rights movement before they were destroyed along with many other radical groups committed to civil rights during the Red Scare of the late 1940s. 10 This paper suggests that although the League of Women Shoppers’ membership was composed of mostly middle to upper class white American women, the organization demonstrated consciousness of the intersections of race, class and gender within an oppressive capitalist system before the proverbial “second wave” of feminism. However, LWS members used their privilege to improve the living and working situations of poor wageearners without truly analyzing or seeking to mitigate the existence of their privilege and its function within their campaigns. LWS members never seemed to forget their status as ladies and drew attention to their causes using remarkably privileged tactics like fashion shows, mink coat raffles and wearing evening gowns to picket lines.11 From its foundation in 1935 to its untimely demise amidst Red Scare politics in 1948, the LWS attempted to forge mutually beneficial cross-class labor coalitions in order to both amplify the voice of the workers and assert their dismay about pervasive economic injustice and capitalist abuses. Historiography As a women’s consumer activist group with radical inclinations, The League of Women Shoppers (LWS) and its efforts to support the labor movement figure at the junction of two very different fields of scholarship. Contemporary scholars tend to group the LWS with either the evolving consumer activist movement sparked by the Great Depression, or the tumultuous trials of the Second Red Scare in the 1940s - if it is mentioned at all. Most of the existing scholarship mainly focuses on Red Scare controversies the ignited by the LWS and not on the group itself. Furthermore, although there are attempts to place the LWS in class context, an analysis of these controversies through the lens of race has not been attempted. Given the vast amount of archival evidence that suggests radical activism intersected with conscious efforts to interact with both race and class issues, it is necessary to look to other genres of labor activist history to contextualize LWS activities. Historical interpretations that specifically discuss the inception and continuation of the consumer movement on a broader scale during the period in which the LWS functioned (1935-1948) constitute the first critical field of relevant scholarship. The consumer movement was a

10

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past.” (The Journal of American History, 2005), 1235. Arnesen, Eric. “Civil Rights and the Cold War At Home: Postwar Activism, Anticommunism, and the Decline of the Left.” American Communist History (11, no. 1 April 2012), 5-44. 11 Goldstein, 224. 45

Twentieth Century phenomenon composed of multiple grassroots organizations, each with their own motives and methods of achieving improved conditions for workers and consumers themselves. Dana Frank poignantly notes that consumer activism and self-organization always constituted an integral feature of the labor movement in the United States and that scholars often overlook its importance in relation to union and working-class history.12 Lawrence Glickman argues that consumer activism that took place during the LWS’ existence could be categorized as a radical force that threatened corporate conservatism even though the movement consisted of disparate groups with vastly incongruous agendas. According to Glickman, the political power citizens harnessed through consumer activism threatened the status quo, and the LWS was part of this cacophony of protesting voices within the consumer movement.13 Meg Jacobs assumes a different approach and investigates the construction of a consuming public by singling out three New Deal economic theorists (Robert Lynd, Paul Douglas, and Gardiner Means) in order to illustrate the shift in American concepts of consumerism that gave way to the consumer movement in the 30s.14 Jacobs does not expound upon the role of women in consumer activism and New Deal agencies, but women’s organizations are still integrated into her technical discussion of consumer economics, revealing the pervasive influence they wielded as organized conscious consumers. Robert Weems also discusses consumer activism on a broad scale, but from a distinctly African American point of view.15 He contends that as the consumer market aimed toward African Americans grew in the 1920s and ‘30s, they also began to realize the respect they could command as consumers, and used their buying power to combat discriminatory practices and support black owned businesses. Considering that the LWS, as white allies, also supported African American’s “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns and joined boycotts and picket lines to advance the demands of black laundry workers, Weems’ work is particularly relevant even though the LWS is not explicitly mentioned.16 On the other side of the relevant spectrum of scholarship, Robert Goldstein and Landon Storrs analyze the involvement of women’s consumer movements in Red Scare politics. Although accusations of communist activity often 12 13 14 15 16

Frank, Dana. Purchasing Power : Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement, 1919-1929. Cambridge [England] ; (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1994), 5. Glickman, 102, 111. Jacobs, Meg. “Democracy’s Third Estate:” New Deal Politics and the Construction of a “Consuming Public.” International Labor And Working Class History no. 55 (April 1, 1999): 27-51. Weems, Robert E. Desegregating the Dollar: African American Consumerism in the Twentieth Century. (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 17-23. Filley, Jane, and Therese Mitchell. Consider the laundry workers. (New York: League of Women Shoppers, 1937), SSC Collection.


overshadowed the LWS’ genuine attempts to effect change in labor policy, these two studies examine the strategies used against the LWS by anti-communist conservatives. Goldstein contends right wing hostility toward consumer groups was actually a conscious effort to reveal and remove people in the government suspected of being communist sympathizers, and became a pervasive reaction against the pro-labor, anti-racist, feminist consumer movements.17 Goldstein acknowledges the LWS’ persecution by the Dies committee and posits that it was the members’ publicly expressed consciousness of class and race that led anti-communists to suspect the League of subversive activities.18 Storrs also focuses her exploration of the LWS and its members through the lens of the controversy created by these accusations of communist activity.19 Storrs discusses the LWS in relation to the Wagner Act and the National Labor Relations Board and argues that the LWS’ tangible ties to the government and its rigorous campaigns for labor policy change exposed it to persecution by anti-communists. Although both Storrs and Goldstein briefly mention the consumer movement in order to contextualize their points, both choose the Red Scare as the point of departure for their exploration of the LWS’ membership and activities. Because most LWS members were also members of the upper and middle classes who used their privilege to support poor workers, it is vital to supplement their history with the histories of working-class women’s grassroots activism. Annelise Orleck reveals that working-class women engaged in consumer activism and community organizing in order to survive rather than primarily because of the moral sensibilities that guided middle class allies.20 Working-class women like Clara Shavelson and Rose Nelson also organized educational councils for housewives that aimed, through boycotts, rent strikes and other strategies, to improve the quality of life in their communities.21Mimi Abramowitz follows a similar line of inquiry, arguing that “low-income women developed the grievances, organizational networks, and consciousness that allowed political struggle” during the first half of the twentieth century.22 These included 17 18 19

Goldstein, 214. Goldstein, 233. Storrs, Landon R. Y. The second Red Scare and the unmaking of the New Deal left. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 20 Orleck, Annelise. Common Sense & A Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900-1965. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 217-218. Bender, 205-206. 21 Orleck, 221, 225. Shavelson’s housewives’ councils were more overtly radical because of her dedication to the Communist Party and aggressive efforts to incorporate Marxist-Feminist ideology into their functions. 22 Abramovitz, Mimi. “Learning from the History of Poor and Working-Class Women’s Activism.” Social Science, The Annals Of The American Academy Of Political And, Social Science 577, (September 1, 2001): 119.

common consumer activist strategies like boycotts and lobbying. Jenny Carson also addresses the working-class labor movement and argues that laundry workers, who were mostly poor white women, African Americans23 and ethnic immigrants, were able to organize due to the pervasive presence of union resources and the creation of labor solidarity during the 1930s.24 The LWS monitored the working-class groups discussed in these sources and endeavored to elevate their voices through its vast network of resources. Given the relative obscurity of this topic, it is surprising to discover a small body of scholarship that acknowledges the existence of the LWS and even attempts to analyze its campaigns. Scholarship that specifically mentions the LWS in any capacity has only emerged in the past ten years, which can be attributed to an increased interest about the creation of the consumer movement and to a new determination among women’s historians to produce a feminist analysis of the Red Scare. However, these studies tend to reinforce the historic trivialization of the LWS as a frivolous organization composed solely of housewives, and simultaneously fails to consider its productive interactions with working-class and minority groups. Although large parties and events like fashion shows were a part of the LWS’ labor campaigns, I hypothesize that it was the belittlement of these “distinctively feminine”25 activities and the distortion of its mission under the conservative anti-communist regime that made it obscure to traditional historical scholarship in the first place. LWS members used the limited pathways afforded to them in a patriarchal society in order to assert their political statements as citizens in an inescapably capitalist sociopolitical system. Unlike the analyses of the LWS produced previously, this paper intends to take advantage of the LWS’ versatile history and examine its strategies by incorporating knowledge of the class and race conscious radicalism that led it to be accused of being a communist front group and its genuine efforts to change labor conditions. “Use Your Buying Power for Justice” The LWS emerged from benevolently intended middle class consumer activism that began with the National Consumers’ League (NCL) during the Progressive Era in 1891. The NCL reached out to middle class women, who did most of the shopping for their households, to improve the

23

For more on the history of African American women in laundry work and their organized protests, see Hunter, Tera W. To ‘Joy my Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997). 24 Carson, Jenny. “Taking on Corporate Bullies: Cintas, Laundry Workers, and Organizing in the 1930s and Twenty-First Century.” Labor Studies Journal 35, no. 4 (December 2010), 453-479. 25 Goldstein, 217. 46


conditions of working girls and eliminate child labor. The NCL composed lists of approved companies and practiced grassroots organizing that proved effective before the outset of World War I.26 At a time when women did not have the right to vote and political activism was considered an improper hobby for a lady, consumer organizing was one valid way middle class housewives could assert their political convictions and enact social reform.27 The NCL’s overwhelmingly female membership and leadership believed that by only purchasing goods and services at institutions that treated their workers fairly would they force employers who perpetuated terrible working conditions to reconsider their principles.28 Like the LWS, the NCL educated both their members and workers about the paths available to improve the living and working conditions of laborers and investigated working environments.29 However, most members subscribed to the maternalist ideology that characterized the progressive social reform movement at the turn of the century. NCL members felt that they had a moral duty as mothers to save the children of the working classes through ethically conscious consumerism.30 Conveniently, this publically upheld sense of maternal righteousness also justified their civic engagement.31 Members of the NCL expressed their anxiety about the dirt and diseases that sweatshops supposedly incubated, which they believed could be transmitted through the goods that impoverished and infected workers produced.32 According to the NCL, workers were meant to be pitied and not empowered, therefore they refused to ally themselves with unionized workers even when such an alliance would have proved beneficial to the workers’ cause.33 On the other hand, the LWS primarily sought to support unionized workers and pro-union legislation in addition to practicing conscious consumerism. Although membership from the NCL overlapped with the LWS’ during their initial years, the NCL relied on government connections, abandoned consumer campaigns, and essentially became a lobby group by the late 1930s.34 The LWS enmeshed itself in the labor movement and eschewed overbearing maternalist ideology in favor of empowering themselves and the workers they helped.35 26 27

28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 47

Deutsch, 107. Haydu, Jeffrey. “Consumer Citizenship and Cross-Class Activism: The Case of the National Consumers’ League, 1899-1918.”Sociological Forum (29, no. 3 September 2014), 629. Haydu, 632. Haydu, 635. Bender, 206. Haydu, 635. Haydu, 637. Bender, 205. Haydu, 640. Bender, 212. LWS literature rarely mentions their role as mothers. The absence of the rhetoric of motherhood suggests that they focused

The New Deal era consumer movement consisted of disparate groups with vastly incongruous agendas that nevertheless threatened the capitalist status quo. In the wake of the Great Depression, consumers felt powerless against corporations that manufactured supply and demand using aggressive advertising tactics.36 Lawrence Glickman posits that the Great Depression served as an awakening for American consumers that led to a veritable explosion of consumer activist activity. Glickman also suggests that this era formed “perhaps the only decade in American history when commentators could speak of “consumer society” as a potentially radical force”.37 American consumers grew deeply suspicious of chain stores and corporately owned stores because they believed these places controlled by faceless individuals represented a market system that deceived consumers.38 In order to resist this undesirable phenomenon, reformers promoted the economic education of consumers.39 As the primary purchasers of household goods, women usually stood at the front of grassroots consumer activist movements that aimed to promote the political agendas of various groups such as African Americans, labor unions, and communists.40 The “consumer movement” is an umbrella term that encompasses many organized and unorganized groups that each sought to serve their own goals for social and economic reform. Although these groups lacked unity, they all adhered to the principle that consumption had far-reaching consequences and through these means they were able to protest loudly and effectively. 41 The LWS fit into this equation and stressed that consumers were responsible for the condition of workers and encouraged them to take action when poor conditions were discovered.42 Women’s organizations like the LWS dominated the consumer movement because women were taken more seriously when they presented themselves as consumers and not representatives of labor or business.43 Indeed consumption, especially for the home, was a type of work that was traditionally gendered female and considered a wife’s responsibility.44 Political opponents accused women who joined consumer activist groups of merely being bored housewives swept up in a fad and eager for publicity, but most LWS members identified as activists with strong convictions in their cause. Historian often ignore consumer activism in favor

36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

on their own political ends and did not seek validation for their activity outside the home. Jacobs, 27-30. Glickman, Strike in the Temple of Consumption, 102. Deutsch, 105. Jacobs, 27. Deutsch, 106-107. Glickman, 230. Glickman, 205. Goldstein, 223. Frank, 6.


of more obvious aspects of the labor movement, but the LWS’ commitment to supporting and encouraging unions makes the development of the early Twentieth Century labor movement particularly relevant to their history. LWS members conceptualized women as both wage-earners who needed to secure workplace rights and consumers who needed to provide quality goods for their household, which was a relatively radical notion at the time.45 The American Federation of Labor (AFL), an alliance of unions that was often the only organizing resource in small towns during this period, was still extremely reluctant to support women’s trade unions in favor of making working conditions and wages sufficient enough to make men the sole provider for their families.46 As a result, many working women and wives of AFL trade unionists became labor organizers in their own right, formed consumer groups reminiscent of knitting circles like the Seattle Card and Label League, and reached out to form tentative alliances with primarily white middle-class women’s groups like the previously mentioned NCL and the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL).47 Members of labor unions also encouraged their friends and family to purchase only union-made products as part of their strategies and reached out to middle-class women, the symbolic face of the consuming public, to help their cause.48 At this point it is important to delineate the differences, overlaps and conflicts between working class and middle class consumer activism. Although sympathetic white middle-class people supported the labor movement and their efforts to politicize and direct ethical consumerism, the working class composed the majority of social and labor reform groups in the first half of the twentieth century.49 One of the major problems with this emerging paradigm of cross-class activism was that middle-class reformers often claimed to speak for underprivileged workers while inadvertently speaking over them.50 Radical working-class activists like Rose Schneiderman and Leonora O’Reilly collaborated with the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL), a precursor organization of the LWS that adhered to the maternalist tradition, during the first half of the century. Despite their skepticism about involving non-wage earning women, they could not deny that such collaborations gleaned excellent publicity for their cause.51 However, women of the WTUL often acted out of a “patronizing benevolence” that created

45 Goldstein, 223. 46 Kersten, 112. Frank, Dana. Purchasing Power, 2. 47 Abramovitz, 119. Frank, 121. 48 Bender, 205. Deutsch, 107. 49 Croteau, David. Politics and the Class Divide : Working People and the Middle-Class Left. (Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1995), 16. 50 Croteau, xii. 51 Orleck, 43.

inevitable tension and exacerbated cognizance of the class divide even in spite of the friendships these collaborations forged.52 Union organizers welcomed upper-class women’s figurative ability to deflect police billy clubs at strikes they attended. Appreciated as well were their lavish displays of support, which included such largesse as funding cafeterias for striking workers. However, these measures also made class differences more apparent.53 Although they did not operate with the same “patronizing benevolence” of the progressive era, it is possible that a quarter of a century later the LWS’ ostentatious tactics similarly alienated the wage earning men and women the desired to support. During the Great Depression, working class women once again congregated and concluded that they could wield more power as consumers if they united together. Poor wives and mothers in urban areas established housewives councils that staged food boycotts and anti-eviction demonstrations and lobbied for food and rent price control.54 Unlike their middle class counterparts, who acted on political conviction, urgent need compelled these women, who often belonged to explicitly radical and communistinfluenced housewives councils. 55 The fear of potential homelessness and starvation constituted a real threat to working class women, while middle class reformers possessed an abstract and removed understanding of how exactly their consumer activism affected their supposed beneficiaries. Discriminatory workplace conditions and the prospect of retailers selling products to African American shoppers for excessive and unfair prices also would have been foreign to white middle-class members of consumer activist groups. 56 However, certain consumer groups like the LWS and the New York Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) acknowledged this divide and attempted to publically expose and chastise employers and shopkeepers who perpetuated discriminatory practices, unsafe conditions, and insufficient wages.57 These groups used cross-class coalitions to enact change by promoting legislative changes in a political climate ruled by the New Deal. The New Deal was a multi-front government initiative that began enacting reforms in 1933 with the intention of recovering the disintegrating economy, triggering the creation of dozens of new administrative bodies that tended to the demands of labor unions and consumers. New Deal policy makers legislated labor standards and promoted unionism, incurring the resentment of businessmen who believed increased wages would cut into their bottom line.58 The Roosevelt administration believed that

52 53 54 55 56 57 58

Orleck, 44. Orleck, 62, 77. Orleck, 218-219. Orleck, 239. Deutsch, 115. Orleck, 161-162. Bender, 205. Goldstein, 218. 48


women, the main consumers and buyers for their households, would be invaluable to the country’s recovery because Keynesian economic theory stipulated that increasing consumption and restoring mass purchasing power would decrease the unemployment rate and strengthen the economy.59 In fact, many New Deal era politicians and economists increasingly blamed “under consumption” and irresponsible, unregulated monopolistic business practices for causing and prolonging the economic depression.60 Thus, the New Deal was largely responsible for the “construction of a consuming public.”61 The National Recovery Administration (NRA), established in 1933 by the National Industrial Recovery Act, was one of the short-lived New Deal government agencies geared toward the consumer that attempted to promote businesses that followed the labor standards they established using a Blue Eagle seal of approval.62 The NRA also created a women’s division that encouraged people in their communities to only purchase products from retail establishments that displayed this symbol.63 However, the NRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935 just a month before the LWS was founded in June because it allowed the President Roosevelt to wield too much regulatory power over commerce.64 The LWS emerged out of this situation and sought to continue the vein of women’s labor advocacy encouraged by the NRA. Other bureaus established during the New Deal, like the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Advisory Board, and the Office of Price Administration, allowed an unprecedented number of women to enter into government careers, although rarely equal ones.65 LWS members often filled these positions, which demonstrates their intimate connection with the New Deal politics that emerged from Depression era economic turmoil. When the LWS began in 1935 in New York City amidst

59 Bender, 209. Badger, Anthony J. The New Deal: the Depression Years, 1933-1940. (New York : Hill and Wang, 1989), 68. 60 Badger, 88. McKellar, Susie. “’Seals of Approval’: Consumer Representation in 1930s’ America.” Journal of Design History, (Vol. 15, No. 1 2002), 11. 61 Jacobs, “Democracy’s Third Estate:” New Deal Politics and the Construction of a “Consuming Public”, 28. 62 McKellar, 4. 63 Jacobs, “Democracy’s Third Estate:” New Deal Politics and the Construction of a “Consuming Public”, 36. 64 Badger, 92. 65 Storrs, Landon. “Red Scare Politics and the Suppression of Popular Front Feminism: The Loyalty Investigation of Mary Dublin Keyserling.” The Journal of American History (2003), 495. In Civilizing Capitalism Storrs suggests that OPA employees made conscious effort to racially integrate their division and used guerilla techniques to hire black women, adding an interesting layer to this surge of women in the government. 49

a slew of union activity, their mission statements incorporated socialist ideologies and reflected a commitment to improving the working and living conditions of workers. One of the first pamphlets they released entitled “What is the League of Women Shoppers?” revealed that after the court-ordered dissolution of the NRA, New York businesses reinstated the 48 hour work week. As a result, “the League mobilized protests and mass meetings in which all kinds of organizations cooperated”. 66 This commitment to cooperation and collaboration with labor unions and other consumer activist groups in order to mobilize citizen consumers characterized the functions of the LWS throughout its existence. Members initially argued for the necessity of consumer activist groups acting for unions by borrowing language from radicals, remarking that the employer “owns the tools of production” and “the worker sells his labor and his only chance to equal the power of his employer is to be able to withhold that labor in a body.”67 As a mode of operation, the LWS waited for members of a union to approach them with a request for support before investigating the situation and deciding if the strike was justified. If they ever actually rejected one of these requests, LWS leaders did not bother to make note of it because there is no evidence in the archives to suggest that they did. Just two months after its creation, the New York chapter of the LWS claimed “Innumerable requests for assistance from labor organizations have come to us. We have already been instrumental in winning one strike and gaining for these workers union recognition, a living wage, fair hours and healthy working conditions”68 Members of the LWS sought to support and promote unions for the good of their communities and to suppress the power of corporations that exploited both their workers and their customers. The commitment to sustainable labor standards and collaborative efforts served as the most basic tenets of the LWS. While the LWS focused on attaining adequate labor conditions for the working class, in the process it educated middle and upper class women about the labor movement and legislature. Some of the members were fortunate enough to have received an education, but many considered themselves undereducated and uninformed about labor organization and the democratic process. The LWS widely disseminated pamphlets and newsletters breaking down economic issues and current legislative measures and also hosted countless lectures at which prominent labor leaders, professors, and sympathetic lawyers spoke. Every chapter

66

“What is the League of Women Shoppers?” Pamphlet. Nov 27, 1935. Mary Van Kleek Papers. SSC. 67 Ibid. 68 The Woman Shopper. Vol.1 No.1, August 1935. Consumers’ League of Massachusetts. Records, 1891-1951. Box 424, Folder 7. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Harvard University Cambridge, MA. (Hereafter Schlesinger Library)


sent out postcards advertising lectures with titles like “Your Meat and Our Union”, “Japanese Labor Conditions”69 and “Behind the Labor Headlines”.70 These were widely attended by League members, who relished the chance to learn about the complex systems that effected their everyday lives, right down to the groceries they bought. For instance, Alice Lesser Shepherd, who “suffered from a feeling of educational inadequacy”71 because she never received the opportunity to attend college, joined the League in New York City in order to acquire knowledge and counter inflation during World War II. The education of housewives deprived of a traditional education was a positive and inadvertent result of the League’s operations. LWS members, especially those of the D.C. branch, closely monitored legislative issues and distributed hundreds of “Legislative Lowdown” circulars that urged members around the country to take immediate action and call their local legislators. These packets reported any number of bills being considered in the house and senate involving anti-lynching laws, unemployment relief, anti-concentration camp bills, social security and housing provisions.72 In addition, these informative packets that synthesized current events contributed to the education and civic awareness of LWS members. The legislative measures the LWS was particularly concerned with would be accompanied by “WRITE YOUR OWN SENATOR” or alternatively, “write PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT”.73 One such campaign focused on the Wagner Act of 1935, also known as the National Labor Relations Act, which most notably recognized the workers’ right to form unions and required employers to bargain with these unions.74 The LWS apparently believed that this legislature and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) it created was effective and essential because they led an extensive campaign against potentially detrimental amendments to the law in 1939 that would have restricted union rights. Advocates for black and female workers supported the NLRB it its early years; its defense of union rights also won the affection of pro-labor

69 70

71

72 73 74

“Hello Woman Shopper” Nov 1938. Box 118, Folder 17. Jesse Lloyd O’Connor Papers. SSC. Flyer. Box 119, Folder 1. Jesse Lloyd O’Connor Papers. SSC. This lecture was given by Arthur Garfield Hays, husband of the League’s president at the time. However, most of these lectures appear to have been given by union organizers. “A Woman Gentle and Wise: Fond Memories of my Mother, Alice Elise Lesser Shepherd” Dec 2000, Box 1 Folder 15. League of Women Shoppers Records, SSC. This document is a transcription of oral histories taken in 1991 by Lesser Shepherd’s daughter about her involvement in the LWS. “Legislative Low-Down, January 17th 1940” National Legislative Committee of the LWS. League of Women Shoppers (Washington, D.C.) Records Box 1 Folder 3. Schlesinger Library. Ibid. Storrs, Civilizing Capitalism, 53.

anti-discrimination groups like the LWS.75 Representatives appeared before the Labor Committees in both the House and the Senate in order to voice their opinion in favor of the labor protections upheld by the NLRB. The LWS was very passionate about vocally supporting legislation they believed was moving democracy in a more equitable direction and many of the members learned to adeptly analyze legislature and predict its impact on workers. However, the LWS did not merely act as lobby group like the NCL and other contemporary consumer organizations. Although they viewed reformative legislation as vital to gaining recognition from employers, they rejected the illusion that new laws would solve all problems faced by workers and consumers.76 In practice, the LWS preferred to take direct action through boycotts, various publicity stunts and participating in solidarity strikes. Five-and-Dimes and Department stores, the bulwark of American consumerism at this time, served as a significant point of contention for LWS members, who frequented these establishments. In 1936 LWS members boycotted Woolworths Five-andDime stores because they sold products from striking factories.77 The situation escalated when the LWS released their 1937 booklet entitled “Consider the Woolworth’s Worker” that addressed the long hours and insufficient wages received by Woolworth’s workers from the floor to the stockroom.78 The LWS devised a profound and subversive way to promote unionization among the salesgirls that involved handing them cards from the United Retail and Wholesale Employees of America informing them of the nearest branch and that shoppers supported them, even if their employers did not. It was a silent display of sympathy and an acknowledgement that they were suffering that also proposed a radical solution.79 Alice Lesser Shepherd’s husband later recalled of her participation in the department store campaigns: “Mostly they went around trying to guarantee colored people a break. Like on Fifth Avenue- to get them jobs as clerks. They would picket- put on mink coats and walk around in front of department stores”.80 The LWS was 75

76 77 78 79 80

Ibid, 56. The amendments were initially proposed because the AFL claimed the NLRB unfairly favored the CIO. This was true in a sense because the NLRB perceived the CIO as less racist, less susceptible to bribery and more adept at accommodating the needs of workers than the traditionalist AFL. Orleck, 160. Legislative campaigns often serve as helpful catalysts for more impactful organizing, but do not necessarily represent a sure solution. “Socialites Picket ‘Five and Ten’ Store” The Pittsburgh PostGazette, November 27, 1936. Google News Online Archive. Although many socialites joined the LWS, they publically disdained wealthy women like the Woolworth’s heiress Barbara Hutton, who refused to acknowledge or Consider the Woolworth’s Worker, League of Women Shoppers Papers, SSC. “A Woman Gentle and Wise: Fond Memories of my Mother, Alice Elise Lesser Shepherd” Dec 2000, Box 1 Folder 15. League 50


intolerant of discriminatory practices, refused to be complicit in the oppression of department store workers and consistently sought to incorporate a consideration of race into their pro-union activities. Two of the LWS’ most prominent campaigns that recognized racial discrimination and actively sought to combat it were their movements to enfranchise both African American laundry workers and domestic workers. The LWS published another study entitled “Consider the Laundry Worker” that focused on the suppression of unionization by employers in industrial laundries and the unsafe, discriminatory practices they upheld. 81 The LWS documented and projected the voices of African-American and Puerto Rican women who attested to receiving unequal wages and experiencing the propagation of race antagonism by their bosses.82 The LWS was also concerned with the lack of education and opportunity for advancement available to minority workers and believed unionization and a higher, legislatively enforced minimum wage would allow workers enduring sweatshop conditions to seek other opportunities. Despite previous efforts by the YWCA and other women’s groups, domestic work remained unregulated and controlled completely by private employers, leaving the African-American women who filled these positions vulnerable to abuse.83 The LWS wanted to create a standard written contract that would outline terms of employment, wages, length of workday, and benefits afforded to domestic workers. They also endorsed Rose Schneiderman’s84 request that insurance for domestic workers be covered by the Compensation and Employee Insurance Act.85 The House Ways and Means Committee’s failure to consider extending social security to domestic workers in 1939 prompted Nina Collier, the National Legislative Chairman for the LWS, to write an editorial in the Washington Post saying, “Since 50 per cent of those employed in household occupations are Negroes, the net effect of their exclusion from social security benefits constitutes a highly discriminatory situation.”86 In both of

81 82

83 84 85 86 51

of Women Shoppers Records, SSC. In Buying Power : A History of Consumer Activism in America Glickman observes that the LWS often used social sciences in their activism and investigations. Filley, Jane, and Therese Mitchell. Consider the laundry workers. (New York: League of Women Shoppers, 1937), SSC. This kept workers disconnected from one another and less likely to unionize. Bunch-Lyons, Beverly A. Contested Terrain : African-American Women Migrate from the South to Cincinnati, Ohio, 19001950. (New York : Routledge, 2002), 51. Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972) was a working-class radical socialist labor leader known for her powerful speeches. See Orleck for more details. “Domestics are Workers, too” The Woman Shopper. Sept-Oct 1938, Box 1, Folder 1. League of Women Shoppers Papers, SSC. Collier, Nina P. “Domestic Workers and Social Security.” The

these instances, the LWS demonstrated their understanding of the intersections of labor exploitation and racial discrimination and evolved their campaign around racial issues. The LWS always concerned themselves with the intersections of race and class in legislature and the labor movement, but eventually began participating in the long civil rights movement in earnest. During the 1944 presidential election the LWS released a packet entitled “Women of America: Look at the Record Before You Vote” that juxtaposed the stances of Roosevelt and Dewey on pertinent political issues.87 The LWS lauded Roosevelt’s wartime efforts to regulate equal pay for equal work and create equitable work environments for people of color in the war industries while reviling Dewey for scuttling efforts to institute a Civil Rights Bureau.88 The League claimed to be an impartial organization, but they clearly leaned toward Roosevelt regarding this issue. 89 In 1948, shortly before their disintegration, the organization steeped themselves even further into the civil rights movement by encouraging members to participate in community audits that investigated and ascertained the extent of discrimination in their communities. Alice Lesser Shepherd, who served as the LWS’ National Chairman of Anti-Discrimination, distributed a pamphlet on about how to conduct a community audit with a cover letter that stated “this is an excellent opportunity for League members to accomplish League aims” and that “presentation of scientific data on discrimination in one’s own back yard speak for themselves and help to bring about democratic action”.90 Whereas their previous campaigns had mainly focused on discrimination in the workplace, the League developed a desire to tackle racial discrimination on a grander scale with the intention of making democracy more inclusive after World War II. Despite their apparent cognizance of the importance of class and race to their movement, the League accomplished this without ever acknowledging their own inherent privilege as middle and upper class white women. 91 Extravagant social events, especially in the early years of the LWS, were a major aspect of the organization’s activism and the fact that

87 88 89

90 91

Washington Post, March 23, 1939. League of Women Shoppers (Washington, D.C.) Records Box 1 Folder 3. Schlesinger Library. “Women of America: Look at the Record Before You Vote” League of Women Shoppers Papers, SSC. Ibid. The LWS always claimed to be politically impartial in their official literature and their organizational constitution, but this assertion was demonstrably false. Conservatives at the time universally reviled groups like the LWS using blatantly misogynistic (See Storrs, Anti-feminism) language because they dared to uphold liberal principles. Letter from Alice Shepherd to LWS Members, November 30, 1948. League of Women Shoppers (Washington, D.C.) Records Box 1 Folder 7. Schlesinger Library. Goldstein, 215.


they were invariably “clad in costly furs” and “expensivelydressed”92 always attracted the press and therefore became central to their personal brand. Members deliberately used their ability to array themselves in fancy dress to draw the attentions of abusive employers, the press and the general public to the strikes they supported, but never sought to mitigate their privilege or present themselves as equal to working-class women. As an organization, the LWS wielded undeniable star power, gaining the support of novelists, actresses, socialites and even Eleanor Roosevelt.93 The fun events they hosted in the name of spreading pro-labor sentiments made them extremely popular among affluent socialites and inherently exclusionary to the working-class people they sincerely intended to assist. For instance in 1937 they hosted a fashion show that was meant to be a “dramatization”94 of their boycott against Japanese silk as a result of Japanese aggression in Manchuria.95 While they modeled silk-free fashions at an extravagant venue, the LWS was fundamentally based on the idea that women with access to disposable income could use that advantage for the benefit both themselves as the consumer and the workers. It was an interventionist organization that capitalized on its notable members and race and class privilege in order to offer support to unions and workers of color that needed extra publicity and public outrage to achieve their goals. Despite their shortcomings, the LWS’ nascent attempts to dissect oppressive systems of power functioning within American society drew the attention of undesirable eyes.96 Because critiquing the capitalist government and participating in union organization were considered characteristically communist activities, by 1939 the LWS had become a target for the anti-communist administration and were explicitly marked as a subversive group by the Dies committee, a precursor to the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that conducted needlessly militant witch-hunts against suspected communists. The Dies committee construed consumer groups’ disdain for corporations as a desire to take down the entire economic system and believed that the Communist Party had a meeting in 1935 in which they demanded the creation of a series of front organizations, including the LWS.97 From that 92 93

94 95 96 97

“Socialites Picket ‘Five and Ten’ Store” The Pittsburgh PostGazette, November 27, 1936. Google News Online Archive. “Prominent Women Among League Shoppers” The Woman Shopper. Vol.1 No.1, August 1935. Consumers’ League of Massachusetts. Records, 1891-1951. Box 424, Folder 7. Schlesinger Library. January 23, 1938 Press Release. Box 119 Folder 2. Jesse Lloyd O’Connor Papers. SSC. It should be noted that the LWS officially supported people of Japanese descent in the U.S. and considered proposed internment camps and alien deportation acts to be undemocratic. Goldstein, 233. Hilton, Matthew. Prosperity for All : Consumer Activism in an Era of Globalization. (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2009),

point on, the entire organization constantly fought accusations of un-American activity, so much so that it is hard to imagine how they got anything else done. This is particularly ironic because LWS pamphlets and literature indicates that they were committed to creating a more inclusive democracy instead of completely dismantling the system. In one of their most widely distributed pamphlets they wrote “In keeping with the democratic traditions of our country, we believe in the right of men and women to assemble and organize in order to protect their own interests” 98. When considering this statement along with Lesser Shepherd’s previous call to end discrimination and promote a more equitable democracy, it is plain to see that the LWS did not want to dismantle the American government, only make it more inclusive and sentient of the needs of its citizens. The continued accusations brought against the League by the Dies committee and its various incarnations seem even more ironic because the Office of Economic Stabilization sent Katherine Armatage, the leader of the LWS in 1946, a letter to “express our deepest appreciation of the distinguished services you and your members have rendered the Government’s program for economic stabilization” after World War II disrupted the market.99 The director of the post-war Office of Economic Stabilization Chester Bowles lauded the LWS’ grassroots community organizing for price stabilization on all necessary goods and genuinely believed their consumer activism had aided the U.S. government in their efforts to allay inflation and unemployment. Although the accusations had existed since 1939, members started to resign and strike their names from the record when mass loyalty investigations among government employees were conducted internally and the LWS was listed on the Attorney General’s blacklist of “disloyal” organizations in 1948. The Report of the Senate Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities of 1948 listed the LWS among groups that supposedly sought to “destroy our freedom by force, violence, threats, undermining and sabotage, and to subject us to the domination of foreign powers and ideologies”.100 In addition, the committee damningly branded the LWS as “completely Communist created and controlled”.101 Armatage was suitably outraged by this de-

98 99 100

101

158. There is no evidence that this occurred other than the embittered false testimony of a man named J.B. Matthews, whose organization Consumer’s Research was investigated and condemned by the LWS, eventually leading to its dissolution. “Join the League” 1938. Box 1 Folder 2. League of Women Shoppers Papers, SSC. emphasis theirs. Letter from Chester Bowles to Katherine Armatage, May 14 1946. League of Women Shoppers (Washington, D.C.) Records Box 1 Folder 7. Schlesinger Library. Report of the Senate Fact-Finding Committee on UnAmerican Activities: 1948. Communist Front Organizations. http://archive.org/stream/reportofsenatefa00calirich/ reportofsenatefa00calirich_djvu.txt Ibid. 52


velopment and asked “By what possible standard can the attorney general judge the League of Women Shoppers to be “subversive” when the same organization, with the same policies, aims, activities and leaders was embraced by his own government during a period of national emergency?”102 As Cold War hysteria and the widespread persecution of Communist Party affiliated individuals by the U.S. government commenced, all LWS members were unduly and irrevocably labeled as dangerous radicals despite their attempts work with democracy and not against it. Members of the LWS who worked for the Office of Price Administration (OPA)103, which was initially “established during World War II to administer a system of rationing and price controls”104 or other progressive government bureaus quickly became targets of the aggressive anti-communist movement. Most women who faced persecution at the hands of anti-communist committees were not actually communists, although some members of the party were certainly among the ranks of the LWS. Jessie Lloyd O’Connor, the president of the Chicago League whose archived papers contributed greatly to this paper, was herself a socialist activist and communist sympathizer, but never actually joined the party. Members of the LWS along with representatives of 40 other women’s groups protested the closure of the OPA in 1946 in order to ensure government regulation of continued post-war inflation in some capacity, but they were shocked and appalled when their peaceful protest was interrupted and forcibly broken up by police.105 The privilege they previously relied on while participating in solidarity strikes suddenly did not have as great an impact anymore because they were branded as un-American, subversive communists undeserving of respect they previously took for granted. In the absence of a unified and visible women’s movement in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the League of Women Shoppers served as a conduit for education, democratic involvement, and cross-class community organizing. Despite their seemingly innocuous appearance as a group of socially conscious housewives, in truth the LWS consisted of both profession102 Letter from Armatage to Chapter Presidents, April 3, 1947. League of Women Shoppers (Washington, D.C.) Records Box 1 Folder 7. Schlesinger Library. 103 To be clear, members of the LWS practically ran the OPA themselves. Harriet Elliot, a political economist and League member, headed the operation. Conservatives emphasized and exaggerated women’s participation in these bureaus in order to discredit and belittle their projects. See Storrs, Civilizing Capitalism. 104 Jacobs, Meg. “’How About Some Meat?’: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946.” The Journal of American History, (1997), 910. 105 “OPA Women Say Capitol Cops ‘Shoved ‘em Around Like Nazis” April 1946. League of Women Shoppers (Washington, D.C.) Records Box 1 Folder 9. Schlesinger Library. 53

als and non-wage earning women who subscribed to different degrees of radicalism. Even if some members did not fully agree with the tenets of socialism, the consumer activist work the LWS engaged in was nevertheless radical and considered dangerous by both anti-labor capitalists and anti-communist politicians. Upon its dissolution in 1948, many former members of the LWS were forced into obscurity or obligated to repeatedly renounce their progressive beliefs in order to preserve their careers, their families and their dignity.106 The Red Scare suppressed pseudo-radical groups driven by women that demonstrated the potential to make contributions to later the twentieth century civil rights movement and perhaps even the second wave. Although the LWS exhibited an understanding of the function of race and class in the labor movement that was unexpected for their time while genuinely seeking to help the working class people who requested it, their strategies often revolved around showcasing their privilege in order to gain publicity and inherently excluded working class women. However, the League of Women Shoppers considered the voices of these women and organized on their behalf with the intention of creating a more equitable society.

106 Two notable examples are Margaret Bourke-White and Mary Dublin Keyserling, both professional women who were relentlessly persecuted by HUAC for their affiliation with groups like the LWS.


Start Here Now: Interview with Constantin Fasolt Interview conducted by Hansong Li and Paige Pendarvis philosophy to history? Do you think nowadays you’re making a detour back to some important philosophical questions that you might have explored had you chosen to be a philosopher in the first place? Constantin Fasolt (CF): I can give you the answer to the second question right away: the answer is yes, except that it is not a detour—I’m not making a detour to those questions, for those are the questions that have preoccupied me all along. CJH (PP): And here is a sub-question I would like to add: how do history and philosophy work together? Do they work together? Nowadays many people would say they should be kept separate, and I imagine you probably don’t share that opinion?

Courtesy of the Chicago Journal of History

Constantin Fasolt is the Karl J. Weintraub Professor of History and the College at the University of Chicago. Born in Germany, he studied at Bonn  and  Heidelberg before moving to the United States to enroll at Columbia University. Author of Council and Hierarchy (Cambridge 1991), Limits of History (Chicago 2004) and Past Sense (Leiden 2014), Professor Fasolt explores the origin, development and limitations of political, social, and legal thought in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. At the University of Chicago, Professor Fasolt teaches a popular course on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. On January 27th 2016, he discussed the significance of this book, shared his thoughts on language, history and politics, and talked about his experiences both as a historian and as a teacher with the Chicago Journal of History editors. Chicago Journal of History (CJH: HL): In your early years in Germany as a student, how did you transition from

CF: I have a very different view on that. I can tell you right away that when I started out in Germany, one of my professors, who was a very good historian and whom I respect a great deal, was invited to our house as a guest because my parents also knew him socially. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him—at the time I was at the University of Bonn—that I studied philosophy as my major, along with history and English Language and Literature as my minors, which was possible in those days. And he looked at me and said, “Well, Mr. Fasolt, you can study philosophy, and you can study history, but you can’t study both. Take my word for it.” So that’s the classic, succinct expression that is in its own way a very admirable expression of a point of view according to which philosophy and history are concerned with fundamentally different issues and subjects. I started out with the question: what can philosophy and history do in order to answer the question I was interested in? And the question I was interested in came directly from the conditions in post-WWII Germany and my social position, because, believe me, you don’t have to be a historian to know this: in West Germany after WWII—I was born in 1951 when there were still ruins standing around, with pockmarks and bullets and guns—there were questions: what happened? How was this possible? And it was just in the air, some people talked about it explicitly, some people didn’t. In my family, they certainly did not talk about it explicitly, because it was too hard. My father didn’t know how to deal with it. I think for both my parents, they belonged to the generation for whom 1945 was a real turning point for their lives, the biggest turning point ever since. They always referred back to that moment, to that time in 1945, in pretty much every conversation that came up— 54


just always back to it as the point of reference for where we are now. But my parents were not victims, and they were no perpetrators either. My father was a soldier, and my mother basically acted as my grandparents’ maid. She was divorced and they were supporting her, so they expected her to work at home, which she did. She had a son, my older and half-brother. My father was badly injured, he almost died. He was injured when he was 22 and not yet 23. Then my parents made it to the end of the war, got married at the end of the war, and I was their oldest child. So they didn’t talk about the war. The only thing I’ve ever heard of the past that I still remember distinctly, from when I was very young, about three or four: my mother said that there had been “a very bad king” in Germany. It was interesting that she said “king”. So I grew up, and for whatever reason, I felt that there was something going on around here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear. You know that song? Buffalo Springfield, you should listen to it: “There’s something happening here / what it is ain’t exactly clear.” It’s a great piece from the late 1960s. So my memory is that it was like a moral fog, and I didn’t know which way to turn and what was going on. But I knew something smells and something is not right. I just knew that. What I didn’t know was what it was that went wrong, and what to do with it. I knew from a very early age that religion wouldn’t be of too much use to me. Because I’m baptized Russian orthodox—I had a Russian grandmother who made sure that my sister and I were baptized; I was raised in the catholic Rhineland, with a lot of Carnivals and Mardi Gras. And I was taught Lutheranism at school, because, that anecdote I love: the bureaucrat who registered me when my parents first brought me to school, said, “We only have Lutheran and Catholic, we don’t have anything else. You’ve got to choose, because you have to take instruction.” My father was kind of baffled, “Well, he is neither Catholic nor Protestant. He’s Orthodox, Russian Orthodox!” And the bureaucrat said, “Well, you Russian Orthodox guys don’t like the Pope, do you?” My father responded, “Hmmm, maybe.” “Well I guessed so. Then he is Protestant.” In this way I experienced all three when I was growing up. Right there I knew that this isn’t going to help a whole lot. This is just as confusing as the whole rest of it. I was pretty good at school. And I couldn’t ask my parents. Being a nicely brought up German kid in a humanistic Gymnasium, with very traditional nine years of Latin and five years of Greek, I thought that philosophy was the ticket, because philosophy was about the truth and wisdom, and what’s right and what’s wrong. So when I was done with school and two years of military service, which was half a year longer than I had to do, but in that way I could earn some money, and I was going to make sure that I wasn’t going to be called into service later on, since there was still a general draft at that time—I wanted to avoid that happening after my studies. I studied philosophy and it didn’t take me very long to realize that what they taught was interest55

ing, but not about truth or about wisdom. It had nothing to do with those at all. Instead, it had to do with all kinds of complicated and interesting theories, some of which I was already familiar with from school, but not what I was interested in, which was the question: How am I supposed to orient myself? I find myself having landed in this place, at this time, and there is something strange going on. How am I supposed to know which way to go? Philosophy didn’t seem to be of any use to that. So I decided in the span of a couple of years that history would be better. The historians don’t make the same big claims as the theorists. They didn’t require the same mastery of the big theories. They asked a very simple question, which was: What happened? That may sound old-fashioned, but that’s what it was. I thought that makes sense. If I can’t get a grand big answer about what is wisdom, at least let’s try to figure out what happened. That’s what motivated my switch. What also motivated my switch was that I found historians generally to be more approachable people. CJH (PP): I found the same thing. CF: You know, you can talk with them. Philosophers are very difficult. You can’t talk to them. So I decided to go on with history, but which field? I had to study ancient, medieval and modern in high school. We had done a lot of ancient, classical, and a lot of modern, although for some strange reason we always ran out of time just when we got to 1933—three or four times, always ran out of time, end of school year—just couldn’t get there. The Middle Ages I couldn’t understand at all. They seemed bizarre to me. I couldn’t figure out what was this world in which people believed in saints and miracles? I couldn’t believe they were fools, because the Middle Ages belonged to a lot of people for a long time, and you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time. There must have been something that made sense. What was it? I was curious. So I was going to study medieval history. I wasn’t going to jump into the Third Reich. Because I was conscious that would be raising the bar too high, that would mean jumping right into it without having developed any kind of tools. That would be trying to tame the tiger without having any experiences in dealing with tigers. I wanted to avoid that. So at the time I was still at the University of Bonn, I decided to go to Heidelberg, for I had already decided to go to the United States for graduate school, because I had relatives in New York and because I was very dissatisfied with German universities. They were overcrowded and totally undemanding. It was easy to get a faculty member’s attention, but you would be constantly surrounded by a sea of students who were discouraging you from working hard. Everybody was supposed to be more or less equal, so if you competed and showed yourself to be good at what you did, you were resented a little bit. Also, people asked the wrong questions—to my mind. Whenever


they asked me what I studied, and I said medieval history, their reaction would be: “why?”, so I had to justify it. How am I going to justify that? I just wanted to study medieval history! I had some reasons for it but basically that’s what it was. Whereas in the United States, as I found out later, the reaction is: “Oh how interesting, and what in particular do you want to study?”—it always moves forward. That was one of the reasons I wanted to come to the States. But I also wanted to spend a year in Heidelberg before I departed for the U.S. because that was supposed to be the best place for philosophy in Germany. There was a great Kantian there, Dieter Henrich; there was still Gadamer there, I took a course with Gadamer since he was still teaching. There was Theunissen still there, as well as Ernst Tugendhat, whom I mentioned in class the other day. I took a seminar with him—he was just wonderful, and it was really worth it. And there, that was a philosopher—if I had met him as my first teacher, I could have stayed in philosophy, probably, and not gone to the United States. But by that time the die was cast and I came to the United States—and that’s how I came to history! And once you’re in it, you’re in academia, and you want to become a professor because you want to have security. You go on to this very, very long professional project, which is a train you can’t get off easily. Once you’re on it, you stay on it. Because first you have to write a dissertation—that was a long dark tunnel, and coming out seven years later, you got a Ph.D., and you’re in the wilderness to look for a job, but at that time there were no jobs… CJH (PP): It sounds like today. CF: Yes, literally for the whole country there were three positions in medieval history in the first year I applied. I was lucky to get a fellowship which started me over. After two years I did get a job—here, but that was early modern history. The department did not want me to do medieval history—and whether it was political or maybe it had to do with relations between faculties here—I did not know why. But it meant that I needed to learn the literature of a new field and be trained in it. Once I was appointed, I was an assistant professor, so that was the next tunnel: now you have to get books published, and you make it to tenure. And that took me up to 1990-1991. So I started my graduate school in 1976, when I was 25, and then in 1991 when I was 40, I got tenure. By that time you have been on this train for so long, and you’re a little exhausted, and you have projects that you’ve started and that you have to finish. It takes some time to slow down, which it did. But I think about 5 years after that, in my mid 40s or so, I remembered, as it were—I didn’t need to remember since this was still on my mind—why I had got into history in the first place. The reason it was still on my mind is that I was teaching undergraduates. That’s a great thing about teaching undergraduates. When you’re teaching graduate students, you’re dealing with professional issues, whereas

when you teach undergraduates, you’re dealing with really big questions. In Columbia it’s called CC (Contemporary Civilization in the West), here the same course is not Western Civ or European Civ, but Classics of Social and Political Thought—they are basically the same course. You’re dealing with: “What is justice?” “How is a polity to be constructed?” “Is there such a thing as natural slavery?” “What’s the relationship between men and women?” “Should there be communism in property?” “Is private property good or bad?” “Is equality a value?” These are all hot-button questions. You have 25 students in class, they are all smart, and they are all looking at you. And you can really mix it up!— about real questions—if you’re honest, and if you want to stand behind it. As a teacher I didn’t respect those teachers who refuse to tell you what they thought on the ground that they are supposed to be objective: I’m not going to give you my opinion, but I will only stick to what I can document, and what is objective—which is crock, you know that right? You can see through it that it was crock. The only effect that had was to make it a little harder to figure out what he is really saying or what she really thinks, because they’re not being clear and honest about it. But they are saying it anyway—in some other kind of way. So I didn’t mind talking about it. And in that regard I never forgot those kinds of questions which I had been interested in: “How do we orientate ourselves?” “Does history help?” “How does history help?” So I got back to philosophy. I looked around a lot. I read Kant and I went back a little bit to Aristotle. I didn’t go back to Plato. I read a lot more in contemporary philosophy. I started reading Foucault and did read a little bit of Derrida, and I went back to read more of Nietzsche, and some literary criticism such as Roland Barthes, and all those things—I was scrounging around and was disappointed. There didn’t seem to be anything new there. I read Heidegger very seriously for a while, and I got disappointed by him too. Heidegger was quite different. Nietzsche seemed to me to be going in the most promising direction, the clearest case of somebody actually doing something different from the great tradition, and Heidegger, too—but Heidegger was so deeply problematic, not just because he was associated with the Third Reich, unfortunately, but because of his thinking, what he really gives you. And then I remembered Wittgenstein. I remembered I read this book, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. And it was stuck in my memory— precisely because I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Because I knew this must be important and I couldn’t figure out why, so I decided I was going to try that. And I was really lucky that James Conant was here, and he pointed me in the right direction. I worked really hard—I mean not “hard” because I really loved doing it—for 15 years, really got into the text, and began to see a relationship between history and philosophy that I hadn’t seen before. Because Wittgenstein is a profoundly historical thinker: he doesn’t study history as a professional, and he certainly doesn’t 56


think of history as an object in the past. But he does think of human beings as historical creatures of language, time and space, and he opens one’s eyes to the fact that you cannot understand anything you say without knowing its history in some sense, if only by having been trained in certain customs, if only that way. So philosophy in his mind is essentially about winning clarity about the custom you practice, okay? So, that’s history! But it’s not history, because it doesn’t work with documents. It’s not about documenting something, but it’s the other side of documents: how you deal with it—how you get at the meanings of the documents, and it opens up a whole new field of thought and research, you might say, because how you get at the meaning of historical documents is itself a historical process that changes, and that is not properly captured by talking about cultural history. Cultural history does not capture what is at issue in the changing customs and issues Wittgenstein has in mind when he talks about “our shared form of life”— they are conceptually and basically different. The historians who have gotten the closest to it, to my mind, are those of the Annales School—the old ones, especially Lucien Febvre. He came closest to it, and there are many lines in his work where he expresses something similar, but he didn’t have the language for it: his term was mentalités. If you understand it correctly and sympathetically you can see how similar it is to what Wittgenstein has to say. But that’s also easy to turn this into an object of study, an object out there in the past, without preserving the philosophical significance or preserving the fact that we are engaged, ourselves, we are challenged by this history. Since I mentioned it here, I’ll draw your attention to a quote, where he says, on page 2 of The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century: History is the daughter of time. I say this not, surely, to disparage her. Philosophy is the daughter of time. Even physics is the daughter of her own time; the physics of Langevin was not that of Galileo, and Galileo’s was no longer that of Aristotle. Was there progress from one to the other? I hope so. But, as historians, let’s speak of adaptations to the times. Every period mentally constructs its own universe. It constructs it not only out of all the materials at its disposal, all its facts (true or false) that it has inherited or acquired, but out of its own gifts, its particular cleverness, its qualities, its talents, and its interests—everything that distinguishes itself from the preceding period. Similarly, every period mentally constructs its own image of the historical past…1 You can see how similar that is to Wittgenstein’s thinking. And you can also see how easy it is to misread it in a 1

57

The problem of unbelief in the sixteenth century, the religion of Rabelais, by Lucien Febvre, translated by Beatrice Gottlieb, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982.

positivist kind of sense. In the sense that, okay, now we have a document, this “mentality”, and let’s study how this mentality happened; rather than recognizing how important the point is that we as historians, right now, in writing our history, are presenting our own time. It is precisely by writing history that we are representing, not the past, but our own time. That’s what I got from doing philosophy again. And since then I have written a few articles about Wittgenstein and how historians might benefit from reading Wittgenstein. And since I’m going to retire next year, I can say this is a very good time for me to retire. Essentially I’ve found out and answered the question I wanted to answer. The question was: can history help us orient ourselves in our own time? And the answer is: yes, if you know where you are. So it can and it can’t, right? It can help you but you’ve got to know how to go about doing it. That means, you’ve got to start here now. And if you try to understand the past, you could learn a lot where you are at, but you’ve got to start with what you’re thinking now, what you’ve been taught, with what you’ve been told, what you believe is true, and what you believe is false. And being here and now includes having a past, which we are studying. So it’s where it all comes together again. So problem solved, now I have to move on to something else. CJH (PP): That was an incredible answer. CF: That was a long answer. CJH (PP): Yes but it was great. CF: Well you can see how I thought about it, in a spiel. CJH (PP): So, we’re interested in the story behind the Wittgenstein class—why you decided to teach it, when, and why in the way you do, with undergraduates, and how is it different to teach a class on Wittgenstein versus teaching a course on Civilizations and the Classics, or a class on the Protestant Reformation? CF: Well, it’s different because it’s not so much teaching a subject, for instead of a subject I’m teaching a book. And I’m a member of the Fundamentals faculty, and it has always been my alibi, because as a member of Fundamentals I’m supposed to teach great books. That’s what they want people to do. And Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations is a great book and is being taught in the philosophy department. But I’m not teaching it as a professional philosopher, but at a much more rudimentary level, deliberately trying to do no more, as I say in the syllabus, than to make the book accessible so you can get across the first big hurdle. So you don’t have to wait for thirty years, like I did, before you can get across that hurdle. And that’s why I teach it, for I think it’s extremely valuable. I think it’s a book that can really change people’s attitude toward a lot of things. It can be very encouraging—I find it an extremely encouraging and


positive book, although that’s certainly not necessarily the case, for I can also imagine people getting quite depressed by it—he certainly himself wasn’t particularly cheerful about contemporary conditions. So once I had read it, I had begun to understand it for real, I thought this was important, because what you can learn from this book goes beyond what you learn in the discipline, you learn to think in a certain kind of way, to look at the world in a certain kind of way, to think differently about your responsibilities and your places in society—and all of that changes, which is how it should be, right? It is exactly what the book is about. If you take it seriously, it changes you. That makes it a great book, if it changes you. That’s what brought me to teach it to undergraduates. Because with graduate students I can only teach it as a professional subject. That’s interesting in its own right. And it’s certainly valuable for graduate students to learn about Wittgenstein in a professional sense. But if you’re a graduate student, you’re mainly focused on a subject matter on which you are going to write your dissertation, then you can’t be distracted. Wittgenstein would create a distraction, unless you’re studying Wittgenstein as a historian, which would be quite different from what happens in this course. You could do that too, it’s an interesting subject, and that’s one way you could keep in touch with his book, while writing a dissertation on history. But it would be very different. So those are the reasons why I start teaching it, and as for when I started teaching it, let me look (checking records)—that was a reading course in 2007, with a small group of three undergraduate students, that was when I was master of Social Sciences Collegiate Division. Then my official teaching load was a little bit reduced, so I could do something on the side. There were other reading courses in spring of 2008, and then in spring 2009 I taught the Philosophical Investigations for the first time, so that was seven years ago. And again in 2011, 2013, and I taught it to graduate students in fall 2012. Since 2013 I haven’t taught it. CJH (HL): For a long time the password to Chicago Journal of History editorial board’s email account was “Wittgenstein”. CF: Ah really? That’s cute. CJH (HL): You opened the article “History, Law, and Justice: Empirical Method and Conceptual Confusion in the History of Law” with a reference to “Wittgenstein’s lifelong attempt to banish meaninglessness from thought and speech.”2 To what extent would the ‘banishment of 2

Constantin Fasolt, “History, Law, and Justice: Empirical Method and Conceptual Confusion in the History of Law,” in “Law As ...” III: Glossolalia: Toward a Minor (Historical) Jurisprudence, ed. Christopher L. Tomlins (Irvine, CA: University of California Irvine School of Law, 2015), p. 416.

meaninglessness’ lead to some kind of ‘pointlessness’ in discussing things such as religious debates? Do you think that some historians, theologians or students who study the history of religion, would be discontent with the notion that religious debates, such as the one between Catholics and Protestants, are mere talking-past each other, rather than something more essential to their understanding? CF: Well, these debates are essentially meaningful, and there’s no doubt about that. The question is: what is the meaning? What Wittgenstein teaches you is that you will never get at the meaning of the conflict, if you ask, “What’s the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism?” It’s not going to work because you’re talking at too abstract a level. Forget about this abstraction, get down to the nittygritty, get down to a particular thing that is being debated, something that is particular, where people disagree with one another, on the grounds that one is Catholic and the other is Protestant, and ask yourself: what are they disagreeing about? What do they mean, really? Be serious about that, dig as hard as you can, and don’t take any short cuts— which means essentially: be a good historian. Do what you have to do as a historian. Once you’ve done your work, once you’ve gone through this whole area and examined all these particulars, then you can say what I believe Catholicism means in this time and in this place is x, on the basis of what I’ve looked at in particular. But don’t start with it in the abstract, but rather with particular knowledge of particular things that are different from each other, specifics that are irreducibly different. That’s what historians study and should study. So that’s one way Wittgenstein can help historians, simply by freeing that up for them to do what they are supposed to do in the first place—studying particulars. Another way is by freeing them up to spend less time on questions about the possibility of knowing the past and the like. Historical theory is its own area of investigation, and that’s fine, and there’s a history of historical theory, as well as lots of specifics there that one might want to study. But it’s important to recognize that whatever you learn from historical theory is not going to be of much use in historical practice. Somebody for whom I have great respect, a Catholic Church historian, Hubert Jedin, great historian who wrote the History of the Council of Trent. I knew him because he was a professor in Bonn. I think I may have mentioned this to you before: he taught me a few things in private conversation, after he had retired, when he realized that I was going into history. One of the things he said was, “You have to understand that there is no such thing as a historical method. There’re only historical questions, and every question requires its own method. Whatever it is that you need to do to answer the question, that’s the method and it differs from question to question. You’ve got to do different kinds of things for different questions.” So

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that’s the particular. Go for the particular—that I firmly believe. That’s tremendously liberating for historians. I think there’re far too many historians, especially younger historians, who are impeded, by a sense of obligation they feel to contribute to the study of contemporary or 17th century culture, so they start with an abstract concept rather than a concrete question. You want to have a specific question. Whatever it is, if that’s what you’re interested in, you can fit it into cultural history, social history, intellectual history, or whatever it is. Those are secondary. The primary is: what do you want to know? What do you mean? What do you want to talk about? That’s all there is to it. That’s what Wittgenstein disciplines you to do: to take seriously the question “what do you mean?” and not to gloss over it too quickly. And the particular area important to me is when we talk about the middle ages and modernity: what do you mean? CJH (PP): We distinguish between two kinds of conflicts. The first is one in which we are really talking about the same things, such as justice, but have different opinions on what just actions are. The second is where we debate over different things. It might seem obvious as to how to differentiate between the two levels, but I imagine there must be many grey areas. So how is anyone, historians in particular, supposed to be able to figure out the nature of the conflict at hand? CJH (HL): It’s easier to say, for example, that terrorism overthrows the entire language-game, because the terrorists refuse to listen to the other side, than to draw such lines in subtler instances. CF: First of all you’re supposed to draw the lines with respect to the particulars, and that means making judgements, which in turn requires using the terms of a given language. And the using of a given language means a commitment to the community where that language is used. And that’s politics. It’s political not in the sense of Left versus Right, Party versus Party, where speaking in the same language—the terms you choose in order to speak about x y and z are the most crucial decision you’ll ever make in the historical work, what terms do you choose? It’s one of the basic historical questions. You cannot choose the terms of the past because those are the terms you need to understand and to explain. You’ve got to start with your terms, for you can’t start with their terms. You can’t start in Latin, instead you start with whatever your language is and then you learn Latin to figure out what they meant by it. You start with your terms and teach with your terms. And you cannot do that without making a political commitment—not to this party or that party, but to using this language and making these judgments. For example, big changes that have happened: I don’t think anybody nowadays could talk about slavery, meaning it in the way Aristotle is presumed to have meant it, and say it’s natural. We can’t talk about it that way. This is not 59

how we can use that term. When we call somebody a slave we are talking about a human being whose rights are being denied. That’s just what we mean. And you can’t take that out of the discourse. When we are talking about slaves, we are talking about human beings who do not enjoy the rights they ought to have, and when we are talking about slaves in the past, we run into a serious political disagreement with the past. Or even in the present. Because there were people who thought what we call slavery is justified, who say, no, nobody is being denied their rights here—they don’t own any rights in the first place, for they aren’t capable of being self-governing people, whereas we find that abhorrent, and we say this is wrong. And we wouldn’t argue this as historians, but it’s disingenuous to claim that the conflict between these terms is not political. Addressing the issues that we address in the way we address them implies a political commitment, not because we make explicit political judgments, or because we express politico-historical opinions, but because we make claims about the past, and we’re acting as good historians. And we call it, whatever it is that we study, what we believe “It is” rather than “It was”, and for that reason, we use our terms and that implies a judgment—a judgment of a very basic kind: what it was. When we talk about slavery, we ask “What was slavery?” Can we ignore our commitment to human rights? No we can’t. We can’t ignore it without taking a stab—you may take another stance but still you’re taking a stab. You can seek to understand. You can say: the crusaders did not want to commit acts of violent aggression against the Muslims, that’s not what they meant—they meant to recover the holy land and to wipe out infidels, horror on the face of the earth—that’s what they meant, or what they intended. But we cannot say that’s what they did. When we write the history, we cannot say, “the Crusaders went into the Middle East to restore the holy land and wipe out infidels, and bring peace, justice and Christian rule to the world” we can say that but we can’t leave it like that. Because they did more than this, and any good historian nowadays would have to say that it’s not all they did, they also committed an unprovoked act of aggression against Muslims. Does that make sense? CJH (HL): Yes, very much. And since we’ve mentioned the possibility of knowing and doing history, we will quickly make a reference to the paragraph on Moses in the Philosophical Investigations. That there’re multiple things we could mean by the question “did Moses exist or not?”— whether we’re asking about the figure’s biography, a person with the name in that time and place, the happening of an event, and so on—what do you think is its implication for historians? CF: I think its significance is that it removes a great deal of historical skepticism and grounds for historical skepticism. In so far as we know anything at all and it makes sense to know things—it makes sense to say that we know there


was somebody called Moses, somebody, some figure, even if that figure existed only in the mythical imagination, we don’t say so, because we have some historical evidence for the existence of somebody called Moses. We might say, well we are not sure, but certainly we know what we mean. And that’s arguable. But what’s wrong with that? Everything is arguable. There’s nothing wrong with saying: well maybe you say it’s blue, but I call it violet. Okay then call it violet so long as we know what we’re talking about! Don’t say that, because you call it violet, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t say, because the border between blue and violet is not precisely defined, that I don’t know what I mean when I call something blue. That’s not a valid criticism. There’re a lot of things about the past that we know. The same goes for plenty of things in the present. And this skepticism—this sterile questioning of the possibility of knowing the past just doesn’t get anywhere. It doesn’t yield any kind of fruit. And there’s a great piece by Diamond called “Dante’s Skies and Our Skies”, where she points out that, yes, there’re a lot of changes, but there’re also a lot of things that stay the same. People cried a thousand years ago but they still cry—it hasn’t changed. There was a sky a thousand years ago. And people were talking about the sky in the same way we’re talking about it. Never mind that astronomy has changed. We’re talking about the same earth. Never mind we don’t mean by earth the exact same thing they meant at that time, that we have different ideas about what the earth is, we can be damn sure that whatever they talked about the “earth”—it is this one! To doubt that is absurd. CJH (PP): I feel that you’ve already provided an answer to the next question, but I’m going to ask it anyway in case you have something to add: is human nature historical? CF: Yes, in terms of Wittgenstein I firmly believe it. Exactly, it is historical. I believe that one of the fundamental lessons one can draw from Wittgenstein is that a very serious intellectual problem is created at the moment you oppose nature to history, or culture. The ancient Greek sophists who drew for the first time a categorical distinction between nature and culture created that problem, because these are abstract concepts. And the moment you create that opposition, you have to ask yourself, how is nature related to culture? What comes first? And this question is a metaphysical question. It’s not the right way to go about it, because you don’t know what you mean and you don’t know what you’re talking about. And this is what you can learn from Wittgenstein. You can’t separate these things that way. And the great thing about the Greek word for nature is that the word actually embodies this idea, for the word φύσις means growth, the process or the result of growth—so there’s something growing that happens in time. So history in the sense of development that occurs over time, is embedded in the Greek word for nature, and also embedded in the word is that history is not merely cultural. In Aristotle, humans are by nature speaking animals. We have

the ability to speak by nature. Whether we develop it or not is a different matter. That depends on training. That’s culture—being surrounded by different circumstances and having different kinds of teachers. I’d be happy to call that culture, but it works with nature and directly on nature, for it is grounded in nature. It’s not grounded in our biological nature because this very concept of biology presupposes a radical distinction between what you might call dead matter, and spirit. In this way, biology is just about the physics of the body, it’s not about the mind—well, there’s something wrong about that concept. CJH (HL): As you’ve said, Dante’s sky stays the same. But is there another dimension in which some significant change in our “form of life” leads to a new language, and in this way, misleads us? CF: That’s a really important question on which I changed my mind over time. I began with the very common use of the term “form of life” as a kind of equivalent to “culture”. And to say that the medieval people had a different form of life from ours, and in this first article you’ll read this weekend, Barry Stroud’s “Wittgenstein and Logical Necessity”, he makes a strong case that this is a mistake. There is only one human form of life that all human beings share. Because any human being can understand in principle the language and culture of any other human being, there’s no mutual exclusivity. It’s possible that there’s nothing that anybody can say that nobody can possibly understand. There’s nothing that anybody can do that nobody else could possibly not understand. There may be a whole lot of things that people do that nobody else does understand. That may happen. But that’s a different issue. It could be understood. And in that sense, we all share the same form of life. That notwithstanding, we are deeply divided by our commitment to different terms, and that division is political. We exist only in political communities. And there are many of them and they are different from each other. There is no single human polis. This idea of a cosmopolis doesn’t exist, because everybody speaks a language and there’s no such thing as the language of human beings. There are only many languages, but that doesn’t mean you can’t translate one into the other. Every community has its own standards of right and wrong, which doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to understand the standards of the other communities. And if you refuse to learn them because you think they are abhorrent, and you can’t come to agreement at all because you really disagree at a profound level, well, then you’re fighting with each other. That’s all it is. You are fighting. You’re fighting over who uses the right term—not over who is right. And that’s all you can say about it. Wittgenstein says, at that point, there would be all kinds of slogans, but that is just the reality. Either you are fighting or you are trying to persuade like missionaries. But no matter how much you try to persuade—maybe you won’t persuade them, maybe they would just say “no, 60


go away”. And that’s human reality. But just because there is no such thing as the human language does not mean that we do not share the same form of life. In the same sense, even though human beings are divided deeply into communities with very different standards of right and wrong, that does not mean that these political differences prevent human beings from understanding the difference between right and wrong. All human beings can understand that, which is why human beings can learn to understand the standards of another community—and may disagree with them! But it’s not beyond their judgment. They can judge it. They must judge it. And they do judge it in whichever community they stay with—where they go, where they stay, what terms they use. That’s how they make a judgment. Just as you don’t need a universal language in order to explain how individual humans speak, you don’t need a universal code of ethics, which I think was Wittgenstein’s point. Wittgenstein says you can’t talk about ethics, for there are only specific bodies of ethics, not absolute ones—it doesn’t make any sense to talk about that. CJH (PP): Moving away from some of these philosophical questions, in your experiences, what is unique about being a historian at University of Chicago? That is by contrast to your experiences at other institutions. You’ve been here pretty much for your entire career? CF: Almost for my entire professional life. I received my Ph.D. from Columbia and continued at Columbia for a couple of years. I’ve been here since then. I did teach for one year at the University of Virginia as a visiting professor. I’ve taught at Notre Dame University, also as a visiting professor, but for a semester only. Obviously as a student I saw different universities in Germany. This university and this department, as a representative of this university, is great in that the bottom line is intellectual quality. That’s what counts. That’s the bottom line. Every place has its politics, every institution is politics, but I don’t know of any other institution of higher learning in which the reason for which we have universities is the maintenance of intellectual standards, and where production of knowledge is treated with the respect that it is treated here. And that may be changing, and may be moving in a wrong direction, I don’t know that. But I consider myself to be very lucky to be here for that reason, because that’s a shared agreement! That’s a shared commitment, which does make this university different from other universities. What often makes a big difference is that everybody has to teach in the Core Curriculum. Everybody has to teach in the College. And I appreciate that greatly. I’m a firm believer in the general education courses and the Core Curriculum. I think it plays an invaluable role. Not everybody agrees with that. And the other unique thing is that we have a lot of freedom to teach what we want to teach. So long as we teach one CORE course each year. That is the requirement, but other than that, we have a lot more freedom than 61

faculties in other universities, including the freedom to coteach with other faculty members and to cross disciplinary boundaries. If I want to do something with people in the Humanities Division or the Divinity School, I can. It’s easy. It’s encouraged. Interdisciplinary venues are encouraged so long as they make some kind of intellectual sense. At other universities, when I was in Virginia, I knew a faculty couple very well, where the wife was a sociologist. And she was deeply frustrated because she couldn’t get a foothold in the anthropology department. Because they are different departments and different disciplines! And given that the questions were both sociological and anthropological, with regard to the methods, it didn’t make sense to divide it that way. But the institution wouldn’t allow it. CJH (HL): Do you have any plans for the future after retirement? CF: Yes I do. First of all I’m going to breathe, inhale and exhale. I’ve been doing that a little already. Since I signed on the dotted line, which is a little over a year ago, I’ve already felt that I’m committed, and it’s just a matter of time now. For as a faculty member I made a contract with the university. We have this very formal and beneficial program. That’s one of the reasons it’s great to be here. The university treats the faculty extremely well compared to many other places. And we have great students here too, not to forget that! The students in the College are fantastic. It’s just a privilege to be teaching at this college. So I signed this deal at the University office, faculty committed to retire a year ago, and I’ve been in a kind of retirement mode since then—or preparatory retirement mode. When the retirement actually comes I will be leaving this office. I will be leaving and staying instead on the North Side with my wife. And I have my faculty study so I may come here now and then. And once I’ve inhaled and exhaled, what my wife and I both want to do is to write and to travel when we are not writing, and maybe sometimes travel and write at the same time, while we are still ambulatory. We hope that’s going to be another 15-20 years or so. But you never know, because it gets hard to move around. It’s already hard with jetlag. I’m only in my mid-60s but jetlag makes so much difference that I would much rather fly to somewhere south of here than somewhere far to the west or to the east. As for writing what, I have a few scholarly commitments that I have had for a long time that I need to work on my desk, and I will at some point. And I do want to write a book about what I’ve learnt about European history from studying the history and from studying Wittgenstein. That has been hanging over my head for a little more than ten years. I have found in my mind the right way to write it. But as you can learn from Wittgenstein, to think you have performed an experiment—the result of an experiment you have imagined—is not the same as the result of an experiment you have performed. I think I got it, but when I start to write, it becomes very difficult. So difficult


that I couldn’t do it while I’m teaching, and too difficult for me to do on the couple of leaves I have had since I conceptualized this book. I made a lot of headway every time, but I haven’t gotten far enough. So that’s the big thing I want to do next and I don’t know when I’m going to finish that. CJH (PP): You’ve talked about how much you admire the Core Curriculum here. So if you were an undergraduate student—we planned to ask you what Civilizations sequence you would take, but let us open it up to the entire CORE—what Core Curriculum classes would you like to take? CF: I don’t know what you would want to take as a student because students come to the university for very different reasons. What you should take as a student I can tell you, because I have a perspective on that. CJH (PP): Sure! CF: I think you should take European Civ. Because I think it’s the course that exemplifies best what you could learn from reading primary sources. Although increasingly, that characteristic of European civilization is losing its significance. The course is looking more and more like other courses, in which the reading may be very highly stressed, but still they essentially serve as a kind of illustration, rather than the basis on which you actually learn. Still, I believe that. Ideally you would take another Civ. You should take two Civs: European Civ and another one. We used to have that requirement until the 80s. I think you should take SOSC Core in one of the great SOSC Core classes: Self, Torture and Anxiety (“Self, Culture and Society”), or Power (“Power, Identity, and Resistance”), or “Classics of Social and Political Thought”. One of those three—those are the great ones. You should take that because the Social Sciences Core still has a real coherence. In the Humanities Core you are going to get great teachers and you will read great texts— and maybe “Human Being and Citizen” still has some coherence, I don’t want to speak of that and I don’t know, and maybe the new Linguistics sequence has a certain kind of coherence, but they are always changing—but broadly speaking, the humanists are more deeply divided than the historians and the social scientists—we are deeply divided enough. The Social Sciences Core still has a coherence that allows you to fulfil the purpose of an undergraduate general education program. I don’t know about Math but I think it’s probably the same there, thanks to the great work that Paul Sally, in particular, did. And I don’t know about the sciences. The Sciences have always been a problem, because there is just so much technical stuff that you have to learn before you can go into the lab. In principle being in the lab is the same thing as reading the primary sources and the great books. But before you go into the lab there is something else that has to happen.

CJH (HL): Have you observed any major changes that have happened to the field of historical scholarship? CJH (PP): Another way to put this question is: in what ways have you seen the historical profession changed since you first entered it decades ago? CF: I’ve seen changes in a lot of ways. First of all when I entered it, gender history was still very much in its beginnings. And history of women, this was late 70s and early 80s. And now it’s a very established field to the degree that everybody recognizes that gender is a crucial aspect of any kind of history you are going to teach, because it’s all gender in some one way or another. And that is a very big change. At the time when I started, the division was really between political and diplomatic historians, economic historians, historians of society, and intellectual historians. And then of course there were national historians. Cultural history really took off then, and that’s now become a really big field. All kinds of transnational history are now there that didn’t exist before, as well as environmental history. So there’s been growth of whole fields of study, and what I would say overall is that when I started, the basic question about the relationship between mind and matter still structured the historical discourse in some way. There were sort of materialists, and there were clearly idealists—it didn’t really go away. But that issue has now lost its valence, partly thanks to the rise of cultural history, because culture is neither material nor intellectual—it’s both, or it tries to be both, say history of material culture—you have it in the concept. Microhistory was one way of responding to the theoretical impasse that people had encountered in trying to solve the problem “is it matter or is it mind” and recognize that it doesn’t really work. So people went into microhistory. The serious Marxist history of class analysis was still very vibrant when I first started. And that really is no longer the case. There’s much less of that. You know, E. P. Thompson had tremendous influence at that time. I know he is still a great classic, his work is a classic, The Making of the English Working Class, but class history from a Marxist point of view has been tamed in a way. Whereas back then it got the blood boiling, today it’s much less passionate and maybe less interesting. Also there has been a real development of theory of history and a lot of postmodern soul-searching. Can we know the past? And now we’ve entered a new phase. And it’s very clear that now people are in a mode of forgetting about all that stuff. Instead, they say: let’s go back to brass tacks and study things. And there is a proliferation of new subjects and we are studying them specifically. People are trying to get out of the old national boxes and disciplinary boxes. That’s very healthy. But I would say something else. Take the big picture: in the 19th century history and politics were intertwined. The state, and the historians, they were parallels. The historians were either for the state or they over62


turned the state. To overturn the state that took a while to happen because historians were so firmly associated with the state in the 19th century that anti-state historians had a hard time establishing themselves in the profession, although eventually they did. That situation in the 19th century is no longer the case. That’s over and done with. History no longer has that kind of prestige in the contemporary world, and all that kind of significance. I don’t know what took its place. Something is supposed to have taken its place, and maybe something could take its place. But I do believe that from that point of view a lot of air has gone out of the historical enterprise. The tire is not yet quite flat, but it is no longer as well-pumped up. It’s not rolling so well. CJH (HL): Do you have any advice for history students? CJH (PP): For those who would like to become historians, the new generation of scholars. CF: Advice? If you want to study history, my advice would be to go out and study history! The key to being satisfied with what you are doing is to find something you really want to deal with. You have to find a question that really motivates you and really try to answer it the best way you can. Do what you need to do and follow the advice of the faculty who will point you toward the right direction that you need to go in order to find the best available answers. And that means going from reading only primary sources to reading the professional historical scholarship. You have to read the professional historical scholarship. The textbooks won’t do much good to you, and only reading primary sources won’t do you much good either. The analogy I always like to use is that, undergraduates who say, I don’t believe in the secondary scholarship, I only want to learn from the primary sources, because all of these narrowminded professional stuff is…you know, reading Descartes, that’s what is great. Anybody who says that is like somebody who says, I want to study nature, so I’m going to do what Newton did. I’m going to go out and look at the apples falling from the tree and come up with a theory. It doesn’t work that way. There’s a lot of disciplinary scaffolding that you have to master before you can get to where it makes sense. So that’s my advice. Why did you laugh? CJH (HL): Because it is true that in this intellectual atmosphere, in particular, we tend to appreciate the authenticity of primary sources as the true documents. So I find what you said a very accurate portrayal of students’ mentality. CF: Right. CJH (PP): That’s not why I laughed. CF: Why did you laugh? 63

CJH (PP): Because I was in the midst of doing my own history for the first time. I’ve never lost sight of the secondary sources. They haunt me day and night. CF: That’s good, they should. CJH (PP): And sometimes I almost think that I get a little too caught up in what others say, so I forget that I can say something about them. CF: Not only can you, you must. CJH (HL): Do you think it’s the same for other fields, for example, philosophy? CF: Yes, and that is my experience, right? When you are young and naïve you go into philosophy and you think you are going to study Kant and Plato. But when you are actually in the field you realize that you will be studying what X, Y and Z have written about Kant and Plato’s theory of so and so. It’s taken for granted that you’ve read Kant and Plato. So yes, I think it’s very similar. CJH: Thank you very much!


The Chicago Journal of History is published by undergraduate students in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. The journal brings together students from history and other fields for interdisciplinary dialogue. Current and past issues are available online at: http://cjh.uchicago.edu.

Chicago Journal of History - Spring 2016  
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