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Sport and Society in Modern Italy

Instructor: Simon Martin [see profile]
Disciplines: Sociology, History

Course Description

This course will examine the role of sport (with an emphasis on soccer and cycling) in Italian society from historical and contemporary perspectives. The course will consider the relationship between sports and such issues as gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, nationalism, nation-building, the Italian economy, and the role of the media in order to determine how developments in sports have influenced, and have been influenced by, Italian politics and society.

General Plan

The course will begin with a general introduction to Italian history; general ideas, concepts and interpretations. Considering theoretical, real and practical problems in the conceptualization of the nation’s identity, these issues will feature throughout the module’s exploration of economic, social and political change. Developing a solid grounding in the dramatic changes in Italian society from 1918 until the present, students will be encouraged to explore, analyze and discuss the continuities, or otherwise, in modern Italy. Beginning with the impact of the First World War, the course will pay particular attention to the nature of modern Italy, plus the obstacles and opportunities within its development. Following a consideration of the impact of the war, a detailed study of the interwar period will establish what Italian Fascism was, what it meant for Italian people and what its legacy was. With war once again providing a dramatic rupture in Italian society, politics and history, the post-1945 period will consider the influence of America and the Cold War upon the internal battle for political control between the Left and the Catholic Right. This period will also focus on Italy’s economic recovery and re-entry into ‘normal’ diplomatic relations that was rubber-stamped by the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. With the country’s foreign relations stabilized, attention will turn to the internal crises of insurrection, terrorism, mafia activity and corruption. Tangentopoli, the collapse of the old political order, plus the nature, rise and impact of Silvio Berlusconi’s entry into politics will conclude the course after which, students will be asked to assess the nature of modern Italy, how we might define it, and to what extent sport has been integral in the construction of any such definitions.


  • a midterm
  • a final paper (8-10 pages)
  • a final exam