(Roughly) Daily

“The illustrations in children’s books are the first paintings most children see”*…

 

American student Barbara Donahue (then Barbara Finlay) lived in Italy between August 1937 and March 1938, when she was 7 and 8 years old. She attended a Catholic school, the Istituto Vittoria Colonna, in Milan. There, she was issued these small soft-covered government-produced student notebooks, decorated with colorful, dramatic illustrations…

Barbara Finlay’s Italian education came at the tail end of a complicated 20-year project meant to teach loyalty to the Fascist regime in the country’s schools. Bill Donahue asked his mother to remember the curriculum she encountered. “It was all indoctrination published by the government,” Barbara told him. (He recorded her memories and sent them to me in an email.)

The textbooks said that Italy should have Ethiopia and that Mussolini was bringing prosperity back to Italy, developing farmland, building roads, and getting the trains to run on time. In one of the notebooks, there were two kids side by side. One is doing something patriotic [she can’t remember what], the other isn’t. You’re supposed to figure out which one is better. It isn’t too hard…

More illustrations from the notebooks, and more of the backstory, at “Illustrated Propaganda for Elementary-School Students in Mussolini’s Italy.”

* Anthony Browne

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As we note that the current presidential campaign is the first political experience that many children are having, we might recall that, while across the U.S. many are wearing green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, it is also “Italian Unification Day”– the anniversary of the proclamation, in 1861, of the Kingdom of Italy. The “Risorgimento” had begun in 1815, and continued until 1871 (when Rome, which was named Italy’s capital in 1861, though it wasn’t then yet part of the Kingdom, finally entered); but in late 1860, Cavour and Garibaldi made a deal to join North and South, and to name Victor Emmanuel II as king– which was enough for the (new) Parliament to make its proclamation.

Induno’s “Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy and the first Italian Parliament,” 1861

source

 

Written by LW

March 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

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