89984 - Comparative History in the Contemporary Age (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

The course sets out to provide the methodological tools by which differing national cases may be compared, and hence to enable students to understand social, cultural and political dynamics occurring within the public sphere. By the end of the course students will have: mastered the methods of historical comparison and understood their different methodological implications; fully understood the evolution of social dynamics within one or more case studies; learned how to apply the knowledge acquired in analysing case studies to other similar phenomena; learned how to analyse the historical evolution of the public sphere in a comparative perspective; broadened the scope of their disciplinary skills via analysis of the specialist literature, a technique acquired during the course

Course contents

Communication and Power in the contemporary age

The course aims at introducing students to the methodology of historical comparison. In a.y. 2023/24 the course will analyse the historical evolution of the relationship between communication and power in Europe in the XIX and XX Centuries. In this context the course will focus on the role of the image in the representation of power and on Italian and German case studies.

Course Outline:

Lesson 1 Course Presentation
Lesson 2 Methodology of historical comparison
Lesson 3 Rites and power’s representation
Lesson 4 Stereotypes and prejudices in the communication process
Lesson 5 The birth of the press and public opinion
Lesson 6 Communication and power in XIX century
Lesson 7 The emergence of cultural industry
Lesson 8 War Propaganda
Lesson 9 Propaganda and Dictatorships
Lesson 10 Power, Art and Fascism
Lesson 11 Political communication in post-war democracies
Lesson 12 New Media and Power
Lesson 13 How to write a historical paper
Lesson 14 Fake news communication and democracy
Lesson 15 Final discussion and assignment of paper’s subject



Readings are different between students that are attending the course and Students that are not attending the course

Attending students should study readings in section 1

Not attending students should study all readings in section 2 .1 + choosing 1 book in section 2.2

1. Compulsory readings for ATTENDING students

Syllabus for attending students

The readings list will be published before the semester’s beginning. Readings will be upload to Virtuale unibo with few exceptions. In such a case the student should contact the teacher.
Students are expected to read each reading before the lesson and to debate it in the second part of the lesson.

2. Compulsory readings for students that WON'T attend the class

Students should study all readings of the section 2.1 and should select and study one book of the section 2.2.

2.1 General and Methodological Readings

- S. Cavazza, Filippo Triola (a cura di), Parole sovrane. Comunicazione politica e storia contemporanea in Italia e Germania, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2017
-Marc Bloch, Per una storia comparata delle società europee, in M. Bloch, Lavoro e tecnica nel medioevo, Roma-Bari. Laterza, 1990 ( ma va bene qualunque edizione), pp. 29-71,
-Theda Skocpol, Margaret Sommers. The Uses of Comparative history in Macrosocial Inquiry , in «Comparative Studies in Society and History» vol. 22, n.2 (aprile 1980), pp. 174-197
-M. Werner e B. Zimmermann, Beyond Comparison: Histoire croisée And The Challenge Of Reflexivity, «History and Theory» 45 (February 2006), pp. 30-50.
- H. Kaelble, Comparative and Transnational History, in «Ricerche di storia politica » special issue/2017, pp. 15-24

2.2 One book should be chosen in the following list

- R. Brizzi, L'uomo dello schermo: De Gaulle e i media, Bologna, Il mulino, 2010
- P. Chiantera-Stutte. Von der Avantgarde zum Traditionalismus: die radikalen Futuristen im italienischen Faschismus von 1919 bis 1931, Frankfurt am Main, Campus, 2002
- M. Cioli, Il fascismo e la sua arte: dottrina e istituzioni tra futurismo e Novecento, Firenze, L. S. Olschki, 2011
-David Forgacs, Stephen Gundle, Cultura di massa e società italiana: 1936-1954, Bologna, Il mulino, 2007
- M. Forno, La stampa del Ventennio strutture e trasformazioni nello Stato totalitario, Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino, 2005
- H. Grosshans, Hitler and the artists, New York, Holmes & Meier, 1983
- S. Montaldo, Celebrare il Risorgimento: collezionismo artistico e memorie familiari a Torino 1848-1915, Torino, Carocci, 2013
G. Lucaroni, Architetture di Storia. Fascismo, storicità, cultura architettonica italiana, Roma, Viella, 2022
-G. Mancosu, Vedere l’impero. L’Istituto Luce e il colonialismo fascista, Milano, Mimesis 2022
-P. M. Potter, Art of suppression : confronting the Nazi past in histories of the visual and performing arts, Oakland, California, University of California Press, 2016
-Storia d'Italia, Annali, vol. 27, I consumi, a cura di S. Cavazza e E. Scarpellini, Torino, Einaudi, 2018 pp. 5-100 + pp. 434-454 + pp. 505- 660
- D. Welch, Persuading the people: British propaganda in World War II, London, The British Library, 2016
-Filippo Triola La conquista del futuro. Comunicazione politica e partiti socialisti in Italia e Germania tra Otto e Novecento (1890-1914), Bologna, Il Mulino, 2021 + F. Triola, Le campagne elettorali dell’Italia contemporanea. Percorsi di ricerca di storia della comunicazione politica, «RICERCHE DI STORIA POLITICA», 2018, 3, pp. 305 - 322.

Teaching methods

lectures alternated with seminar discussions

Assessment methods

Assessment for attending students

-50% paper on a subject proposed by the teacher, at least 30.000 characters = 4500 words (the calculation must include footnotes, but exclude the bibliography)

-20% assessment of the participation and of the paper's discussion

-30% Oral examination on the readings (Section 1+2)

-Deadline of the delivery of the paper will be define during the course ( 1 copy printed and signed by the student+ 1 copy send in word format)

-Regarding structure, footnotes and bibliography, students should follow the teacher's guidelines that are published on virtuale unibo.

Erasmus and overseas students attending the class
Erasmus and overseas students can write the paper and take the oral examination using English, German or French .

Assessment for NOT attending students :
50% Written examination on readings (section 2.1). [In case of persistence of the health emergency oral examination on readings]
50% Oral examination on readings (section 2.2) .

The questions in the written part will have a different value, which will be indicated on the task and will normally range between 1 and 3 points.

Erasmus and overseas students not attending the class
Erasmus and overseas students can use English, German or French for the essay and for the oral examination.

General criteria of assessment

The achievement of an organic vision of the themes tackled, the possession of a mastery of expression and specific language, the mastery of concepts, the structural and historical-causal understanding of events as well as familiarity with the tools of analysis of comparative history will be assessed with marks of excellence. A largely mechanical or mnemonic knowledge of the subject, an inadequate ability to summarise and analyse, or language which is correct but not always appropriate, as well as a scholastic command of comparative history will lead to fair marks. Inadequate training or inappropriate language, as well as a lack of knowledge and understanding of comparative history will lead to grades that are on the threshold of sufficiency. Formative deficiencies, inappropriate language, lack of orientation within the spatiotemporal dimension will lead to negative marks.

Teaching tools


Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Stefano Cavazza


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