Dr Kate Ferris wins AHRC Early Career Fellowship

A medal from 1934 commemorating the 'festa dell'uva' in Merano, Italy.  The annual festivals held to celebrate the grape harvest were co-opted under fascism in order to promote viticulture and help the Italian wine industry without, they hoped, being seen to promote wine consumption too obviously.

A medal from 1934 commemorating the ‘festa dell’uva’ in Merano, Italy. The annual festivals held to celebrate the grape harvest were co-opted under fascism in order to promote viticulture and help the Italian wine industry without, they hoped, being seen to promote wine consumption too obviously.

The School of History is delighted to announce that Dr Kate Ferris has been awarded an AHRC Early Career Fellowship to work on her project In vino veritas? Alcohol and its Spaces in Fascist Italy

 This AHRC fellowship will allow Dr Ferris to spend the best part of two years (starting in September 2015) researching in Italian archives (in Rome, Florence, Vicenza and Venice, among others) and writing up that research in order to provide the first systematic examination of the place of alcohol in fascist life.

 Italian fascism had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, in line with the projected image of Mussolini as a model of health and virile masculinity, it was asserted that he ‘never [drank] wine’. Repeated emphasis was made to Mussolini’s abstemiousness, austere diet and almost ascetic lifestyle.  Drinking alcohol was seen as a barrier to becoming an ideal fascist man. On the other hand, wine and the places in which it was consumed publicly – bars,osterietrattorie and so on – appear repeatedly in source material as important features and spaces of fascist life. Wine production was a key facet of regional economies in Italy.

Crucially, the places associated with alcohol often became sites of confrontation between fascism and anti-fascism (or non-fascism). Bars were places where people met to discuss politics (among other things); the mix of politics and alcohol was often convivial but could also turn to conflict. The research project will seek to get to the bottom of these apparent ambivalences and contradictions and in particular will explore: a) the regime’s attitudes and pronouncements on alcohol, and b) the role of alcohol as a mediating actor between individuals and the fascist state.

 In addition to writing two major research articles, Dr Ferris will also produce an exhibition on ‘wine and wine production in fascist Italy’, two podcasts for use by school children and will set up a research network of early-career academics with interests in different aspects of the political, social and cultural history of food history in modern Europe, a field of research which is fast developing, perhaps not surprisingly given the crucial place of food, and especially access to food, in governing the relationships between states and their citizens.

About standrewshistory
With over forty full time members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from S cotland to Byzantium and the Americas to the Middle East and South Asia.Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching and tutorials allowing for in depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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