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David Kertzer on “Mussolini, the Pope, and Italy’s Racial Laws” The distinguished historian delivered a Director's Lecture on April 5, 2017.

April 7, 2017


On April 5, 2017, Brown University historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David I. Kertzer delivered a Director's Lecture on "Mussolini, the Pope, and Italy's Racial Laws." Based partly on documents found in the newly opened Vatican archives for this period, the lecture chronicled the active role played by the pope, his emissaries to Mussolini, and others in the Vatican in the Italian embrace of anti-Semitism as state policy.

In 1938, Mussolini surprised many Italians—not least Italy’s Jews—by proclaiming a new “racial” policy, setting a pure Italian race against a foreign, noxious Jewish race. He soon followed this with a series of racial laws that stripped the Jews of their rights as citizens, removed them from their jobs and professions, and cast all Jewish students out of the public schools.

David I. Kertzer is the Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science at Brown University, where he is also Professor of Anthropology and Italian Studies and, from 2006 to 2011, served as Provost. He was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his most recent book, The Pope and Mussolini, which has appeared in eleven languages. Among his many other books, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and is currently being made into a film by Steven Spielberg. Kertzer is an authority on Italian politics, society, and history; political symbolism; and anthropological demography. He co-founded and served for many years as co-editor of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. In 2005 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

View photos from the event >