John Foot

John Foot is a professor of history at University College London.

Pinzolo is a sleepy Alpine resort in northern Italy, about an hour’s drive from Trento. Today, it is a prosperous place, living off winter and summer tourism, but for most of the last century this was an area of extreme poverty, and many of those who lived in the valley were forced to emigrate. There is a statue of a knife-grinder in the town, a monument to the job most of these...

On 17 February 2003, a 39-year-old Egyptian man was walking down a quiet street in suburban Milan on his way to daily prayers. His real name was Osama Nasr, but he was known as Abu Omar. He was a cleric and political militant, an opponent of the Mubarak regime, and had refugee status in Italy (which is very hard to get). A man in police uniform came up to him and asked in Italian to see his documents. As he reached for his passport, Omar was bundled into a white van and driven away at high speed.

Fixing a football match is a risky business. Players can be bribed, but things can go wrong when thousands of fans are watching. The alternative is to offer the referee a backhander. A German referee was recently jailed for rigging games in the second division of the Bundesliga for a Croatian betting syndicate. In Italy, there had traditionally been little need to resort to such methods: ever...

A bearded man lies flat on his back, arms wide apart, in a field. He has one leg. Nearby, some wires hang from the base of an electricity pylon, to which a box seems to be attached. The man is Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 46 years old, a political militant, publisher and millionaire. The photo was taken on 15 March 1972. For more than two years Feltrinelli had been on the run from the Italian...

From The Blog
25 February 2011

On Sunday 13 February, more than a million Italians, most of them women, took to the streets to demand that Silvio Berlusconi resign. Their slogan was taken from Primo Levi: ‘If not now, when?’ Their theme song was Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power’. The demonstrations (which took place in 231 Italian cities, as well as in Tokyo, New York, London, Paris and Brussels) were organised, without official political backing, by a variety of groups including Il Popolo Viola (‘The Purple People’), a web-based youth network, established in December 2009 to campaign against Berlusconi and the political ‘caste’ governing Italy. Berlusconi’s resignation was not forthcoming. Instead, he looks set to be possibly the first prime minister of a democratic country to stand trial while still in office, charged with abuse of power and the ‘exploitation of underage prostitution’.[*] Berlusconi is still in a surprisingly strong position, domestically.

Households of Patience

John Foot, 9 June 1994

In 1927, Antonio Gramsci was in chains, about to begin a nightmarish 19-day journey from Sicily to Milan’s San Vittore prison, when he met two ‘common criminals’ in a Palermo waiting-room. One of them refused to accept that he was indeed Gramsci ‘because Antonio Gramsci must be a giant and not such a tiny man.’ Disappointed, the man, Gramsci reported, ‘said nothing more, withdrew to a corner, sat down on an unmentionable contraption and stayed there, like Marius on the ruins of Carthage, meditating on his lost illusions. He painstakingly avoided speaking to me again during the time we remained in the same room and did not say goodbye when we parted.’

Letter
Readers of the incredible story of Adriano Sofri, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani, told by Carlo Ginzburg in the LRB of 3 April, may be interested to know how they can obtain further information on the case. There is an excellent web-site run by Sofri’s son, Luca, at www.sofri.org. A UK campaign is beginning to take shape and there is an appeal which supporters of Sofri can sign if...

In Britain​, the man who closed the asylums was Enoch Powell. ‘There they stand,’ he announced to two thousand delegates at the 1961 annual conference of the National Association...

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