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CODE 108635
SEMESTER 2° Semester


The course analyzes some epistemological and methodological questions raised by social history and the criticisms addressed to it, and then addresses some research topics, including in particular citizenship from below, starting from the long-term practice of writing petitions to authorities, in different spatial-temporal contexts.



The course aims to examine the genesis and evolution of social history, firstly providing knowledge and critical tools to introduce students to the main methodological and epistemological issues raised by this peculiar historiographical approach; secondly, the course proposes to delve into some research topics and problems related to the history of identities and social relations in modern and contemporary history.


By covering some of the most significant debates that have revolved around certain dualisms (true/false, micro/macro, local/global, social/cultural, male/female, social/political, high/low, West/Third World, dominant/dominated, etc.), this course aims to consolidate students' critical and methodological awareness in order to approach the analysis of the contemporary age from a perspective that is sensitive to social relations situated in time. 
Secondly, through a focus on the practice of writing appeals to the authorities (a long-standing practice that does not disappear in the contemporary age and even reaches the present day), the course aims at investigating citizenship from below and the relationship between individuals and institutions in the contemporary age with a view that is sensitive to the social actors and their representations.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

-present and discuss critically and with appropriate language some epistemological and methodological questions that social history and the debate around it have contributed to forcefully emerge during the 20th century (knowledge and understanding; communication skills; autonomy of judgment);

- apply the issues discussed to the problem of writing appeals to the authorities in contemporary times (knowldedge and ability of applied comprehension);

- show that they have strengthened a number of soft skills, including in particular:

a) functional literacy (basic level), i.e. the ability to communicate effectively in written and oral form, the ability to adapt one's communication to the context;

b) personal competence (basic level), in particular the ability to concentrate and reflect critically on a task;

c) social competence (basic level), i.e. the ability to manage one's social interactions with a collaborative attitude and constructive communication.



A good knowledge of the key themes of contemporary history is essential. To consolidate basic skills we recommend A. M. Banti, Le questioni dell'età contemporanea, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2010


Only for those who make an explicit and justified request to the lecturer at the beginning of the course, it will be possible to follow the lectures by streaming or using lecture recordings via the TEAMS platform. In this case, you will be considered a non-attending student and the syllabus for you will be the specific one for non-attending students (see Recommended Reading).

A frontal mode will be used for lectures supplemented with collective discussions on historiographical texts and documents (debate and think-pair share), so attendance will be essential and is therefore strongly encouraged. Powerpoint presentations will be used and materials and readings will be uploaded on Aulaweb. It is strongly recommended to follow the lecturer's communications via Aulaweb 2023/2024.


Over the course of the 20th century, social history has challenged the established narrative of history, highlighting new themes, new subjects, new methodological lenses through which to interrogate the sources, and prompting dialogue between the historical discipline and the other social sciences, sociology and anthropology above all. Although, even in the wake of the so-called 'cultural turn' and feminist critique between the 1980s and 1990s, the propositional capacity of this approach appeared to be in crisis, it is rather possible to assume that its field has been redefined and salutarily transformed in the light of these debates, without losing, however, a peculiar sensitivity to certain issues, a critical force and a drive towards methodological reflexivity that are still necessary.
The programme is divided into two parts.
The first part (see section A of the texts) is dedicated to the framing of general problems connected with the foundations of social history, with the debate generated by it and with its most recent evolution. The object of analysis will be some of the most important epistemological and methodological questions that this innovative approach posed in its time and, in changed forms, still poses to historical research. Through the examination of some significant historiographical essays, we will focus in particular on the debates that have revolved around some crucial binomials: true/false; micro/macro, local/global; social/cultural; public/private, male/female, social/political; individual/social; high/low, dominant/dominated, West/Third World.
The second part (cf. section B of the texts) is dedicated to the in-depth examination of a research topic that well exemplifies the still relevant potential of social history. Through the examination of the writings of supplication, petition, and appeal to the authorities in various contexts of the contemporary age, we will question the possibilities of a social history of citizenship, that is, a history capable of not separating the analysis of the policies of inclusion and exclusion of rights from that of the practices and forms of negotiation implemented by citizens in the context of their interactions with institutions. 



Assignements for attending students (9cfu):

1. Course materials and articles in section A (see below)

2. Articles in section B (see below)

SECTION A (see Aulaweb; please notice that classes will be based on a collective reading ot these texts, so participation will be crucial):

  • Fernand Braudel, Histoire et sciences sociales. La longue durée, in “Annales ESC”, n. 4, 1958.
  • Jacques Le Goff, Documento/Monumento, Enciclopedia Einaudi, Torino 1978 (versione ridotta).
  • Hayden White, The Burden of History, in “History and Theory”, vol. 5, n. 2, 1966.
  • Lawrence Stone, The Revival of Narrative. Reflections on a New Old History, in “Past & Present”, n. 85, 1979.
  • Carlo Ginzburg, Microstoria: due o tre cose che so di lei, in “Quaderni storici”, vol. 29, n. 86(2).
  • Giovanni Levi, Les usages de la biographie, in “Annales ESC”, n. 6, 1989.
  • Roger Chartier, Le monde comme représentation, in “Annales ESC”, n. 6, 1989.
  • Joan Wallach Scott, Il “genere”: un’utile categoria per l’analisi storica, in Joan W. Scott, Genere, politica, storia, a cura di Ida Fazio, con postfazione di Paola di Cori, pp. 31-63.
  • Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Under Western Eyes. Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses, in “boundary 2”, Spring-Autumn 1984, pp. 333-358.
  • Giovanni Levi, Frail Frontiers?, in “Past & Present”, Supplement 16, Global History and Microhistory, 2019.



  • Didier Fassin, La supplique. Stratégies rhétoriques et constructions identitaires dans les demandes d’aide d’urgence, in « Annales », 5, 2000, pp. 955-981;
  • Enrica Asquer, Scrivere alla Demorazza. Le domande di discriminazione delle donne "di razza ebraica" e il conflitto sulla cittadinanza nell'Italia del 1938, in "Italia contemporanea", agosto 2018, n. 287, pp. 213-242;

BIBLIOGRAPHY (not mandatory)

  • Engin F. Isin, Theorizing Acts of Citizenship, Capitolo Primo di Engin F. Isin e Greg M. Nielsen, Acts of Citizenship, Zed Books, 2008;
  • Marcella Aglietti, Citizenship under Pressure. Naturalisations Policies from the Late Nineteenth-Century until the Aftermath of  the World War One, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2021;
  • Daniela Luigia Caglioti, War and Citizenship. Enemy Aliens and National Belonging from the French Revolution to the First World War, Cambridge U.P., 2020;
  • Sabina Donati, A Political History of National Citizenship and Identity in Italy, 1861-1950, Stanford University Press 2013;
  • Claire Zalc, Dénaturalisés. Les retraites de nationalité sous Vichy, Seuil, 2016.

  • Giulia Albanese (2019), Italianità fascista. Il regime e la trasformazione dei confini della cittadinanza 1922-1938, “Italia contemporanea”, n. 290, pp. 95-125.
  • Enrica Asquer, Autobiografie di supplica. Alcune considerazioni sulle richieste di “discriminazione” degli ebrei milanesi, 1938-1943, “Società e storia”, 2016, n. 151, pp. 97-135.

  • Enrica Asquer, Rivendicare l’appartenenza. Suppliche e domande di deroga allo Statut des Juifs nella Francia di Vichy, in “Quaderni storici”, 160, 1, 2019, pp. 225-258.
  • Camillo Zadra e Gianluigi Fait (a cura di), Deferenza, rivendicazione, supplica. Le lettere ai potenti, Treviso, Pagus, 1991.
  • Lex Heerma Van Voss (ed.), Petitions in Social History, “International Review of Social History”, vol. 46, 2001, Supplement 9.
  • Simona Cerutti, Travail, mobilité et légitimité. Suppliques au roi dans une société d’Ancien Régime (Turin, XVIIIe siècle), in « Annales », 3, 2010, pp. 571-611.
  • Yves-Marie Bercé, La dernière chance. Histoire des suppliques du Moyen Age à nos jours, Paris, Perrin, 2014.
  • Simona Cerutti, Archaeology of Rights: Petitions and Mercy in Early Modern Societies, Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, working papers, 2018 (disponibile on line).
  • Thomas Pegelow Kaplan, Wolf Gruner (eds.), Resisting Persecution. Jews and Their Petitions during the Holocaust, New York-Oxford, Berghahn, 2020.
  • Enrica Asquer e Lucia Ceci (a cura di), Scrivere alle autorità. Suppliche, petizioni, appelli, richieste di deroga in età contemporanea, Viella, Roma 2021.

Attending studens (6cfu): course materials (aulaweb) and articles section A;


1. Articles section A

2. Articles section B, plus:

  • Daniela Luigia Caglioti, Subjects, Citizens and Aliens in a Time of Upheaval. Naturalizing and Denaturalizing in Europe during the First World War, in "The Journal of Modern History", 2017, n. 89, pp. 495-530.

NB if you need help: Carlotta Sorba, Federico Mazzini, La svolta culturale. Come è cambiata la pratica storiografica, Laterza 2021.

Not attending students (6cfu):

1. articles section A

NB if you need help: Carlotta Sorba, Federico Mazzini, La svolta culturale. Come è cambiata la pratica storiografica, Laterza 2021 




Classes will start on February 2025 (to be precised) and will run from Wednesday to Friday. For further information, please see Aulaweb 2024-2025.

Class schedule

The timetable for this course is available here: Portale EasyAcademy



The exam will take place only orally. Active participation to seminars will also be positively evaluated.


The examination board verifies the attainment of the learning objectives, taking into account the following factors: a) level of mastery of the fundamental notions; b) ability to apply the knowledge; c) ability to critically reason about the study carried out; d) ability to discursively organise the knowledge acquired and one's own considerations, using the specialised language of the discipline.Transversal skills will be ascertained during attendance and active participation in the course.


It is strongly recommended to follow the instructor's communications via Aulaweb 2024/2025.

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