CfA: The Difficult Heritage of Dictatorship in Europe

The proposed special issue will examine how post-authoritarian European societies have negotiated the visible remains – the 'difficult heritage' (Macdonald 2009) – of twentieth-century dictatorship. In doing so, it will address an issue of contemporary global relevance: the meaning, memory and management of monuments (whether physical or spatial) associated with often contested 'histories that hurt'.

The articles will bring a strong historical focus to examine:

  • The authoritarian origins of difficult heritage sites, buildings, artworks, and monuments.
  • Changing approaches and attitudes towards the visible reminders of dictatorship over time.
  • The complex interplay – and attendant tensions – between memory politics, aesthetics and the 'seemingly more banal politics of use' (Jaskot 2008, 144).
  • The particular social, cultural and political contexts which have helped to shape and frame responses to the difficult heritage of dictatorship in Europe at the local and/or national level.
  • The impact of 'concepts and debates from elsewhere' (Macdonald 2009, 7) on local debates and actions.

The special issue also responds to Harald Bodenschatz's recent call to bring nationally and locally-focussed studies of the urban heritage of European dictatorships into dialogue with one another (Bodenschatz 2020). The examination of the difficult heritage of dictatorship across a range of European countries will allow for comparisons to be made between the experiences of societies at both similar and different distances from their authoritarian pasts: Germany and Italy in the 75 years since the defeat of Nazism and Fascism; Spain and Portugal in the 45-50 years since the deaths of Franco and Salazar; and Central and Eastern European states in the 3 decades since the collapse of Communism. Why have some nations – Germany the obvious example – come to view open engagement with the difficult heritage of dictatorship 'as the obviously right and proper thing to do' (Macdonald 2016, 13), while others have remained more reticent? Does a lack of critical engagement with the remains of an authoritarian past indicate a failure or refusal to 'face up' to that past (an accusation frequently levelled at Italy [see, for example, Ben Ghiat 2017])? And, conversely, does the public performance of confronting such legacies necessarily equate to genuine critical engagement with that past? How 'difficult' is the difficult heritage of dictatorship in Europe today? These important questions will be explored in the contributions to the special issue.

About the Proposed Guest Editors:

Nick Carter is Associate Professor of Modern History at Australian Catholic University, Sydney. He is the author of Modern Italy in Historical Perspective (Bloomsbury Academic, 2010) and the editor of Britain, Ireland and the Italian Risorgimento (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). His current research examines the difficult heritage of Italian Fascism since 1943. Recent publications include:

  • (with Simon Martin) 'The management and memory of Fascist monumental art in postwar and contemporary Italy: the case of Luigi Montanarini's Apotheosis of Fascism', Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 22 (3) 2017, 338-364.
  • 'The meaning of monuments: remembering Italo Balbo in Italy and the United States', Modern Italy, 24 (2) 2019, 219-235.
  • (with Simon Martin) 'Dealing with difficult heritage: Italy and the material legacies of Fascism', Modern Italy, 24 (2) 2019, 117-122.
  • '"What Shall We Do With It Now?": The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana and the difficult heritage of Fascism', Australian Journal of Politics and History (forthcoming September 2020).

Associate Professor Carter co-guest edited the May 2019 special issue of Modern Italy on 'The Difficult Heritage of Italian Fascism'. He is currently working on a monograph on the same subject, to be published by Cambridge University Press.

Clare Copley is Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Central Lancashire, UK. She works on difficult heritage, memory, power and the built environment in modern Germany. Recent publications include:

  • Nazi Buildings, Cold War Traces and Governmentality in Post-Unification Berlin (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)
  • '"Stones do not Speak for Themselves": Disentangling Berlin's Palimpsest', Fascism, 8 (2) 2019, 219-249
  • 'Curating Tempelhof: negotiating the multiple histories of Berlin's 'symbol of freedom', Urban History 44 (4) 2017, 698-717.

If you would like to be considered for the project:

Please send a title, 200-word abstract and 200-word biography to both Nick Carter ( and Clare Copley ( by Friday 2 October 2020. We expect to confirm the list of participants by Friday 9 October and to send the proposal, consisting of the rationale, article abstracts and author biographies, to the journal editors the following week.

Nick Carter (Australian Catholic University)

Clare Copley (University of Central Lancashire)