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Building the New Man

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Francesco Cassata

Chapter III. Regenerating Italy (1919–1924)

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  • 1 On the expansion of the State functions in public health and welfare policies, after 1918, see Mic (...)
  • 2 In February 1914, the Parliamentary Medical Fascio (Fascio medico parlamentare), piloted by hygien (...)
  • 3 For the statute of SISQS, see “Società italiana per lo studio delle questioni sessuali,” Rassegna (...)
  • 4 For an intellectual profile of Aldo Mieli, see Claudio Pogliano, “Aldo Mieli, storico della scienz (...)
  • 5 SIGE was established on 15 March 1919: the president was Pestalozza, vice-president Gini, secretar (...)

1The First World War was a catalyzing event for Italian eugenics. The anxiety over biological regeneration that accompanied the end of the conflict, together with the new dimension assumed by the State as manager of collective biological resources and protector of the health integrity of the social body1 initiated a new season of growth and development in the eugenic debate. The protagonists of this debate were above all physicians of different political backgrounds, but ready to offer their technical competencies to sustain the economic-productive efficiency of the “human factor.”2 It is no coincidence that the turbulent years of the governments prior to fascism gave rise to the principal institutions that diffused eugenic themes: the Institute of Public Welfare and Assistance (Istituto di Previdenza e Assistenza Sociale, known as IPAS) began in 1922 thanks to the organizational effort of Ettore Levi. The Italian Society for the Study of Sexual Questions (Società Italiana per lo studio delle Questioni Sessuali, known as SISQS) was created in 19213 on the initiative of the historian of science and pioneer of Italian sexology Aldo Mieli,4 soon to be a protagonist in the debate over pre-marital medical certificates. Finally, the Italian Society for Genetics and Eugenics (Società Italiana di Genetica e Eugenica, known as SIGE) was founded in 1919 by Corrado Gini, Cesare Artom and Ernesto Pestalozza.5

2The debut of this last society in the international eugenic movement was singularly distinguished, in August 1919, by a letter from Gini to Leonard Darwin, in which he proposed the introduction of a racist legislation that would impede matrimonial unions with the “African races” throughout all of Europe:

  • 6 Corrado Gini to Leonard Darwin (1 August 1919), Wellcome Institute, SA, EUG, c. 123.

At the victorious end of the world war, the allied powers find themselves in increased contact with the African world. It would therefore be opportune if the various eugenic societies aimed to gain legislative orders from the governments of the various nations, where such laws do not already exist, banning marriages between Europeans and the African races, allowing only those with Mediterraneans (Berbers, Egyptians) and with non-colored Arabs. Such bans must be extended to marriages with all those population groups of mixed blood scattered throughout the African continent. The scope of the proposal is to impede the growth of a European–African mixed-blood race, which, from various points of view, is undesirable.6

  • 7 Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 8–9.

3The document was prepared by the anthropologist Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri and approved several days earlier—on 27 July 1919—by the directive committee of SIGE.7 The proposal was re-voiced by the engineer Buonomo, at the general meeting of the African Society of Italy, on 28 August, 1919:

  • 8 Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 9.

In the bulletin of this worthy Society (September–October 1919, issue V, year XXXVIII), an article by the engineer Buonomo appeared, based on an important document from the Apostolic Curacy of Eritrea, in which he considered the serious troubles that derive from the union of white men with black women, since, among other things, half-castes seem in general to display a very weak physical constitution and consequently are endowed with very little proactive energy.8

  • 9 Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 9 (reply not signed by the Eugenics Education (...)

4Rejected by the British Eugenics Education Society in May 1920 for being substantially premature from a political point of view,9 such racist proposals remained the principal initiative of SIGE in its first five years of activity, that is, until the organization of the first Italian Congress of Social Eugenics, in 1924.

  • 10 See Difesa sociale 1 (1922): 18.
  • 11 See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 242–43. At the start of 1924, the number of members was over (...)
  • 12 See Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 4, no. 3 (May–June 1924): 215–16.

5The links between IPAS, SISQS and SIGE appeared very close from the beginning, and were further reinforced by their common interests in the eugenic field. From January 1922, IPAS supplied SIGE with valuable technical-organizational support, putting the institute premises at their disposal, printing the proceedings of the Society meetings, somewhat irregular, in the pages of Difesa sociale, and allowing the members access to the library, “rich in Italian and international booklets and journals, with many of direct interest for the students of genetics and eugenics.”10 In 1924 also SISQS—which had, in the meantime, seen a notable increase in members and regional groups11—attempted to strengthen SIGE, offering a series of special terms for the members who were part of both the societies, and industriously publishing the SIGE’s minutes in the Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica [Review of sexual studies and eugenics].12

6In fact, the sources indicate the existence of a single issue of SIGE’s minutes, dated July 1920, comprising several statements written by representatives of the different views of the association: biologist Cesare Artom, psychologist Giovanni Marchesini, anthropologist Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri and economist Achille Loria.

  • 13 Cesare Artom, “Indicazioni sommarie sugli studi di genetica,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Ge (...)
  • 14 Cesare Artom, “Per gli studi di genetica ed eugenica,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica (...)
  • 15 Artom, “Per gli studi di genetica ed eugenica,” 13–14.
  • 16 Artom, “Per gli studi di genetica ed eugenica,” 14.

7Artom’s contribution summarised the most recent scientific literature regarding Mendelian laws and the chromosomal theory of heredity:13 for the biologist, eugenics was in fact considered a “subdivision of the study of genetics,” since “it resolved to definitively deepen for the human species that which from a complex of data it is already possible to presuppose, which is that (Mendelism apart) the same hereditary laws must hold true for all living organisms, excluding none.”14 As for the “practical scope,” Artom argued, eugenics had to follow “completely different directions” from those of genetics, “as for mankind it is not possible to fall back upon artificial selection; and the same genetic isolation of individuals unsuitable for marriage is, for obvious reasons, very difficult to achieve.”15 More than eugenics, it was necessary therefore, to speak of “euthenics” (from the Greek ευτηνάω, “to flourish”), that is, of that “special branch of studies that directs all its attention to the influence that the environment has on the occurrence of a number of hereditary factors.”16

  • 17 Giovanni Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” in Atti della Società Ita (...)

8Giovanni Marchesini, on the other hand, insisted on the necessity of investigating the “biological basis of the life of the spirit.”17 In polemics with Benjamin Kidd’s position, which was critical toward Galtonian determinism, Marchesini confirmed the relevance of the “bio-psychical predisposition” in defining the “soul of the people”:

  • 18 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 24.

The exterior conditions variously influence the life of humanity. Prosperity and poverty, for example, have very different actions, as do liberty and servitude; and the faith in the effectiveness of the reform of institutions is legitimate, as an armor (if I may be allowed the phrase) of the social soul. But we will act productively on social life, from without, only when we know how to penetrate the biological substrate of the individual psyche.18

  • 19 On Charles Richet’s La sélection humaine, see, in particular, Schneider, Quality and Quantity, 109 (...)

9This approach to the problem of heredity did not however convince Marchesini to share the negative eugenics theorized by the French physiologist, Charles Richet. In his 1919 influential book La selection humaine [Human selection], Richet advocated drastic measures such as sterilization, segregation of defectives and marriage prohibition.19 “Negative coercion,” according to Marchesini, was indeed only a “single and partial aspect of the practical problems of eugenics”:

  • 20 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 26.

For improvement of the human species, negative means adopted against the most commonly manifested specific degenerations are not enough. Mental defectives do not fully respond to persuasive action, as an element of their deficiency is their inability to inhibit cruder instincts; but we cannot assert that positive action, psychological, might not anyway be exercised on a large scale, in various aspects and in different ways.20

  • 21 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 28.
  • 22 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 28–29.
  • 23 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 24.

10In contrast to Richet’s crude prescriptions, Marchesini proposed a “positive eugenics,”21 based on the radical renovation of educational methods. In particular, he suggested the introduction of a “scientific education” into the scholastic environment, which would promote a “realistic intelligence” among adolescents, a sort of anti-romantic approach to sexual hygiene.22 Because the “eugenic ideal”23 took on the “value of a religion,” coercive measures would in fact be less effective that those “constrictions that came to the subject from his knowledge and from the intimate persuasion of his spirit.”

  • 24 Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” in Atti della Società Italia (...)
  • 25 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 34.
  • 26 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 33.
  • 27 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 35.
  • 28 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 35.

11Anthropologist Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri agreed that the environment was “not omnipotent”: “Where antisocial hereditary factors enter the game, they are stronger than the environment, and effectively antisocial beings exist in any environment.”24 In this sense, the genetic research on the existing links between “hereditary factors” and “mental habits” could even furnish “a zoological basis for criminal Lombrosian anthropology.”25 “Acting on an organism” did not signify resorting to Richet’s coercive measures. Giuffrida-Ruggeri believed that a “State control of marriages, which offers certain health guarantees,”26 was indispensable. In contrast to a “barbaric system of castration, propagated by selectionists,”27 he suggested it was preferable to take direct action aimed at chemically modifying the “germ plasm,” and, at the same time, promote genealogical research designed to better define the relationship between the morphological aspects and the best mental and behavioral attitudes.28

  • 29 Achille Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica (...)
  • 30 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 38.

12Achille Loria focused his contribution on the influence of environmental factors, and in particular on socioeconomic conditions. Paraphrasing Rousseau, the economist declared: “Man issues forth from the hands of the Creator healthy and immaculate, but it is the social institutions that corrupt and deprave him.”29 It was not biological heredity but rather the “working class background” that was the “great factory of so-called born delinquents, of prostitutes, of all the degenerations of body and soul, and all the vile pains for which mankind blames nature.”30

  • 31 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 39.

13And the recent worldwide conflict worsened a situation that was already dramatic: the cost of provisions, Loria argued, forced “painful and harmful privations” upon the workers; the frequent strikes produced an “ill-omened see-saw of employment and unemployment,” strengthening the “moral anxiety”; the wartime fortunes caused “the immediate rise to opulence of the most vulgar and despicable people,” creating an “aristocracy devoid of every moral and aesthetic quality”; the worsening of living conditions consigned couples to marry “within the orbit of their own class, stunting the crossbreeding between stocks that are so biologically providential.”31 A final “anti-eugenic influence” was connected not to the poverty of the working class, but to its growing prosperity. With the increase of income, in fact, they would reduce the “reproduction coefficient,” as a result of the diffusion “among the most numerous classes” of the birth control practices that had previously been seen exclusively in the “bourgeoisie and capitalist classes.” The worry about undergoing the same sort of depopulation seen in France was oppressive:

  • 32 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 39.

Now it is a whole fertile fount of life, emerging from the youngest and most vigorous spring, which will in this way be exhausted. And from this will come disastrous consequences, already seen in France, where, as a consequence of voluntary sterility, the hearths are empty, and there is female alcoholism, general depravation.32

  • 33 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 39–40.

14While, at the end of the 19th century, the “health issue” was connected with the social issue, now, according to Loria, the “economic factor” was the core of the “eugenics issue.”33 Although these proceedings of SIGE represent a good example of the theoretical and practical orientations of Italian eugenicists, nevertheless the occasional character of the publication constitutes a clear sign of the organizational difficulties of the association. Notwithstanding this, the eugenic debate that developed in Italy after the war maintained its richness and articulated itself along thematic lines that will be briefly dealt with here: in particular, birth control, premarital certificates, sterilization and mental hygiene.

1. Ettore Levi and the IPAS Campaign for Birth Control

  • 34 Ettore Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro (Rome: La Voce, 1921).

15The project for the “creation of an Italian Institute for social hygiene and assistance” was detailed in a pamphlet written by the neuropathologist Ettore Levi in 1921; 6000 copies of which were distributed in cooperative banks, at mutual savings banks, to industrialists, proprietary limited companies, agricultural entities, Colonial institute divisions and to all the provincial physicians.34

  • 35 For the curriculum vitae of Ettore Levi, see the documentation sent by Levi to Mussolini’s secreta (...)

16For Levi—already vice president of the National Society for the Protection and Assistance of War Invalids and member of the Council of the National Board of Health35 (Consiglio Superiore di Sanità)—the war had fully revealed the urgent need for centralized organizational structures with the aim of fighting against social illnesses:

  • 36 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 10.

The war has acted like a revealing photographic wash, abruptly evidencing and multiplying the infinite misery latent in every single individual, constituting the social masses: and so, due to the war, tuberculosis sufferers, psychopaths, cripples, mutilated, blind etc. have become a burden to the State. In this way the State has suddenly seen the social importance, both morally and economically, of the great problems of assistance in times of peace, for which they are totally unprepared, but which they must forcefully shape.36

17Beyond acting as a “heroic remedy” and revelator, the war had also signaled the definitive transformation of the concept of charity and beneficence in civil assistance. Levi declared:

  • 37 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 10.

The times demand that ancient, insufficient, often hypocritical charitable works be substituted with a vast, enlightened and sincere organization of civil assistance, conceived not as a test of generosity, but as a fundamental duty of the most cultured and fortunate classes to those most ignorant and miserable.37

18Therefore, while the conflict had demonstrated the impact of social illnesses in all its seriousness and affirmed the need for a secular model of social assistance, the “wartime bleeding” had also taught much, showing the extreme importance of a “unity of command”:

  • 38 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 14.

In the fight against social illnesses, the unity of command is no less essential that in facing the wartime enemy: some European states have sought to realize such unity, with the recent institution of ministries of hygiene and social assistance, which however have not yet had the methods, nor the time, to demonstrate their proactive possibilities.38

  • 39 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 19.
  • 40 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 19.

19In the expectation that Italy would also create a Ministry for social hygiene, Levi proposed the institution of a centralized bureaucratic organ that would function as an “agent of stimulation and liaison” between the governmental and semi-governmental organizations active in the social assistance sector. In Levi’s project, this central organ would be instrumental in managing the problem of social illnesses more efficiently and profitably. It was not only humanitarian intentions, but also, and above all, the exigencies of saving and economy that imposed the organization of “prophylactic social health”39 against the ills of alcoholism, tuberculosis, syphilis, and mental illnesses.40

20Levi’s economist and productivist logic was complemented by the image of the alliance between capital and work in the face of the common enemy:

  • 41 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 9.

Why shouldn’t the fight against social ills be, once and for all, established by men of organizational genius, both industrialist and workers, and conducted with the methods and means that have given rise and caused the prosperity of the great companies that characterize our current civilization?41

  • 42 For the debate on Critica sociale, see Ettore Levi, I partiti e la salute della stirpe (Rome: IPAS (...)

21In fact, Levi’s project seemed to quickly arouse sympathy among the liberal right and also among the socialists of the review Critica sociale [Social critique].42

  • 43 Among others, Luigi Luzzatti, Benedetto Croce, Camillo Golgi (Nobel prize winner for medicine and (...)
  • 44 In particular, propaganda posters for schools and workplaces (Direttissimo della salute [Health ex (...)
  • 45 In particular, Levi, in his role in the League of Red Cross Societies, supported the foundation of (...)
  • 46 Ettore Levi, “Per l’avvenire della razza,” Difesa sociale 1, no. 1 (January 1922): 7.

22In less than a year, the inter-classist and technocratic dream, contained in the pamphlet of 1921, was realized. In 1922, thanks to the patronage of illustrious personalities43 and the financing, among others, of the financial institutions Credito Italiano and Banca Commerciale, IPAS was born: a “group of study and social action,” that was immediately characterized by intense activity in the hygienic education of the popular masses,44 by the training of health personnel, and by the broad strategy of organizational connection (national and international) between the numerous associations active in the field of assistance.45 From 1922 IPAS also published a review, significantly titled Difesa sociale, which became, under the direction of Ettore Levi, one of the most authoritative voices of Italian eugenics. While the first editorials insisted above all on the “economic value of human life” and the “struggle of the parties” as “precious instruments of civil progress,”46 the January 1923 number, with tones of hope, welcomed the rise of fascism, anticipating that the “new man” guiding the country would fully assume the urgent work of biological renewal of the stock, neglected by the preceding liberal government:

  • 47 Ettore Levi, “Alle radici dei mali sociali: il fascismo alla prova,” Difesa sociale 2, no. 1 (Janu (...)

Will the new government impose the realization of this effort separate from every concept of class or party, for the civil greatness and economic power of our country, in a superior vision of defense and reconstruction of the potential individual and collective physical and intellectual energies?47

  • 48 See, in particular, Weindling, Health, Race and German Politics, 399–440.
  • 49 See, for example, “La visita prematrimoniale in Danimarca e in Austria,” Difesa sociale 2, no. 11 (...)
  • 50 See, for example, “Stati Uniti. Il certificato medico prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 7 (J (...)

23Displaying some ideological analogies with the Menschenokonömie of contemporary Weimar eugenics,48 the eugenic paradigm promoted by Ettore Levi had essentially two characteristics: first, the rejection of coercive eugenics, and, second, the centrality of birth control as a principal selective measure. Well informed on the European49 and American eugenic legislations,50 Levi was not, however, disposed to underwrite policies of sterilization and marriage bans. The first barrier to using such tools was, in Levi’s opinion, the scanty scientific knowledge of human heredity:

  • 51 [Ettore Levi], “Contenuto etico e sociale dell’Eugenica,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 11 (November 1925) (...)

The current knowledge of the laws of heredity is not such as to permit us to stabilize exact rules that indicate who can dedicate themselves to the reproduction of the species and who, causing hereditary defects, should abstain.51

24In second place, man was not only the product of the determinism of Mendelian laws. On the contrary, Levi claimed, environmental factors also existed, which could not be ignored:

  • 52 [Levi], “Contenuto etico e sociale dell’Eugenica,” 15.

Man comes into this world with a certain number of tendencies that can then be modified through contact with civilization and the environment, which helps to form the mature man. Evidently, to obtain the best results, the best innate qualities are therefore as necessary as the best environment. Our children need to have the best blood and the best education. Hereditary factors merit great attention; at the same time we must not ignore social reform that concerns the environment. Thinking about those who will be born is a moral duty that must be imposed as a duty on people such as ourselves; it is to these ethical and social ends that the doctrines and suggestions of modern eugenics aims.52

  • 53 [Ettore Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” Difesa sociale 5, no. 1 (J (...)
  • 54 [Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” 16.
  • 55 [Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” 16.

25Although conscious of the fact that “the danger of physical and intellectual degeneration of the race exists […] undeniably, and it is connected to the problem of multiplication of physically and psychically defective elements in society,”53 Levi maintained nevertheless the uselessness of the adoption of “draconian laws”: in fact, “who can say where abnormality begins? Who could say when abnormality becomes genius? Therefore preventing the birth of an abnormal does not deprive society of one of its greatest sons?”54 Neither would social action aimed at favoring the fertility of the so-called “normals” be worthwhile, because the “major prolificacy is always found where poverty, mental deficiency and vice slacken the spirit of prudence and the desire for economic wellbeing visible in balanced individuals.”55 Against “coercive” eugenics, based on the Anglo-Saxon model, Levi proposed instead “negative” eugenics, which he interpreted as social and individual hygiene:

  • 56 [Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” 16.

The only other solution to the problem is the negative side of eugenics; that is, that which highlights the causes of the progressive increase of dead weight, hanging always more threateningly over society, pushing individuals and authority to give a stronger importance to individual and social hygiene […].56

  • 57 See Angelo Zuccarelli, “Al professor Ettore Levi, membro del Consiglio superiore di sanita,” Il pe (...)

26The exchange of words between hereditarian Angelo Zuccarelli and environmentalist Levi, in the columns of Pietro Capasso’s Pensiero sanitario [Sanitary thinking], are highly illuminating in defining the eugenic discourse of Difesa sociale. Zuccarelli denounced the curious absence in the journal of references to the essential priorities of eugenics—the discipline of marriage and the prevention of reproduction for degenerates. To this criticism, Difesa sociale’s editors responded by claiming that all hygiene and health activities, described and supported by the journal, were “essentially eugenic.”57

  • 58 See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 128–31.

27Levi’s eugenics did include the broadest and most differentiated medical perspectives, ranging from the prevention of social illnesses to mental hygiene; from the scientific organization of work to medical assistance for maternity and infancy. Nevertheless, in such a vast conceptual and disciplinary articulation, one theme seems to emerge with particular clarity, synthesizing Levi’s eugenic positions: that of birth control. In the pre-war period, the ephemeral battle in favor of neo-Malthusianism had been conducted by the radical anarchic left, in particular by the Neo-Malthusian League (Lega Neomalthusiana) and the review L’educazione sessuale [Sexual education] (not surprisingly subtitled Review of neo-Malthusianism and eugenics), which was directed by the Turin physician Giuseppe Berta.58 In the first post-war years, the eugenic ambitions of gynecologists and puericultors were not directed at birth control, but rather at a program of protection of maternity and infancy. The eugenic paradigm that justified such an assistance-oriented approach quickly became famous in the Italian scientific community, such as the “law of Pieraccini,” named for its author:

  • 59 Gaetano Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo. Saggio di ricerche sulla trasmissione ered (...)

Women […] accomplish the task […] of carrying the organism and the correlating functions (in male and female children) on the physiological-median line. This natural function of women […] we believe can be expressed in the formula: It is the work of the woman, through reproduction and heredity, to carry the accentuated organic-functional “fluctuations” and the same physiological deviations (degenerative or hereditary; pathological or acquired; male or female) to the respective biological center of the human species.59

  • 60 For more information on these aspects, see Francesco Campione’s book, Per i germi della specie (Ba (...)

28Preserving the “average man” had been attributed to the female element, thus enabling the insistence of the “eugenic” role of maternity and legitimizing, on a scientific basis, the return of women to their traditional social rank, after the period of exceptional participation and emancipation created by the war. It also fuelled the development of a “social obstetrics” that aimed to further extend the power of the State—through the mediation of physicians as “regenerators” of the stock—to the management of the national biological patrimony.60

  • 61 Tullio Rossi-Doria, “Congresso di ostetricia sociale,” Il Policlinico - Sezione pratica 3 (19 Janu (...)
  • 62 For an analysis of the clash between the activities of Rossi-Doria in the field of “social medicin (...)
  • 63 Tullio Rossi-Doria supported, at the end of the 1800s, the Lamarckian theory of the heredity of ac (...)
  • 64 Tullio Rossi-Doria, “Congresso di ostetricia sociale,” Il Policlinico - Sezione pratica 4 (26 Janu (...)

29The first Congress of Social Obstetrics was held in Rome on 6–8 January 1919, to discuss the “problems of eugenics which could be vital for the events of the nation and the race.”61 On this occasion, abortion and therapeutic sterilization were harshly condemned, and a resolution was approved, proposed by the gynecologist Tullio Rossi-Doria—socialist62 and early eugenicist63—which rationalized maternal assistance through the creation of an Institute of Maternal and Infantile Assistance (Istituto di Assistenza Materna e Infantile),64 in which the foundations of the future fascist ONMI could easily be seen.

30From the beginning, faced with the “regenerative” and “quantitative” eugenics of Italian gynecologists and “pediatricians,” the assiduous work of Levi’s IPAS in support of birth control assumed the form of an arduous and isolated intellectual undertaking. A clear testimony to this was the debate that took place at the conference held by Levi in January 1924, at a meeting of the Roman section of SISQS, on the theme of Birthrate and eugenics.

  • 65 Ettore Levi, “Il controllo delle nascite (neomalthusianismo),” Rassegna di studi sessuali 4, no. 1 (...)

31The central nucleus of Levi’s presentation was the reaffirmation of the eugenic value of birth control: a “rule of special conduct, to be observed in married life, so that healthy and physically and mentally normal offspring could be had at the most opportune and desired moment, with the noble objective of allowing people to raise and educate children in the best way, with the superior aim of giving families and society intelligent and proactive elements.”65 The list of advantages of birth control was long: individual (economic safety, improvement of women’s health, balanced growth of children), collective (reduction of social tensions and conflicts), medical-eugenic (less reproduction of defective individuals, reduction of social illnesses), moral-religious (rational discipline of the sexual impulse, fight against abortion and infanticide).

32Supported by a broad display of data relative to the international context, particularly Anglo-Saxon, Levi proposed basing the legitimacy of birth control on eugenic responsibility and efficiency. This, Levi argued, would aim at reinforcing, rather than damaging, moral tradition:

  • 66 Levi, “Il controllo delle nascite,” 29.

The supporters of birth control aim to introduce to the masses, especially the inferior classes, a sense of responsibility, which has until now been lacking, since in such classes, more than in the others, they are free to give vent to blind and at times brutal instinct. The aim is moreover, or rather, above all, to reinforce the institute of marriage, condemning healthy people who choose voluntary celibacy and advising (contrary to Malthus, who preached protraction) marriage at a young age.66

33However, the debate that followed Levi’s presentation was certainly not favorable to his hypotheses. Senator Pestalozza expressed “deep reserve regarding recourse to contraceptive means, underlining the damage that could be done to women’s health.” Silvestro Baglioni, president of SISQS and director of the Institute of Physiology of the University of Rome, doubted the effectiveness of contraceptive means in achieving eugenic aims, because it wasn’t possible “to apply certain laws to men, which hold true for plants and animals.” Pietro Capasso however, was moderately favorable. After contesting the connection between prolificacy and national wealth, he declared himself in favor of a eugenic campaign regarding birth control and obligatory premarital certificates.

  • 67 Gini was the only Italian, together with Ettore Levi, to participate in the Sixth International Ma (...)

34The most articulate criticism of Levi’s position—and the most influential politically—came from Corrado Gini, firm opponent, from 1922 and in the same column of Difesa sociale, of neo-Malthusianism and “Anglo-Saxon” eugenics.67 In particular, it was the essay Le basi scientifiche della politica della popolazione [The scientific bases of population policies] in which Gini developed a systematic analysis of what he considered the three principles of the “quantitative” and “qualitative” rationalization of births: the selection of “reproducers,” the eugenic control of marriage, and the limitation of births.

35Regarding the first aspect, Gini emphasized the difficulty of defining the hereditary mechanism with certainty:

  • 68 Corrado Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione (Catania: Studio editoriale moderno, 1931): 1 (...)

Our knowledge of heredity is still too uncertain to allow exact prognostications on the hereditary transmission of certain defects, and even less to be able to say with precision if such defects will be transmitted in amounts that would cause serious harm to society.68

  • 69 See ch. 4, 179–183.

36The phenomena of induction, the transmission of functional diathesis and the evolution of the germ plasm69 made the identification of effectively hereditary characteristics arduous:

  • 70 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 112.

When nature is left free to exercise selection on a stock, we understand that, finally, the selection of the best will occur through the difference of mortality; but if, on the other hand, we wish to pre-emptively choose the good reproducers, from the eugenic point of view, it is too easy to err, by confusing congenital characteristics with acquired ones, and induced congenital characteristics with those that are truly hereditary.70

  • 71 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 117.
  • 72 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 118.

37And, equally, “we do not have the ability to distinguish individuals who are the best due to the truly superior quality of their germline from those individuals who are the best only because their germline is currently in its full bloom.”71 In addition, further complicating the situation, the possibility of an illness considered hereditary being, on the contrary, a “transitory illness of the germ” that had an immunizing effect, contradicted the idea of selection of the best reproducers, because “healthy reproducers could at times be worse than others from the point of view of the next generations, on whom they will not confer any immunization.”72

  • 73 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 125.

38As for matrimonial selection, Gini came back to Mendelian determinism, in order to substantiate his condemnation of any kind of eugenic regulation of unions between spouses. The question was very clear: given Mendel’s laws, was it more advantageous to favour marriages of “defective” individuals with healthy ones, “in the hope of gradually obtaining, in this way, a decrease in the illness,” or alternatively, was it better to favor unions between healthy people, leaving ill people to marry among themselves, “counting on a more rapid extinction of their stock, due to its lesser organic resistance”?73 Since the major part of pathological characteristics showed recessive behavior, the question could be reformulated in these terms: was a generation of healthy heterozygotes better, even if it would give rise to a certain percentage of ill ones, or was it better to have two distinct classes of homozygotes: healthy and sick? Gini’s response was again direct:

  • 74 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 125.

This second solution appears definitely preferable, at least at first glance, as the ill individuals tend toward extinction; but this would not be the case if it was demonstrated that […] the carriers of certain diseased factors had superior reproductive powers. If this were the case, the system of isolating and coupling ill people among themselves could lead, instead of to a decrease, to a multiplication of the pathological sources.74

39This was without also counting the enormous complications of hereditary transmission in cases of crossings between individuals of different stock.

  • 75 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 130.
  • 76 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 137.

40However, as can be easily imagined, while the second point of a “program of reproductive rationalization” was “extremely problematic for practical realization,”75 Gini’s judgment on the third point—birth control—was absolutely negative. In his eyes, the “rearing of man could not constitute an economic act.”76 Rationality would only induce couples to desire one or few children:

  • 77 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 136.

It is indisputable that, in the majority of cases, a family of whichever social class can not, with only work, obtain the means to maintain, at an appropriate social level, eight children. In the working classes, where the costs of raising a child are much lower, I would say that a married couple could, on average, with appropriate work, and maintaining a proper level of education for their children, raise no more than four, and in the middle classes, no more than two.77

  • 78 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 137.

41Consequently, if reasoning was based on the economic advantages of raising children, it would “finish with raising few.”78 And the first damage of birth control would be of an economic character: the production of men, Gini claimed, followed the laws and rhythms of biology, not those of the market, and therefore could never be rational. To this must be added the negative consequences from a psychological and moral point of view, with the triumph of individualistic egoism and the disintegration of the family unit:

  • 79 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 142.

If we commence reasoning on the question of procreation, we will not finish reasoning only at that certain point of rationalization of the birth rate that the partisans would like. We pass quickly to considering why we should identify personal interest with the interests of the family unit, often concluding that it is not reasonable to sacrifice our individuality to it.79

42Birth control, for Gini, was an even more dangerous weapon because it threatened to escape from the hands of neo-Malthusians, leading in the end to the political collapse of the nation. In fact,

  • 80 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 142.

when rationalistic practices take strong hold in a country, and the birth rate continues, for a certain period, to diminish, it is very difficult to arrest this descent. Individuals may subsist, but the nation, the race, is condemned: it will disappear, or at least lose its proper place in the world, to the benefit of those nations that, obeying instinct, still have the necessary vitality to maintain themselves and multiply.80

43Therefore, while Gini developed the theoretical synthesis between “Latin” quantitative eugenics and fascist pronatalist policy, Ettore Levi continued—from an increasingly isolated position—his campaign in favor of birth control.

44In 1924, at the first Italian Congress of Social Eugenics, where Gini’s influence was strongly seen, Levi’s presentation was one of the few to maintain the eugenic value of birth control. And the next year, at the fourteenth meeting of the Italian Society for the Progress of Science in Pavia (May, 1925), Levi once again repeated the necessity of considering the problem of the “quality” of the population, advising the creation in Italy of a Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress Society, such as that founded in Great Britain by Mary Stopes. Levi declared:

  • 81 Ettore Levi, “Demografia ed eugenica in rapporto al movimento contemporaneo per il razionale contr (...)

Control must be understood not in the restricted sense of limitation to a minimum, but in the broader and more logical sense of a regulation based on rigorous scientific criteria.
Control until now has been applied without any scientific criteria and without eugenic aims, and it must be added that it has been abused, and is abused even now, causing damage, instead of advantage, to the quality and future of the race.
Such abuse must cease.
To achieve this goal, the scientific sphere, and particularly the medical class, must assume management of control, saving it from empiricism, and above all, profoundly studying the question.81

  • 82 Anna Treves, Le nascite e la politica nell’Italia del Novecento (Milan: LED, 2001), 128.

45In reality, in the Italian context, Levi’s hopes were evidently lacking any political future: in October 1924, Mussolini—forgetting his youthful positions—declared his hostility to Malthusian ideas.82 It was not the “quality” but the “quantity” that concerned fascism, and the Ascension Day Speech (in May 1927) would clearly demonstrate this.

46In February 1926, Levi, in order to save his eugenics column in Difesa sociale, had no choice but to turn to Corrado Gini:

  • 83 Ettore Levi to Corrado Gini, 1 February 1926, ACS, Gini Papers (hereafter AG), b. b5.

[The column] for various reasons, which you know well, has not been realized as I wished. Perhaps you, either personally, or through one of your students or friends, could assure me some articles in the next issues, so that I do not need to end the column?83

  • 84 For a complete list of the titles in the series, see Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 241.

47But while the director of Difesa sociale withdrew from public debate just a few months after this letter, due to strong nervous exhaustion, Silvestro Baglioni, the new president of SISQS, published—as part of Capasso’s series Piccola Biblioteca di Propaganda Eugenica [Small library of eugenic propaganda]84—his Principii di eugenica [Principles of eugenics], which sanctioned orthodox fascist eugenics. On the basis of a statistical “validity curve,” in which the first children of a couple were assumed to be also the least biologically desirable, the physiologist attributed the responsibility for a dangerous “anti-social selection” to birth control:

  • 85 Silvestro Baglioni, Principii di eugenica (Naples: Edizioni del Pensiero sanitario 1926), 44. See (...)

Evidently, the nation needs the best, the strongest, the most valid, and not the first two of a series of a married couple, who are or could be, compared to successive children, the least strong and the most degenerate. The clash between the egoistic ideal of the individual and the complex ideal of racial improvement could not be more manifest.85

  • 86 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 46.
  • 87 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 47.

48“Eugenic activities” did not therefore consist of the “application of a badly understood voluntary limitation of births,”86 but of “all the general works that lead to the betterment of the physical and psychical conditions of the parents, aiming above all to combat serious social diseases, such as syphilis and tuberculosis, and those grave poisons of civilization: alcoholism and toxic drugs, abuse of food, and general intemperance.”87 Since “individual cure” would lead to “cure of offspring,” eugenics could be seen, in Baglioni’s view, as the “corollary” and the “implicit conclusion of general hygienic propaganda.”

49According to Baglioni, more than biological or medical sciences, eugenic principles should derive inspiration from the “spiritual life,” and in particular from art and sentiment. The cult of art represented the beginning of an aesthetical education process, which manifested its eugenic effectiveness in the choice of spouse. The beauty of art was transmitted from the artwork to the spectator, and from this, to the spouse and children:

  • 88 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 51.

These [spectators], in the choice of their spouse and lovers, choose that type of beauty that stays in memory and fantasy, lit by works of art. And as the children born to this couple will share similar characteristics with the parents, in this way we will see the perpetuation of special types of beauty, under the positive perennial action that we can therefore say is the true eugenic action of the works of art.88

  • 89 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 53.

50But if the “cult of art” could be applied only to a cultivated minority, as far as the majority was concerned, eugenicists had to recourse “to sentiment, and to the most intimate and deep-seated instinct,” that of “love for children.” This must start with education on marriage and birth, which would precociously involve “the youth, from the start of their sexual life”:89

  • 90 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 54.

We must search, therefore, to always increase the love for children, even before they are born. It is this antenatal love of children that must be the principal motive keeping the young from the dangers of illness and intoxication that, debilitating their organisms, brutally strikes their germinal elements.90

  • 91 Pietro Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica (Naples: Edizioni del Pensiero sani (...)
  • 92 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 17.
  • 93 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 28.

51In the same year, although by then in an increasingly isolated position, it was the physician and socialist reformist member of Parliament, Pietro Capasso, who denounced the “dangers” hiding behind the “current incitement to procreate and aggravate the population increase.”91 The excess of births, “continuous and inexorable, not balanced by adequate, healthy and intelligent emigration, far from constructing a ‘great venture’” represented, for Capasso, a serious risk “to the well-being and tranquility of the nation.”92 The restriction of immigration achieved in the United States with the Johnson-Reed Restriction Act of 1924, from one side, should definitively shatter the illusion of those who still hoped to find an outlet abroad for the growing Italian demographic pressure. From the other side, Capasso claimed, it was a further proof of how “there, the demographic problem and that of eugenics, primitively understood as protection of the race aiming to give it predominance and superiority in the contact and conflict with other races, are deeply and seriously regarded.”93 Italy should also follow, in other ways, the North American example, tapping into eugenic resources to improve the quantitative and qualitative assets of the population. Perfectly aware of the ideological climate of the day, Capasso drew a clean distinction between eugenics and neo-Malthusianism:

  • 94 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 44–45.

Eugenics is not Malthusianism, nor is it neo-Malthusianism. It has the means to improve the psychical-physical qualities of the offspring and therefore its horizons are not limited to the pallid theories of Malthus, overly linked to an economic determinism that does not greatly consider the laws of biology, basis of the current sociological doctrine.94

  • 95 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 45.
  • 96 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 49.

52Eugenics must not be, on the other hand, confused with “theories that refer to acts of physical mutilation,” considered “dangerous for every psychical-physical function of the human organism”:95 particularly sterilization should be used only for “recidivist criminals,” a “social measure, this, of high value and with merit for reflection and study.”96

53To “prepare a healthy generation,” Capasso instead suggested a “severe matrimonial prophylaxis”:

  • 97 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 46.

Delay, when the candidate is temporarily able to harm procreation; impede in serious, exceptional cases in which marriage would constitute a true crime for the offspring; avoid mindlessly giving life to syphilitics, idiots, rachitic persons, epileptics, persons with hydrocephaly, and abnormals.97

  • 98 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 58.

54Only by confronting the demographic problem in a “eugenic sense,” Capasso concluded, could Italy achieve an “enviable ascent and a race of unexpected supremacy, in an atmosphere of serene effort, creator of restoration, comforts, and happiness,” that would contribute “without implications and without hypocrisy to world peace.”98 One year after these words, in 1927, the start of the natalist campaign of the fascist regime would shatter Capasso’s hopes.

2. A Concrete Proposal: Premarital Certificates

  • 99 See Marie-Thérèse Nisot, La Question Eugénique dans les divers pays, 2 vols., (Brussels: Librairie (...)
  • 100 Ferdinando De Napoli, “Lue, maternità, eugenica e guerra in rapporto alla Politica Sanitaria,” Il (...)

55The history of eugenics legislation started in the United States, when Connecticut enacted a statute in 1895 prohibiting any man who was “epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded” from marrying a woman under 45 years of age, the presumed limit of child-bearing. In Europe, the first eugenic marriage laws were introduced only after the First World War, as a form of prevention of the diffusion of venereal or mental disease: precisely, in Norway (1919), Germany (1920), Sweden (1920), Turkey (1921), and Denmark (1922).99 In Italy, in the 27 January 1919 meeting, the social hygiene section of the Post-war Commission, accepting the proposal by the syphilographer Ferdinando De Napoli and his colleagues Achille Sclavo and Cesare Ducrey, approved, in principle, the introduction of medical premarital certificates, which “in regards to syphilis will be more easily acceptable, inasmuch as it will be imposed exclusively on the future husband, in almost all cases responsible for conjugal contagion.”100

  • 101 De Napoli, “Lue, maternità, eugenica e guerra in rapporto alla Politica Sanitaria,” 1326.

56For De Napoli, who recalled Tommaso Campanella more than Francis Galton, it was the duty of every citizen to consider marriage not as an individual act but as “a national service,” while the State, for its part, using “all means compatible with nature and sacred human liberty,” must appeal to the citizens to “impede the decadence of the race.” While it was “not human to regulate the reproduction of mankind as we regulate that of animals or vegetables, it is not prudent or moral to leave marriage without any sanitary control, which could avoid at least the dangers of syphilis.”101

  • 102 See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 179.

57In the summer of 1920, the Italian Society of Dermatologists and Syphilographers developed a proposal for a law in six articles, signed by professors Radaeli, Fiocco and Fontana, on the prophylaxis of marriage: the male candidates had to obligatorily present a certificate, written by a commission composed of a physician chosen by the candidate and an expert syphilographer. In the case of existing infection, the candidate had to present himself to the municipal authority after a period of time congruent with effecting a cure. Presented to the General Direction of Public Health (Direzione Generale di Sanità), the proposal did not have any legislative outcome.102

  • 103 See “Primo convegno italiano delle dottoresse in medicina,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 1, no. 5 (S (...)

58The next year, in October 1921, it was female physicians who supported the introduction of a medical premarital certificate, at their first national conference in Salsomaggiore,103 and again at the Congress for Family Education (Congresso per l’Educazione in Famiglia), convened in Rome in May 1923 by the National Council of Italian Women (Consiglio Nazionale delle Donne Italiane).

  • 104 A. M., “Il certificato sanitario prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 2, no. 6 (November–D (...)
  • 105 Max Hirsch, Chi debbo sposare? Consigli di un medico (Rome: Leonardo da Vinci, 1923).

59In November 1922, the Parliamentary Medical Group (fascio) again confronted the question, approving a more radical resolution in comparison with the “De Napoli proposal,” as it considered premarital certificates obligatory for both spouses and with injunctive powers.104 In the wake of the parliamentary initiative, Aldo Mieli’s Rassegna di studi sessuali caused an intense debate, discussing an essay by the Berlin social gynaecologist Max Hirsch, Chi debbo sposare? Consigli di un medico [Who should I marry? A doctor’s advice],105 and encouraged a referendum that put the fundamental questions on the table:

  • 106 A. M., “Il certificato sanitario prematrimoniale,” 357–58.

Can matrimonial certificates […] achieve their predicted scope? And, if they can, is it possible, or useful, to limit personal freedom in this way? In the end, could the certificate, even with its hygienic and health advantages, have drawbacks, perhaps more serious than those it is intended to eradicate?106

60The first contributor to the debate was the syphilographer Vincenzo Montesano, who clearly expressed his doubts on the effectiveness of the certificate, starting with the organizational and bureaucratic difficulties:

  • 107 Vincenzo Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” Rasse (...)

Don’t even ask me if this certificate should be issued by a national commission or by whichever doctor under his own responsibility. In the first case, as usual, we will have another bureaucratic organism, cumbersome and slow, which will complicate things rather than facilitate them. In the second case, we can guarantee that the pseudo-specialists will crowd around, ready to offer, for an adequate recompense, all the certificates people could want.107

  • 108 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” 359.
  • 109 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” 360.

61In addition, the introduction of matrimonial prohibitions would inevitably cause an increase in illegitimate unions and births, as well as abortions and “Malthusian practices,” causing serious damage to “social interests.”108 According to Montesano therefore, new laws and new bureaucratic organisms were useless. His motto was: “Let us educate, let us cure.”109 Instead of legislative action, he again invoked the eugenic effectiveness of education:

  • 110 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” 360.

If instead of creating new laws against which tricks will be sooner or later easily found, we intensified by all means the anti-venereal propaganda for all the social classes, especially those less advanced, workers, farmers, etc., wouldn’t we better achieve the aims we are proposing?110

  • 111 Montesano, “A proposito di certificato matrimoniale e di abolizionismo,” Rassegna di studi sessual (...)

62For Montesano, the adoption of a premarital certificate would be at best “a complement to a vast prophylactic organization able to help every individual and family understand the dangers of venereal diseases and defend themselves against them in a rational way, and give all diseased people the easiest and most energetic means to take care of themselves.”111

  • 112 Domenico Barduzzi, “Sul certificato sanitario prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. (...)

63Domenico Barduzzi, director of the Dermatology and Syphilis Clinic and the venereal diseases ward, at the University of Siena, agreed with Montesano’s position, emphasizing the problem of establishing, in regards to syphilis, “without severe or repeated inquiries, the recovery, when the disease reappears after years and years of latency, especially when due to deficiency or lack of treatment.” Instead of premarital certificates, according to Barduzzi, “it would be simpler and less odious to have individual health cards from birth, or a health passport, to accustom the population to value the great importance of national health in every contingency of life.”112

64Ferdinando De Napoli however, was in favor of premarital certificates, not released by a commission, but by a single physician, and limited to men:

  • 113 Ferdinando De Napoli, “Visita prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 1 (January–Febru (...)

For the man, who is almost constantly the one who carries venereal infection to the marriage bed, very frequently contaminating the purity and poetry of the nuptials, I would ask the intervention of a physician, together with the mayor and a priest, to give their assent to an enduring and sacred tie, that must by now represent not an individual act, but a national one.113

  • 114 De Napoli, “Visita prematrimoniale,” 50.

65Even though the introduction of a certificate carried an increase in the possibility of corruption, this did not cancel its importance. In fact, De Napoli asked, “must we proclaim the uselessness of the law in general because some judge (meaning some judge, as we must say some physician; for the dignity of our class!) is dishonest, or because the guilty turn to fraud in order to elude the law?”114

66For De Napoli, the sexual question needed, in fact, “discipline and brakes” and, thus, the premarital certificate—equipped with an appropriate informative record—could fulfill a role beyond sanitary, prevalently educative:

  • 115 De Napoli, “Visita prematrimoniale,” 52.

This form of propaganda would act positively on everyone, illuminating everything on the nature and seriousness of venereal danger […]. And I believe that, if nothing else, this egoistic sentiment […] will induce anybody to voluntarily accept the suggested measures.115

67De Napoli’s positive view was joined by that of Pietro Capasso, who, in reflecting on the problem of eventual fraud related to the certificates, reversed the relationship between sexual morals and prophylactic health, as suggested by Montesano:

  • 116 Pietro Capasso, “Intorno al certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 3 (May (...)

It is truly strange that, while against the certificate we grasp with much preciousness at the weapons of morals and offended modesty within the patriarchal purity of the current family life, it is the little request of the legal and competent guarantee of the health of the spouse that is considered sufficient to upset and crumble the domestic morals […] pushing the potential spouses into concubinage!116

68According to Capasso, the Italian population, that had supported the sacrifice of the war, would not refuse a new State intervention with sanitary aims in the private sphere. The families involved would not abandon themselves to violent or illegal reactions, but on the contrary ask for news and information:

  • 117 Pietro Capasso, “Intorno al certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 4 (Jul (...)

The ignorant, upon application of the new law, will ask, naturally, the reason for the certificate. This will be the hour for good, timely propaganda, especially from the physician. And when the high concept of defense of collective health that has inspired the new institution is understood, the predicted rebellion and prudish disdain will abate.117

69For Capasso, if the certificate was the last piece of a vast national prophylactic reorganization—as Montesano believed—it was no longer useful for anything. On the contrary, it would be important to impede the “current crimes of the generation” without waiting for an inevitably slow maturation of the collective hygienic education. Capasso’s solution attempted a “gradualist” mediation:

  • 118 Pietro Capasso, “Intorno al certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 3 (May (...)

We should adopt the certificate for now, with an informative scope, not limiting it however to sexual diseases. Tuberculosis, epilepsy and serious alcoholism are equivalents to syphilis […]. When the certificate is adopted, an educational and informative campaign will become more topical, more requested by those same interested individuals and their families, and this [campaign], together with other national prophylactic means, will give the individual, the family and the race those benefits for which we are fighting this worthy battle.118

  • 119 Aristide Zippari Garola, “Ancora sul certificato matrimoniale,’” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. (...)

70Another decided supporter of the certificate was Aristide Zippari Garola, who, referring to syphilis, suggested a model that would be obligatory, for men and for women, and would comprise clinical laboratory analysis.119

  • 120 Guido Verrotti, “Il certificato medico prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 3 (May– (...)
  • 121 Verrotti, “Il certificato medico prematrimoniale,” 333–34.

71Guido Verrotti, on the other hand, had the opposite view. To the preceding arguments (fraud, diagnostic difficulties, negative reactions of patients) he added a singular refusal of coercive methods: coercion could be justified in war, but was counterproductive “in ordinary regimes.”120 Far from having a hygienic propaganda function, an eventual adoption of the premarital certificate would lead to opposite results, ending in “distancing the intensification of real prophylactic means, on which we should instead be spending the efforts of all physicians, sociologists and political men, because those that exist leave much to be desired, due to the insufficiency and incompleteness with which they are applied.”121 Capasso’s reply was not long in coming: how could the immediate post-war period be considered normal? In reality, it was exactly in such a moment, characterized by intense international clashes, that eugenics was called upon to reinforce the “physical forces of mankind.” Thus:

  • 122 Pietro Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 6 (November–De (...)

Defending the race—when it is taken seriously—is neither a small thing nor a small responsibility for a state that, not having other riches, must rely on the muscles of its population. To achieve such an end, every means is good.122

72And it was not by chance that it was this very same Pietro Capasso, by then leader of the Neapolitan Eugenic Group (Gruppo Eugenetico Napoletano), who carried the issue of premarital certificates to the attention of the fascist government, in December 1923. The report of the meeting between Mussolini and Capasso bears witness to the conflicting positions of il Duce’s populationist orientation and Capasso’s qualitative eugenics:

  • 123 See “Notizie. Problemi di eugenica e profilassi in un colloquio dell’on. Capasso con S.E. Mussolin (...)

He [Capasso] therefore showed the President the immense question of the eugenic defense of marriage and the prevention of bad births, demonstrating the recommended reasons for the first step of adopting a premarital certificate with a purely informational scope.
The hon. Mussolini remembered that several years before he had been interested in this topic, and he had translated a book by Gobineau: he realized therefore, the ideal need of defending matrimony from the hidden dangers of serious social diseases. He, however, did not gloss over the serious difficulties that would be met in the adoption of the means: above all the great and small domestic tragedies destined for young spouses, hypersensitive beings, due to the resultant bans. He added to this, furthermore, that we must intensely procreate.
The hon. Capasso objected that it is useless to procreate when that implies the birth of beings who are useless and damaging to society. He then explained how the measures mentioned would be limited only to the obligation of the presentation of the certificate, a simple informative reciprocal gesture, without any powers of prohibition.123

73Although the debate on premarital certificate continued at least until the end of 1927, Mussolini’s political and ideological disagreement was already perfectly clear at the 1923 meeting.

  • 124 Pietro Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 4, no. (...)
  • 125 Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” 183.

74However, the following year—1924—was marked by relevant achievements. In April–May, Pietro Capasso again proposed the introduction of a premarital certificate on the stage of the 2nd National Meeting of the Italian Society for the Study of Sexual Questions. The state—Capasso declared—could not wait for “divulgation and information campaigns to create a public awareness of the need for the voluntary avoidance of bad marriages.”124 The economic and social damage that would derive from the degeneration of the race was, in fact, incalculable and, in the face of this, the public power had the “duty” to intervene: in such a way, the state would “defend families, individuals, the generation; in other words, defending itself.” Illnesses such as syphilis, tuberculosis, epilepsy, alcoholism, and blennorrhagia were damaging not just for the individual but also “for the family and the race”: “To ensure that in such conditions procreation is impeded or postponed is an act of humanity by biologists, psychologists and sociologists, and the duty of the State, because its validity and richness resides in the validity of the race.”125

  • 126 Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” 181.

75In Capasso’s opinion, in the face of the collective usefulness represented by the premarital certificate—even in a moderate version, non-obligatory and limited to only men—the criticisms of the opposition (the possibility of fraud, the uncertainty of diagnosis, the dangers of “concubinage”) faded.126 The essential concept was this: “It is necessary, in the highest interests of public health, the integrity of the race, the happiness and morals of the family, to impose a premarital certificate.”

76Not by coincidence, the first session of the SISQS congress concluded with the approval of a resolution, proposed by Ettore Levi, which adopted the “gradualist” interpretation of Capasso:

  • 127 The resolution was reported in Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 4, no. 3 (May–June 1924): (...)

The congress, having heard the relation of the hon. Professor Capasso on the eugenic legislative measures realized after the war in the international field, present the government with the opportuneness of inaugurating a premarital certificate with an informative scope, and as an element of the harmonious refusion of Italian legislation for the defense and improvement of future generations.127

  • 128 On the two inquiries, see also Massimo Ciceri, Origini controllate. La prima eugenetica in Italia (...)
  • 129 See Ferdinando De Napoli, “Difendiamo la stirpe,” Il Resto del Carlino, (26 January 1927). De Napo (...)
  • 130 See Ipsen, Dictating Demography, 186–87.

77Three years later, the debate on premarital certificates reached its apex, and also its definitive sunset, in the two inquiries published respectively by the newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, in January–February 1927, and by Difesa sociale in March–April of the same year.128 Although the major part of the contributors declared themselves in favor of a form of premarital medical visit, very few of these approved the immediate introduction of an obligatory premarital certificate. While Ferdinand De Napoli and Pietro Capasso once again denounced the paradoxical absurdity of the “right to sexual choice” and the “stupid selfishness” that surrounded marriage,129 the Parma pathologist Umberto Gabbi—already a supporter, in his speech to the Chamber of Deputies in 1926, of “family criminal records” for every citizen and of a national health record130—attempted to demonstrate the substantial existing harmony between “regenerative” fascism and obligatory medical examinations:

  • 131 Umberto Gabbi, “Sentimento e necessità,” Il Resto del Carlino (28 January 1927).

The State, fascistly conceived as a force and as an ethical reality, can not slowly proceed nor be deprived of its dominion over the individual and the collective. When a great and enlightened national social interest is at stake, the right of the State to penetrate the family should not find obstacles in the Chinese Wall of sentiments based on selfishness.131

78In order to maintain the argument of a matrimonial union not subject to eugenic controls, Gabbi therefore claimed that the right of individual liberty would represent, in a fascist State, a sort of non-sense:

  • 132 Gabbi, “Sentimento e necessità.”

Once, perhaps, when “personal liberty” was synonymous with abuse and moral and political discipline, we could have waved the ghost of individual liberty: now that the Italian population is regimented under the firm laws of Fascism and have been convinced of the great benefits that this new political orientation, imposed by the regime, has given and will give the nation, there is no sense in considering the concept of individual liberty with an ancient mentality.132

79According to Gesualdo Ciarrusso, of the University of Bologna, the right to individual liberty “can not comprise the liberty of the individual to harm the species by handing down to its offspring characteristics which will make its existence wretched.” The sanitary control of marriage, whether it be in the form of premarital certificate or the sterilization of women, had to be imposed:

  • 133 Gesualdo Ciarrusso, “Risposta affermativa,” Il Resto del Carlino (30 January 1927).

Impose it! That is the necessary word. By now the general conscience is mature. The Regime, free from useless and harmful sentimentalism, alien to deleterious compromises, conscious, energetic, decisive, must act fascistly also here. We must request this from the fascist government, radical reformer of the customs of the population through judicious laws. We must request this, especially now that social refinement, degeneration of the senses and the unpardonable lightness with which life is lived have reduced the sexual instinct to an instrument of pleasure, stripping it of its attributes of high aims for the conservation of the species.133

  • 134 Guglielmo Bilancioni, “Questione di civiltà,” Il Resto del Carlino (2 February 1927).

80For Guglielmo Bilancioni, from the University of Pisa, there could be no doubt that “as the races of the animals and plants are selected, in its greater capacity, the fascist State […] has the right to protect the physical and moral integrity of the stock.” But for “practical realization,” “a climate of superior civil progress” was necessary, which seemed to still be lacking in Italy.134

  • 135 Enrico Ferri, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 1–2.
  • 136 Ferri, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” 1–2.

81Enrico Ferri, socialist deputy and leader of the Italian school of positivist criminology, did not mince words in his defense of obligatory premarital certificates: “There is no doubt that human breeding in the same way, but more importantly, as the breeding of horses, cattle, sheep, pigs etc. is an urgent necessity, in order to improve the stock, according to Darwinian and Mendelian facts. The fascist regime has the will to realize a rational program, passing from ideas to action. It is therefore a question of practical means and modes.”135 As with criminals therefore, two forms of prevention were also necessary for the “procreation of healthy and strong beings”: the first, “direct or enforced,” included the premarital certificate, the “prohibition of marriage of certain persons,” and the “sterilization of serious abnormals”; the second, “more complex and slow and difficult,” involved “propaganda and education in schools and after school,” “the training of a hygienic awareness in the population,” and the “improvement of household hygienic conditions, nutrition etc.”136

  • 137 For a bibliography on the figure of Arcangelo Ilvento, see Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo f (...)
  • 138 Arcangelo Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 3–4.

82The reservations of the opponents of a mandatory premarital certificate were mainly concentrated on the difficulties of diagnosis. A syphilitic with evident lesions—confirmed, for example, the hygienist and epidemiologist Arcangelo Ilvento137—would never submit himself to a medical examination. Whoever considered marriage either ignored the illness or believed himself to be healed, because he had had no manifestations for some time. In these cases, “the clinical diagnosis is often uncertain” and moreover “the danger of transmission to the wife and children remained for a certain period” that varied from five to ten years.138 Along the same lines, hard proof to demonstrate the heredity of tuberculosis and alcoholism was lacking:

  • 139 Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” 6.

At least until now no sure proof has been provided that alcoholism is eventually sufficient to produce of itself permanent hereditary defects. Therefore in these last cases it is sufficient that the measure of social protection stops at the drunken relative, while we lack a solid reason to extend it to the son and discuss if he is permitted to marry.139

  • 140 Aldo Mieli, “Proposte pratiche,” Il Resto del Carlino (9 February 1927).
  • 141 Vincenzo Montesano, “Risposta negativa,” Il Resto del Carlino (2 February 1927).
  • 142 Ernesto Pestalozza, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): (...)
  • 143 Vittorio Ascoli, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 2–3
  • 144 Giovanni Mingazzini, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 2–3.
  • 145 Giuseppe Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 3.

83If some eugenicist had sterilized Beethoven’s drunken parents—Aldo Mieli added—the world “would not have had one of its great artists.”140 It was easy to heal from syphilis—Vincenzo Montesano ironically declared in Resto del Carlino—but there was no surety of complete healing: the long period of latency of the disease made an occasional medical examination, a few weeks before the marriage, totally useless.141 The gynecologist Ernesto Pestalozza142 showed the same scientific prudency, as did the clinician Vittorio Ascoli,143 the psychiatrist Giovanni Mingazzini144 and Giuseppe Montesano.145 Nevertheless, in Montesano’s view, a second argument was raised against the obligatoriness of the certificate:

  • 146 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” 3.

I see in this campaign for premarital certificates a manifestation of the selfinterest of the majority to the detriment of the minority. It is a self-interest that could appear in those States where economic values dominate, but is unthinkable in those others which aim toward the holistic progress of humanity.
The most certain index of this progress is the development of a sentiment of solidarity with all members of the group, with the weakest more than with the strongest. Illness is combated not by sacrificing its carriers but by seeking to account for all the other causes of its diffusion and energetically eliminating those already known.146

84The theme of respect for the individual returned significantly with the contribution of endocrinologist Nicola Pende:

  • 147 Nicola Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale: obbligo legale od obbligo morale?,” Difesa sociale (...)

A law that commands the future spouses to present themselves to a civil official of the State with a certificate of physical, intellectual and moral health […] puts the physician and the State under the moral and juridical obligation to act, creating laws to protect the sexual rights (once the legitimate procreative rights are legally impeded) of the rejects of the matrimonial ordinance. The sexual function cannot be suffocated by a law: and if, in the interests of the family and the State, procreation by defectives or ill people should be avoided, it is not possible, neither theoretically or practically, to inhibit such individuals who, manifestly or secretly, exercise their sexual function. On the contrary, as we frequently see, in certain ill people […] [the sexual function] is heightened and, every moral brake being removed, often results in immoral, or even criminal, acts.147

  • 148 Sante De Sanctis, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 2. (...)
  • 149 Giuseppe Lucchetti, “Le difficoltà del certificato,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).
  • 150 Alessandro Stoppato, “I vantaggi e i danni,” Il Resto del Carlino (28 January 1927).

85Also for the psychologist Sante De Sanctis, it would be “offensive for human dignity to deprive the individual of the liberty to sacrifice himself, when it does no harm to the good of the community”: humanity, in fact, “is not a herd, nor a stud farm for racehorses.”148 Neither—claimed Lucchetti in Resto del Carlino—would it be easy to discipline the “hearts and sentiments—not even by a government that, among its skills, has shown, every time it was necessary, force, and an invincible force.”149 According to Alessandro Stoppato, professor of law at the University of Bologna, a heavy intervention by the State in the lives of the citizens “would bring serious humiliations and upsets to the families, and the investigation would worry them, agitating public opinion, and could cause further prejudices, different and distinct from that of not being able to contract their desired marriage.”150

  • 151 Giuseppe Pellacani, “Basta la visita prematrimoniale?,” Il Resto del Carlino (30 January 1927).
  • 152 Lucchetti, “Le difficoltà del certificato.”
  • 153 Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” 10.

86The problem of maintaining social order was common to a good part of those against the obligatoriness of the premarital certificate. For the psychiatrist Pellacani, for example, the introduction of coercive measures would profoundly pollute public morality: “If the subjects, defective males and females, were denied legitimate procreation through marriage, would they therefore be removed from the sexual circulation of society, and therefore from illegitimate procreation? No, certainly not.”151 The criminal news—Lucchetti continued—could even “increase its columns, due to the intensification of homicides and suicides of passion; the tribunals would be increasingly busy, due to the multiplied troubles offered by concubinage and illegitimate children.”152 Nicola Pende had the same warning: “The reasonable doubt arises as to which is the greater evil, the increase of prostitution or more frequent illegitimate sexual rapport, or the increase of illegitimate births, and sicknesses of unmarried men, if not the fact that some epileptics or chronic alcoholics or tuberculosis sufferers or syphilitic or psychically abnormal person might be able to trick another person into marrying him!”153

  • 154 Pellacani, “Basta la visita prematrimoniale?.”
  • 155 Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” 8–9.
  • 156 Leone Lattes, “Dalla teoria alla pratica,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).

87And all this was without counting the reluctance on the part of physicians to be transformed into agents of the State, renouncing professional privacy. Pellacani maintained: “Certain ill people could be prevented from seeking a cure, to avoid the discovery of their illness by a physician who is no longer bound by professional privacy […]. The transformation of the physician into a possible fiscal agent could present, from this point of view, a serious danger.”154 No colleague—Pende repeated—“wants to deceive themselves that they are inspired by God, or so knowledgeable as to be infallible, like a pope of medicine. Clinical medicine must today honestly declare itself incapable of giving a sure verdict.”155 Also Leone Lattes, professor of legal medicine, believed that the “delicate and essential liberty to found a family” could not be handed over “to the discretional powers of physicians.”156

88According to Pellacani, to be able to adopt a truly effective eugenic legislation, that is, one based on the sterilization of defectives and on obligatory premarital examinations, it was necessary above all to diffuse “eugenic sentiments in society”:

  • 157 Pellacani, “Basta la visita prematrimoniale?.”

In the sexual field, even if legislative coercion, mild, such as premarital examinations, or radical, such as obligatory sterilization, can appear—in the case of the first—not totally useful and not without inconveniences, and—in the case of the second—completely premature, it is necessary to spread the knowledge of the fundamental social importance of the germ plasm and its integral protection and conservation over the course of generations.157

  • 158 Antonio Dal Prato, “Basta la pratica igienica,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).
  • 159 Salvatore Ottolenghi, “I rimedi legali sono insufficienti,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927)
  • 160 Francesco Bonola, “Soluzione negativa,” Il Resto del Carlino (9 February 1927).
  • 161 Mieli, “Proposte pratiche.”

89And while for Antonio Dal Prato the principal objective was to “form the hygienic conscience of the masses,”158 for Salvatore Ottolenghi, more than a new law, it was necessary to consider the intensification of the “physical and moral hygiene.”159 According to Francesco Bonola, lecturer at the University of Genoa, it was enough to simply trust the eugenic instinct of the intended spouses: “eugenicists seem to me to count too much on the practical spirit of our time. Those who marry, man or woman, search for their other half in the best conditions possible. Also of physical conditions.”160 Aldo Mieli’s position was more articulated: it could be opportune to introduce a health passport and premarital examination, impeding the unions “in extreme cases” and adopting, for all the rest, an “indirect” strategy, for example facilitating the life “of all those that the State would desire not to procreate, in such a way that they would not, in desperation […] contract a marriage that would bear painful fruit.”161

  • 162 Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” 8.
  • 163 Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” 7. See also Arturo Donaggio, “La visita medica prematri (...)
  • 164 Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” 10.

90On the whole, the proposal supported by those against an obligatory certificate was aimed at the introduction of a form of optional premarital prophylaxis, in the wider context of a “complete and integral realization of fascist ideals […] in the field of social sanitary organization,”162 principally based on the protection of pregnancy, and on “hygienic propaganda.” Within this general framework, there were also specific suggestions, such as those of Arcangelo Ilvento, who proposed the “personal health passport” and the “hereditary record” inspired by Lundborg’s Swedish model,163 or those of Pende, who recommended the “constant penetrative work of the physician” for the “somatic and psychical benefit of the individual, from infancy until marriageable age.”164

  • 165 Widar Cesarini Sforza, “Perché approviamo la ‘visita prematrimoniale,’” Il Resto del Carlino (17 F (...)
  • 166 Cesarini Sforza, “Perché approviamo la ‘visita prematrimoniale.’”

91The impossibility of reaching a majority consensus between the supporters and negators of obligatory premarital certificates nevertheless is reflected in the conclusions drawn by the editors of Il Resto del Carlino and Difesa sociale, at the end of the two inquiries. For Il Resto del Carlino Cesarini Sforza declared that the fascist state could not avoid limiting individual liberty in the name of the superior interests of the “race”: “Must the State that dominates and controls every manifestation, we can say, of social life, in the name of a superior ethical interest, which intervenes with all its force even for the smallest infraction of the social solidarity, then neglect the sometimes serious offences to human and social solidarity brought by those who […] contribute to the decadence of the race?”165 Fascist laws for the protection of maternity and infancy were not enough, just as the “moral and physical prophylaxis” was not sufficient: “It is necessary that the State intervenes directly, reawakening with every means the sense of individual responsibility to offspring, which is not equally awakened and energetic in everyone. Moral and physical prophylaxis—education and hygiene—can do something; but it is in vain to hope that civilization will spread over all levels of the population.”166 From this, the necessity arose, according to Cesarini Sforza, of introducing an obligatory premarital examination, but without prohibitive powers, as in Denmark and Norway.

92At the opposite end of the scale, Augusto Carelli, new editor of Difesa sociale, stressed the importance of solidarity with the weakest and maintained the “necessity of pain” against eugenic utopias:

  • 167 Augusto Carelli, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 6. (...)

Today’s men seem a bit drunk on their conquest of so-called mechanical progress, and seem always more inclined to devalue certain moral values that oppose them. Against their ideals of physical power, those of humility, pity and human charity seem to increasingly disgust them: and it seems they have forgotten that pain is not only the unavoidable companion of existence, but also has great moral, and therefore social, value. Pain is a true teacher of life; we know how much we have learnt with our truly painful experiences, and we can say that every great human work is the fruit of pain. Any force directed to the improvement of society, a force that is always legitimate, laudable and only right and proper, must remember this necessity of pain, and must consequently carry with it the conviction that it will never be possible for man to eliminate evil from his existence simply by virtue of scientific postulates.167

  • 168 The initiative was promoted, in 1924, by gynaecologist Emilio Alfieri and again in 1928 by gynaeco (...)
  • 169 For the initiatives of the local group of SISQS and, in particular, of syphilographer Arturo Fonta (...)
  • 170 For the initiatives of the Ligurian group of SISQS and the lecturer of legal medicine Gian Giacomo (...)
  • 171 For the initiatives of the local Sanitary Group of Fascio femminile, see Difesa sociale 5, no. 7 ( (...)
  • 172 Promoted by the Poliambulanza Felsinea; see “Il consultorio medico prenuziale,” Il Resto del Carli (...)

93Beyond the substantial lack of agreement between the technicians of public health, it was Mussolini’s Ascension Day Speech that in May 1927, suffocated the debate over premarital examinations, considering them a dangerous variant of birth control. The formation of free and optional premarital consultancy clinics, which, starting from 1924, spontaneously developed in Milan,168 Turin,169 Genoa,170 Trieste,171 and Bologna,172 was in fact cut off on the precise order of Mussolini, whose political and ideological objective coincided, by now, with the demographic (quantitative and pronatalist) development of the nation. This is demonstrated clearly by a letter the chief officer (prefetto) of Bologna sent to Mussolini on 9 April 1928:

  • 173 ACS, SPD, CO, b. 509.560/III, “Istituto Centrale di Statistica,” sf. 1: “I.C.S. – Provvedimenti le (...)

Excellency, I am honored to communicate: in accordance with your esteemed signature of the 15th there is no longer a prenuptial medical consultancy in Bologna, which was spoken about in Resto Del Carlino on the 14th, page six. I am informed that as they are in majority excellent fascists, they were extremely pleased to obey the Chief ’s nod.
I remain, Excellency, with profound respects, your devoted servant—Giuseppe Guadagnini.173

  • 174 Umberto Gabbi, “La battaglia per la natalità,” Archivio fascista di medicina politica 2 (1928): 26 (...)
  • 175 See “Politica demografica e crisi di natalità,” Archivio fascista di medicina politica 2 (1928): 2 (...)

94In the pages of the journal Archivio fascista di medicina politica [Fascist journal of political medicine], the founder and editor Umberto Gabbi, only a few months before among the most solid supporters of an obligatory premarital certificate, publically humbled himself, declaring his error,174 and promptly dedicating an entire issue to comments on Numero come forza [Number as force], the Mussolinian equation formulated in the foreword of statistician Richard Korherr’s book Regresso delle nascite: morte dei popoli [The decline of births: the death of peoples].175

3. Sterilization and Euthanasia

  • 176 In United States, in 1907, the state of Indiana (USA) approved the first sterilization law for cri (...)
  • 177 On Zuccarelli, see also see Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista, 12; Mantovani, Rigener (...)

95In the context of Italian eugenics, sterilization as an extreme surgical solution to the problem of dysgenic degeneration, constituted a very minor theme. At the end of the nineteenth century,176 this measure had found a firm supporter in Angelo Zuccarelli, chief physician of the interprovincial mental hospital of Nocera, founder and director from 1893 of the Museum of Criminal Anthropology at the University of Naples, where he taught from 1887, and from 1890 published the review L’anomalo [The defective].177

  • 178 Angelo Zuccarelli, “Asessualizzazione o sterilizzazione dei degenerati,” L’anomalo, 8, no. 6 (1898 (...)

96Zuccarelli’s proposal was explicit since its first formulation in 1894. Convinced of the necessity of artificial selection, which was “readier and more effective than the natural one” in order to combat the “excessive multiplication of defective humanity,” the anthropologist maintained that the introduction of “sterilization of extremely degenerate people” was indispensable and he justified it as an extension, on a “social” prophylactic level, of the “individual” prophylactic method already in use for some time, as regarded, for example, women with tuberculosis at risk of death in case of pregnancy. The categories to which sterilization had to be applied were epileptics, the tuberculosis sufferers, lunatics, alcoholics, syphilitics, the mentally ill with “degenerative” pathologies, and delinquents (“instinctive” and “habitual”). Zuccarelli’s solution was presented in these terms in 1898, in an essay that was critical of the legislation mandating involuntary sterilization introduced in Michigan in 1897, which he judged overly rigid and discriminating.178 It was reprised in 1901 in a communication to the Naples Gynaecological Society (Società Ginecologica di Napoli) at the 5th Congress of Criminal Anthropology in Amsterdam and the 11th Congress of the Italian Phreniatric Society (Congresso della Società Italiana di Freniatria) in Ancona. For Zuccarelli, sterilization represented the sole rational remedy for the menace of physical-psychical degeneration. He maintained:

  • 179 Angelo Zuccarelli, “Per la sterilizzazione della donna come mezzo per limitare o impedire la ripro (...)

We must not overly fear the erosion of the respect due to individual liberty […] nor must we exaggerate such a sentiment. We are not speaking of healthy life; instead we are dealing with illness, with anomalies of the most serious kind, and [therefore] restrictions, limitations to such a liberty, with the scope of avoiding one of the biggest collective damages—the great damage to human perfectibility—must appear more than right and reasonable, dutiful, necessary, indispensible.179

97Enrico Ferri brought Zuccarelli’s proposal to the attention of Parliament, where it was contested by the Member of Parliament and professor of law, Luigi Lucchini. It was later discussed in 1906 at the International Congress for the Assistance of the Insane in Milan, in front of the great figures of Italian psychiatry, such as Lombroso, Morselli, Bianchi, and Tamburini. Zuccarelli emphasized three points that were to be voted upon in the day’s agenda:

  1. to recognize the necessity of effective prophylactic actions, aimed at preventing the procreation of abnormals as much as possible;
  2. to advise, as the most adapted and secure means to achieve this aim, sterilization of highly degenerated people […];
  3. to associate ourselves with the unanimous vote expressed by the “Congress on Work-related Illnesses” so that the fight against tuberculosis becomes a function of the State, advising that every health treatment in favor of the tuberculosis sufferers be preceded or accompanied by their sterilization.180

98But, demonstrating the lukewarm reception of sterilization projects in the Italian medical culture of that period, the assembly limited itself to approving only the first point, the most generic and moderate, leaving the other two, certainly more radical and operational, to future discussions.

  • 181 Angelo Zuccarelli, Il problema capitale della “eugenica” (Ferrara: Industrie Grafiche Italiane, 19 (...)

99Also in this case, the First World War reignited the debate, and once again Zuccarelli was ready to propose his deterministic hereditarianism, this time by criticizing Ettore Levi’s moderate eugenics. For Zuccarelli, sterilization was the “capital problem of eugenics,” as he affirmed many times between 1924 and 1925: “real and substantial ‘eugenics’ can never be achieved, without the ‘sterilization’ of the excessive number of considerably defective and degenerate individuals already in existence.”181

100With the war just recently finished, in a speech to the 3rd Congress of the Italian Pro Abnormals Society, the psychologist Francesco Umberto Saffiotti radically contested Giuseppe Sergi’s position on the eugenic value of educating abnormals:

  • 182 Umberto Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” L’infanzia anormale 5–6 (1920): 1–86; 79–80. On the figu (...)

There are two profoundly different aspects to the problem: the biological aspect and the social aspect […] and these two aspects are not reducible to one or the other […]. In subordinating the interests of the individual to the interests of the race we also feel the huge weight of tradition, and selfish and humanitarian sentiments, and we also feel a timidity and lack of certainty in supporting the necessity of extreme measures, if not for the secure conviction of their necessity, then for the opportunistic considerations of the moral and juridical lack of preparedness in which we find ourselves as regards the legitimacy of extreme sanctions. We must overcome this timidity and uncertainty and resolutely affirm that the real and proper solution to the eugenic problem, regarding those who are physically and psychically insufficient, consists only in rendering them unable to procreate.182

  • 183 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 81.

101Stalwart supporter of sterilization using X-rays, Saffiotti was among the few in Italy to oppose the Lombrosian refrain, which underlined the utility of degeneration in producing immortal geniuses such as Leopardi or Manzoni. Saffiotti was instead of the opinion that degenerate geniuses, on the contrary, shone with brilliant light only in comparison to the grand obscurity that surrounded them: “The fact that a genius arises from a family of degenerates does not compensate for the multitude of individuals who damage social progress.”183 For Saffiotti, the education of “lunatics” was a necessary method in the fight against degeneration, but it was not sufficient:

  • 184 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 81.

Measures of assistance, of hygienic improvement, of physical education, of individual and social prophylaxis are all highly useful means to try and contain physical and psychical degeneration, but their effects are uncertain, slow, difficult, and certainly inadequate to compensate for the deleterious effects of the spreading of the causes of degeneration.
And if we do not have the courage to resolutely affirm the necessity of extreme remedies for extreme ills, we will never be prepared for us, and for humanity, to achieve the progress of physical and psychical health.184

  • 185 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 81.

102In the name of the “health of the stock,” the State had the right, therefore, to mandate the sterilization of those who were “dangerous to the species” and “to impose artificial selection, both direct and preventive: direct on the individual adults, preventive in the suppression of newborns that present undoubted manifestations of hereditary degeneration.”185 In order to achieve this ultimate and resolute goal, Saffiotti suggested a “minimal program” for eugenics, consisting of premarital certificates, health passports, and a campaign against syphilis and tuberculosis:

  • 186 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 82–83.

The path for achieving certain stages of human progress is long and full of difficulties […]. However, there is a practical eugenic action that is immediate: a minimal program. This minimal program reconciles the supporters and opposers of extreme measures. The first will renounce extreme solutions due to the necessary contingencies of the moment; the others will contribute to this minimal program with all the fervour of their humanitarian sentimentalism. In this minimal program, the problem is not a strictly biological problem, but a principally social one.186

  • 187 Important exponent of Florentine socialism from the start of the nineteenth century, anti-interven (...)
  • 188 See Gaetano Pieraccini, La difesa della società dalle malattie trasmissibili (Torino: Bocca, 1895)
  • 189 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo. For a review of this “brilliant book,” see M. Carr (...)
  • 190 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 445.

103The theoretical position of Gaetano Pieraccini,187 socialist physician and long-time supporter of coercive measures in the field of social medicine,188 is also of particular interest. In the concluding chapter of a long essay in 1924, dedicated to the study of the heredity of biological characteristics in the family pedigree of the Medicis of Florence,189 Pieraccini, believer in the interaction between heredity and the environment in the transmission of morphological and psychical characteristics of the species, called himself both “eugenicist” and “euthenicist.” For Pieraccini, the “genocratic” dream was still far away, but “Society” could contribute to the acceleration of the evolutionary process regulated by natural selection, intervening in “environmental factors”—with social and hygienic medicine—and introducing a form of “matrimonial prophylaxis.”190 Not genius, but the “average man” embodied Pieraccini’s eugenic ideal:

  • 191 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 445–46.

We must consider this crowd of average men as a great force of civil life. The social machine cannot be constituted only of propellers; the most disparate elements are necessary to produce and maintain a regular useful effect. Now the mass of median people […] if they are conservative, are also regular methodical producers of global wealth.191

104Instead of the construction of a homogenous elite of superior men, Pieraccini proposed a sort of eugenic socialism, that, reducing the negative influence of environmental factors, allowed all individuals to freely develop their true hereditary biological potential:

  • 192 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 447–48.

A political and social constitution which, with the public ownership of the means of production, makes it possible for all individuals to develop their proper aptitudes: this removes the inequality between those who have too much and those too little, giving everyone the possibility to freely follow the trajectory for which their biological dowry has destined them (both hereditarily and innately). We will not level anything, putting all individuals on the same plane or destroying (as is usually repeated) the single personality. On the contrary, we will favor natural and anthropological differentiation, renewing in this way the fortunes of the human family.192

105To carry out this objective of a healthy biological medietas, Pieraccini did not limit himself to indicating the improvement of the economic and hygienic life conditions of the most disadvantaged social classes, but went so far as to promote the methods of matrimonial prophylaxis and sterilization. The principal aim of the premarital certification was clearly identified in the segregation of “degenerates”:

  • 193 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 457.

In this way we should avoid marriages with lepers, consumptives, people with venereal disease, insane people (certain forms of insanity, as with manicdepressives and precocious dementia, present a high rate of heredity), with imbeciles, many epileptics (essential epilepsy), with alcoholics, habitual morphine and cocaine users, and delinquents, as is already happening in several American states in the north, and to a smaller degree, in Europe.193

  • 194 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 459.
  • 195 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 458.

106Again the American eugenics model—with its highly celebrated family-studies, such as The Jukes—motivated Pieraccini’s support to introduce a sterilization law, even if limited to “only the cases of strong organic degeneration and only after the judgment—case by case—by a competent medical tribunal.”194 In particular, according to the socialist physician, discharge from mental hospitals should be conditional upon a preventive sterilization procedure.195 Against the predictable criticism of those who rejected sterilization as an intolerable offence against individual liberty, even Pieraccini invoked the lessons of the war, the “point of no return” in the definitive consecration of the superiority of the state over the individual:

  • 196 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 460.

When sons are plucked from their parents, the husband from his wife, the father from his children to embrace death; when men are obliged to kill other men for controversial ends; when the citizens are constrained, against their political and philosophical convictions, to slaughter other men, including those who are surely of equal beliefs; when all this can be done with manifest pernicious damage to the human race […]; well then, if we have a realistic and serious concept of eugenics and don’t want simple academic amateurism, and if through artificial sexual selection we want to leave the breeding farms of horses, cows, dogs, pigs, to also benefit humans, then we can not continue to hide behind the classic reserve of respect for individual liberty.196

  • 197 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 461.

107While waiting for science to reach its conclusions regarding “progressively degenerative heredity,” the eugenicist could not rest, but had to “direct [people] to good,” that is, present to the “conscience of the citizens” an effective documentation that attested to the important social problem represented by “the relationship of biological heredity with the destiny of the races.”197

  • 198 On the figure of Paolo Enriques, see Claudio Pogliano, “Bachi, polli e grani. Appunti sulla ricezi (...)

108In the same year, the position of Pieraccini was reinforced by Paolo Enriques’198 essay L’eredità nell’uomo [Heredity in man]. This brief tract emphasized the incontestable validity of Mendel’s laws as the mechanism of heredity transmission of not only morphological and physiological characteristics in the human species, but also of psychical and behavioral ones, such as musical and artistic talent on one hand, and prostitution, criminality and pauperism on the other.

  • 199 Paolo Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo (Milan: Vallardi, 1924), 380.

109Director of the Institute of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy of the University of Padua and popularizer of American eugenic literature, Enriques did not hesitate to propose, in these pages, the introduction of obligatory sterilization for criminals, and voluntary for the “seriously constitutionally ill,” as well as a sanitary passport and premarital certificates.199

  • 200 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 381–82.
  • 201 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 384–85.

110According to Enriques, the binding necessity of a eugenic legislation appeared to be confirmed by the degeneration of a society increasingly exposed to the “danger of a progressive lowering of the average physical and intellectual level of the population.” The development of medicine allowed, in fact, the survival of a “quantity of weak and constitutionally feeble people, who would in other times have died”;200 charitable institutions, “besides protecting the temporarily unfortunate and the elderly,” contributed to “raising the weak and the unhappy due to constitutional defects, and to conducting the depraved along the moral path”; the “socialist spirit” tended to “level the masses and protect the unfit,” while the “democraticbourgeois spirit” of the ruling classes limited “procreation of intellectually superior people.”201 What was to be done therefore? For Enriques, the essential point was not the right to life, which must be guaranteed and protected, but the right to produce life:

  • 202 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 385.

To correct the damaging actions of these institutions and habits, we must at least create a series of measures which favor the reproduction of the best and inhibit that of the worst; the “best” and “worst” in a eugenic sense, that is, endowed with physical and psychical assets, or, respectively, weaknesses.202

  • 203 Paolo Enriques, “Eugenica e diritto,” Studi sassaresi 1 (1921).
  • 204 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 386.

111Revisiting an argument already supported immediately after the end of the First World War,203 Enriques repeated, in conclusion, the necessity to overcome the “dysgenic”204 concept of justice inspired by the French Revolution and followed by Socialism, in the name of a new “eugenic right” in which “the laws and all morals would be orientated toward the improvement of the race.” In particular, there was only one principle, according to Enriques, that would lead any process of social change: “Respect those who have been born and help them; but inhibit the reproduction of the worst, and facilitate that of the best.”

  • 205 Carlo Foa, “L’eredità dei caratteri normali e patologici. 1,” Gerarchia 9 (1925): 609–13; Carlo Fo (...)
  • 206 Professor of human physiology at the University of Milan, collaborator of Pende—see Carlo Foa and (...)

112Despite being positively and lengthily reviewed by Carlo Foà205—the Milan physiologist who, in the column Cronache scientifiche [Scientific chronicles] of the leading fascist theoretical journal Gerarchia [Hierarchy], declared, in the same years, his ambiguous sympathies for sterilization206—Paolo Enriques’ eugenic theories did not become the official position of the fascist regime.

  • 207 See ch. 4, 147–58.
  • 208 Roberto Michels, Problemi di sociologia applicata (Turin: Bocca, 1919), 1–14.
  • 209 Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens, ihr Mass und ih (...)
  • 210 Enrico Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa (eutanasia) in rapporto alla medicina, alla morale e all’euge (...)
  • 211 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 66.

113The proceedings of the First Congress of Social Eugenics in 1924, demonstrate this clearly.207 Beyond several important, but isolated positions—such as that of Roberto Michels, who believed it was right to “eliminate the physically unsuitable or morally inferior elements from sexual circulation”208—the majority of Italian eugenicists seemed, on the contrary, to share the views expressed in 1923 by the elderly psychiatrist Enrico Morselli, in his essay L’uccisione pietosa (eutanasia) in rapporto alla medicina, alla morale e all’eugenica [Mercy killings (euthanasia) in relation to medicine, ethics and eugenics]. In these pages Morselli criticized not just the American legislation on sterilization, but also the most radical side of German Weimarian eugenics, favorable to the euthanasia of “incurable feebleminded” individuals, as expressed in the essay of the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche and the jurist Karl Binding, entitled Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens [The authorization for destruction of life unworthy of living].209 The crude right-wing nationalistic utilitarianism of the two scholars, who identified the value of individual life in its productive efficiency, could not help but seem foreign—Morselli affirmed, repeating his anti-German nationalistic prejudices—to “us, Latins,” endowed with a different sense of humanity and proportion.210 Adopting similar criteria would impose a true and proper decimation of the social body, which risked the disappearance of a Byron, a Leopardi, an Aesop or “other men with similar taints of the body, but excelling in intellect.”211 Morselli therefore roundly denounced the notion of eugenic euthanasia:

  • 212 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 232.

I must say that among the means of human selection examined in all aspects, advised and pushed by the eugenicists, the violent, Spartan suppression of harmful or useless individuals through euthanasia, is only a remote possibility, an extreme measure in case the other means […] do not achieve the scope of arresting the undeniable current increase of the morbigene and degenerate causes that can be managed with “social control.”212

114Instead of euthanasia, Morselli proposed an “ethnarchic selection,” achieved through “the sexual isolation of whites, that is, the absolute prohibition of reproductive unions with the races of low intellectual and social value”:

  • 213 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 237.

Racial crossings of individuals of the white race with those of any inferior race must be impeded, not excluding the yellow man; above all we should aim at the conservation and increase of the mental quality that characterizes the superior races, that is, ours: intelligence, the inventive, and at the same time, assimilative spirit, social solidarity, the sense of individual duty, the consciousness of the moral and social importance of work, the formation of an intellectual aristocracy devoted to the development of science, art and religion.
All that is lacking or is rudimentary in the Negro races of the colonized territories.213

  • 214 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 250.

115In the context of every race, instead of euthanasia and sterilization—of which Morselli repeated the “relative practical appropriateness,” yet postponing any application to a future “evolution of morals and sentiments of the civil population”214—he proposed prevention, social medicine, hygiene:

  • 215 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 253.

Here is a program of social medicine that is much more valid for eugenics than authorized euthanasia, insofar as it grasps the causes of painful phenomena and is not content to combat the effects; here, the highest moral principle of respect for life is satisfied, without which civil progress would not exist.
The collective good must remain the supreme aim of eugenics, but first we must ensure that this collectivity is purged of all that determines and maintains blameless deficiencies, monstrosities and annihilation of the physical-psychical personality of the individual.215

  • 216 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 258.

116The “selectionist doctrine,” applied through “extreme” measures (euthanasia) or “mutilating” (sterilization)—although “the most secure and most abiding by the principle of defense of the race”—must, however, withdraw, not only for moral and juridical reasons, but also because of its “current practical unfeasibility,” to make way for means that were “softer and perhaps also more effective, insofar as they penetrate the viscera of the social body, and involve the reproductive functions of the organism, its conditions of life, its relation with the natural forces.”216

117The physical and moral “reclamation” of society was, therefore, the premise for a moderate form of eugenics:

  • 217 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 259.

The improvement of the species, the regeneration of a race beset with ills that seem inseparable from the progress of civilization, until now based on the principle of individual liberty, must happen gradually, evolving with the diminution of this liberty. This must be achieved above all in relation to sexual union for reproduction, and in second place by forbidding individuals the false right to squander their patrimony of physical and mental energy, for example, by poisoning themselves with alcohol. Then we must mention the increasingly energetic fight against the great factors of degeneration, which are independent of the will of individuals and are of an exogenic nature, such as syphilis, tuberculosis, malaria, pellagra, infective fevers, morbid epidemics and regional illnesses, above all tropical.217

118In conclusion, according to Enrico Morselli, a progressive limitation of the reproductive freedom and a vast program of social medicine and social hygiene constituted the core of “Latin” eugenics and the secret of its superiority compared to the “Nordic” model.

4. The Work of the “Useless”: Mental Hygiene in Italy

  • 218 Invited in 1923 to a meeting in Paris in his role as vice-president of the International Commissio (...)
  • 219 The list of regions and their relative presidents is as follows: Piedmont (Lugaro), Lombardy (Mede (...)

119Due to the intensive organizational activity of Ettore Levi and Giulio Cesare Ferrari,218 the Italian League of Hygiene and Mental Prophylaxis (Lega Italiana di Igiene e Profilassi Mentale, known as LIPIM), was instituted on 19 October 1924, in the hall of the provincial council of Bologna. The presiding board was made up of Ferrari, Levi and Eugenio Medea. The honorary presidency was assigned to Leonardo Bianchi, Eugenio Tanzi and Enrico Morselli, while the central committee was comprised of the presidents of the thirteen regional sections.219 The first assembly debate culminated in the definition of the aims of the League:

  1. Research, gather and assess information, documents etc.; conduct or stimulate inquiries, investigations, research etc. on the causes of mental illnesses, on the resulting moral and economic damage to the individual and the community, on legislative and preventive medicine measures, enacted to correct such causes and avoid such damage.
  2. Carry out extended, energetic and continual works of disseminating information, collected and duly analyzed: propaganda aimed at stimulating the ruling classes and the political sphere, propaganda with an educational aim, wherever the masses can be influenced (schools, factories, barracks, agricultural communities, emigrant centers, etc.).
  3. Coordinate the actions of the League with that of the public and private associations, national or regional, that conduct similar campaigns (alcoholism, venereal diseases, intellectual and moral deficiency of adults and youth) with particular regard to the prevention of criminality.
  4. Stimulate the cooperation of teachers, scholastic physicians and scholastic wardens for the immediate selection of children predisposed to certain illnesses; and carry out analogous activities in the work and military environments.
  5. Cooperate in the preparation of specialized personnel (health and social assistants) for this special form of prophylaxis.
  6. Promote the institution by provincial administration and other public and private entities of dispensaries for the early diagnosis and ward care of those predisposed to nervous and mental illnesses, of those at the beginning of the sickness, and those discharged prematurely by hospital psychiatrists.
  7. The same institutions should promote the formation of open wards and all the innovations of medical assistance aimed at prophylaxis and cure of mental illnesses.220

120LIPIM’s scientific program and internal composition recalled many issues discussed by Italian psychiatry, in particular immediately after the First World War, with regard to the inadequacy of Italian legislation on the assistance for mental diseases and to the failure of asylums as curative hospitals.

121Leonardo Bianchi himself had sounded a cry of alarm in 1918 in front of the National Post-War Commission, and again in the Senate in 1922, appealing to the Prime Minister, Luigi Facta. Called to discuss the problem of the “social defense against neuroses and psychoses,” the National Post-War Commission completely approved Bianchi’s proposal:

  1. Institute the care in sanatoriums of the curable forms of psychotics, removing them from asylums and placing them in the psychiatric university clinics, suitably enlarged.
  2. Provide more comprehensively for schools for deficients;
  3. Intensify the fight against alcoholism and all the causes of physical degeneration.221

122Four years later, Senator Bianchi returned to his theme, stressing the growing number of feeble-minded and the consequent necessity of modifying the ineffective 1904 laws:

  • 222 Leonardo Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” Difesa sociale 1, no. 6 (Jun (...)

In Italy in 1874 there were roughly 12,000 committed feeble-minded; today there are around 45,000. […] But I maintain that the number of admitted mentally ill people in asylums represents only a small part of the sick people. When, for example, we consider that in asylums, in accordance with our laws, we can admit only those who are judged dangerous to themselves or others, it is easy to guess at the enormous numbers of infirm, neurasthenic, epileptic and degenerate people in general.222

  • 223 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 4.
  • 224 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 4.

123Based on the concept of “public security,” the Italian legislation, according to Bianchi, had transformed asylums from places of cure to incurable wards, characterized by a simple custodial function, in which the sick arrived when it was already too late. To escape this vicious circle it was necessary that the mechanism of admittance and discharge was left in the hands of medical staff, and liberated from the ties implicit in the concept of “danger,” and that a vast network of prevention finalized at “retarding the degeneration of the race” be placed side by side with asylums.223 Bianchi believed above all in interventions that would take effect on those “social illnesses” (alcoholism, syphilis, malaria, tuberculosis) deemed to be the origin of the “psychosomatic weakness of men and their offspring.” He also valued actions that caught the early symptoms of illness, in those places where it manifested publicly for the first time, that is, in the schools.224

124Next to psychiatric dispensaries and “special schools for the feebleminded,” a eugenic legislation was the third remedy suggested by Bianchi. As “the value of a race, in social conflicts, is strictly linked with physical and mental health, and above all with the vigor of the character,” the introduction of a eugenic legislation focused on the control of marriage answered a political need even more than a health one:

  • 225 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 7.

It is good to know that for every person admitted to an asylum there are no less than 50, or maybe 100 sick people headed for degeneration; we know that many of these come from marriage between imbeciles, criminals, epileptics, chronic alcoholics and various other forms of degenerates. The time for eugenic legislation will come.225

  • 226 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 7; italics added. Bianchi’s eugenics (...)

125In his address to the Prime Minister, Bianchi described eugenics as an instrument of redemption and optimization of the nation: “The stronger a nation is,” he claimed, “the less it produces infirm or incapable people, who disturb the ordinary life and work of the nation; or even when it does produce them, possesses strong organs of correction and elimination.”226

126In the same years, Enrico Morselli and his review Quaderni di psichiatria supported Bianchi’s arguments. A new column of the review, inaugurated in 1919, referred to Bianchi’s position in order to delineate the features of a “post-war psychiatry,” that is, a psychiatry fully conscious of the new social dimensions implied by the transformations which the worldwide conflict had triggered:

  • 227 La Direzione, “Per la psichiatria nel dopo-guerra,” 96.

The War has been won, but with victory we have not satisfied that larger aspiration to a renewal of all the assets of our ancient Civilization, which animate and agitate the European populations today. […] A confused bureaucracy, hostile to every innovation, fixated on its own passive resistance, makes renovation very difficult; but nevertheless, we must prepare and diffuse this program in every field of national activity.
Psychiatry, which has multiple and strict ties with social life, must first be aware of its own needs, of services that it could render, of its role in the renewal of the nation; and so we are dedicating a special column to the post-war period, and it will deal with or even only indicate those points that are now assuming importance.227

  • 228 Ferdinando Cazzamalli, “Una riforma della Spedalità psichiatrica,” Quaderni di psichiatria 6, no. (...)

127In full agreement with Morselli, the socialist Cazzamalli called for a “convention of psychiatrists” in which the “competent people” would directly confront the age-old question of reforming the asylum system. Cazzamalli declared: “For the psychiatric workshop the psychiatrists in the front line must know how to be demolishers of the old, constructors of the new, and wise organizers.”228 In the same issue of Quaderni di psichiatria, Morselli, acting as spokesman for a multiplicity of requests coming from all over Italy, presented the platform for a convention dedicated to issues of Psychiatry in the post-war period, polemically set against the Congress of the Italian Phreniatric Society, scheduled for 1920:

  • 229 La Direzione, “Per la psichiatria del dopo-guerra. Proposta di un Congresso Alienistico pel Dopogu (...)

Currently, we are aiming to put psychiatry into contact with real life, and to have it accomplish, in its social function and technical organization, those steps that respond to the greatly felt need for a general renewal. Therefore, leaving the “Phreniatric Society” to its program of contents more theoretical than practical, there are many colleagues who believe it necessary to hold a convention of a different nature, before the end of 1919, in which psychiatrists congregate to deal with the most pressing themes of “post-war psychiatry,” developing a different program from that mentioned above, which will not hamper the execution of 1920, and which will be a program more in tune with the urgent exigencies of the current historical moment.229

128Among the diverse issues listed in detail by Morselli—legislation on mentally ill and asylums, reorganization of asylums and psychiatric institutions, improvement of the professional psychiatric class—it is worth underlining the points comprised in the field of “social psychiatry”:

  1. An immediate and human definition of psychical illnesses of war and relative measures (special pension, allowance, care, etc.);
  2. Social prophylaxis against neurosis and psychosis, and eugenic measures (see the report of Leonardo Bianchi);
  3. Fight against alcoholism, syphilis, tuberculosis and pellagra;
  4. Fight against criminality, particularly underage;
  5. Social measures for the mentally ill, abnormal and amoral people, that the schools are uncovering;
  6. Severe applications of appropriate acts to develop obligatory physical education of children and youth of both sexes […].230
  • 231 La Direzione, “I nuovi indirizzi della assistenza neuro-psichiatrica,” Quaderni di psichiatria 14, (...)

129In November 1920, the Congress of Italian Psychiatrists (Congresso degli Alienisti Italiani) desired by Morselli was held in Genoa and a resolution was approved that involved a precise scheme of reform of “asylum-prisons,” summarizable in three elements: 1) Hospitals for extreme cases, with institutions for prophylaxis and mental hygiene; 2) Hospitals for chronically unable to work and special institutes for feeble-minded children and for criminals; 3) Agricultural colonies and industrial laboratories for chronically ill workers.231

  • 232 Enrico Morselli, “La funzione sociale del Manicomio,” Quaderni di psichiatria 7, no. 5–6 (May–June (...)

130This was obviously not a plan for closing asylums, but for restoring them to their presumed curative function, inserting them into an open system, differentiated (into extreme cases, incurably disabled, chronically ill workers) and “prophylactic.” This was the position that Morselli defended in 1920, in the pages of Quaderni di psichiatria, in an interesting discussion with Enrico Ferri. Asylums were not only to “defend the social body against the disease of insanity,” as Ferri maintained, but on the contrary had “a medical function, therapeutic and prophylactic”:232

  • 233 Morselli, “La funzione sociale del Manicomio,” 134.

Asylums are not only houses of custody, where the insane are closed up to take away their means to behave according to their whims, impulses or their deliriums in the midst of society, damaging its interests and disturbing its sentiments.
This tutelary function has unfortunately come to prevail in the medical-social aims of asylums, due to the coercive legislative principles of admittance of the mentally infirm; but this prevalent juridical method is absolutely damaging to the patients themselves.233

131For Morselli, the social defense of the “painful fact of insanity” should not be a main function of asylums, but must rather be relieved through “medical, hygienic and socio-political measures”:

  • 234 Morselli, “La funzione sociale del Manicomio,” 136.

The fight against alcoholism and tuberculosis; the regulation of customs and protection against sexual illnesses; the organization of schools for the feebleminded; the measures against pellagra and malaria; the general improvement of economic, hygienic-sanitary, etc. conditions. These other social defenses […], which are more effective than the functions of asylums, are those foreseen and demanded by eugenics. For example, the limitation of marriages between people hereditarily disposed or certified syphilitic and alcoholic, and perhaps also between tuberculosis sufferers; the restriction of unions between relatives, particularly among defective families; the facilitation of unions with young races […] etc.234

  • 235 Giuseppe Muggia, “Per l’avvenire della Psichiatria e dell’assistenza psichiatrica,” Quaderni di ps (...)
  • 236 Muggia, “Per l’avvenire della Psichiatria e dell’assistenza psichiatrica,” 194.

132According to Giuseppe Muggia, director of the Sondrio asylum, the creation of wards and dispensaries could transform asylums, making them “suitable for their high social function.”235 But it was above all necessary that psychiatrists lengthened their gaze “beyond the walls of the asylum,” not limiting themselves to the brief period of confinement but concentrating their energy on “wise works of prevention,” as useful on the sanitary plane as on the economic one.236

  • 237 Giulio Cesare Ferrari, “Il prossimo avvenire dell’Assistenza psichiatrica in Italia,” Quaderni di (...)
  • 238 Ferrari, “Il prossimo avvenire dell’Assistenza psichiatrica in Italia,” 114.
  • 239 Cesare Agostini, “Per un trattamento più razionale ed economico degli alienati di mente,” Quaderni (...)

133The fundamental problem—confirmed Giulio Cesare Ferrari in 1923—was that “asylums are not good for social productivity, and are not worth what they cost.”237 The solution indicated in Germany by Hoche and Binding could be shared, but it was not the only viable option. According to Ferrari, it would rather be better to rationalize the asylum system, lightening the weight of the “effectively non-dangerous incurables,” who could advantageously be utilized in work colonies, while the “psychiatric hospitals” would be wholly dedicated to the cure of “a few acutely ill.”238 Also Cesare Agostini’s psychiatric experience was focused on the organization of a “more rational and economic treatment of the mentally ill.” He was the director of the Perugia asylum, which he described as a model to imitate: the reduction of costs and the best assistance for the “acute cases” were the fruit of a vast operation of evacuation of the “tranquil and innocuous incurably demented” to “new departments in pre-existing poor asylums in Rieti, Foligno and Spoleto.”239

  • 240 Ernesto Ciarla, “Per l’istituzione di un servizio provinciale di profilassi delle malattie mentali (...)

134Again in 1923, on the occasion of the National Hygiene Convention in Milan, the physician Ernesto Ciarla called for the institution of a mental prophylaxis service. For assistance to be effective, it was necessary to intervene in favor of the sick “before the mental illness is declared,” in the socalled “premonitory period.” To this end, the institution of special clinics and dispensaries was needed, and, “to make the prophylactic measures as effective as possible, also preventoria”: the early care of subjects in whom mental illness was still in an initial stage would “impede a future incurable illness, and therefore the burden of a long maintenance of the part of public administrations.”240

135Therefore, in the moment of its constitution, LIPIM had behind it at least twenty years of debates from physicians that clearly indicated the eugenic path to follow: prevention of mental illnesses in dispensaries and identification of defectives in schools.

136Significantly, in 1935, Giuseppe Pellacani saluted the Italian movement for mental hygiene as the start of a new era for the history of psychiatry. Following the “Latin” phase (from Chiarugi and Pinel to Esquirol) that described psychopathological syndromes and constructed asylums, and the “German” phase (Griesinger, Wernicke and Kraepelin), in which the individual anatomic-clinical orientation prevailed, Pellacani believed it was now time for a “social” or “prophylactic-hygienic” phase, concerned above all with analyzing the exogenic causes of psychopathology:

  • 241 Giuseppe Pellacani, “Psichiatria e psicoigiene,” L’igiene mentale 15, no. 1 (1935): 8.

Today we have gone from individual psychiatry to the social phase, hygienic-prophylactic, of psychiatry, characterized on the theoretical-practical plane by a definite approaching of psychiatry to neurology and to general medicine, and by the necessity to know and combat the group of liminal infirmities, of light and initial infirmities, which appear in the neuropsychiatric practice of dispensaries.
This dynamic psychiatry (opposed to the static psychiatry of the old asylums) directs all its scientific interest and its practical interventions to the evolving forms [of illness] […] Boundary forms: showing how many carriers of psychopathic anomalies there are in society, with no consciousness of their infirmity […].241

  • 242 Pellacani, “Psichiatria e psicoigiene,” 9.
  • 243 Carlo Ferrio, “Nota conclusiva sull’Assistenza Psichiatrica non coattiva in Italia,” L’igiene ment (...)

137Pivot of the “diagnostics and practice of hygienic-prophylactic psychiatry,”242 dispensaries underwent an intense development in the twenties and thirties, due to the strong propulsion of LIPIM. An internal census of the League in 1936 registered the organized presence in 26 provinces: Agrigento (1931), Alessandria (1933), Ancona (1910), Arezzo (1904), Ascoli Piceno (1928), Belluno (1920), Bergamo (1931), Bologna, Catanzaro (1914), Cuneo (1932), Genoa (1928), Gorizia (1932), Mantua (1930), Milan (1924), Novara (1936), Parma (1932), Pesaro (1927), Reggio Calabria (1935), Rome (1929), Siena (1933), Sondrio (1932), Teramo (1928), Treviso, Trieste (1927), Venice (1927) and Verona (1930).243 However, the hope that the new eugenic-prophylactic apparatus would translate into a consistent possibility of economic savings, reducing the number of admissions in asylums, was quickly revealed as illusory. The new structure, managed directly by psychiatric hospital personnel, received, in fact, prevalently “psychopaths,” that is, “individuals between healthy and mentally ill,” already discharged from asylums. Moreover, the effectiveness of the dispensaries was measured, according to the census cited, more in terms of “general social utility” than in the diminution of assistance costs. These social functions were to be found:

  1. In the facilitation of the readmission into social life of those discharged from psychiatric hospitals;
  2. in combating relapses;
  3. in the study, according to scientific, statistical and medical-social criteria, of all psychical illnesses and abnormalities generally found outside of psychiatric hospitals;
  4. in transmitting to the public every sort of knowledge of social hygiene, especially psychical (prophylactic campaign).244
  • 245 Eugenio Medea, “L’igiene mentale e la scuola,” L’igiene mentale 13, no. 3 (1933): 10–12.

138As regards the eugenic “selection” in the field of education (differential classes, autonomous schools, medical-pedagogical institutes), a report by Eugenio Medea at the 2nd European Meeting for Mental Hygiene (Rome, 27–28 September 1933) listed, in particular, the differential classes in Rome, Milan and Genoa, hoping they would become “obligatory” in all the principal Italian elementary schools; the Zaccaria Treves Autonomous School in Milan; the kindergarten-school founded by Sante De Sanctis in Rome from 1899 and, also in Rome, the Montesano Orthophrenic School; the Autonomous Schools in Genoa, directed by Giuseppe Vidoni; the Medical-pedagogical Colony of Marocco in Venice, started by Tumiati; and Medical-pedagogical Institutes in Trieste, Florence, Thiene, and Bologna.245

139In Genoa and Venice, the provincial administrations instituted centralized services of mental prophylaxis, directed respectively by Vidoni and Tumiati, which controlled the neuropsychiatric dispensaries, the charitable institutions for disabled mentally ill, and the consultancies for abnormal infancies. In Genoa, an “extended medical-pedagogical assistance” paralleled the scholastic system, involving Nicola Pende’s Biotypological Institute [see chapter 4]:

  • 246 Giuseppe Pellacani, “I servizi di profilassi neuro-mentale in Italia,” L’igiene mentale 14, no. 1– (...)

For all those enrolled in the Genoa Autonomous Schools, connected to scholastic charities, to several charitable institutes and to the Biotypological Institute of the Genoa Medical Clinic, a bio-psychological diagram has been completed.
Such schools include a supplementary section for the eldest, until 14 years old, for instruction and introduction to work. In the elementary school, in industrial and agricultural schools, the psychotechnical work orientation [of the children] is determined.246

140In Naples, the scholastic problem was at the center of the activities of the regional section of LIPIM, which coincided greatly with the Neapolitan Eugenic Group: both, not coincidentally, presided over by Leonardo Bianchi. The latter—responding to the question “What does ‘mentally healthy’ mean?” for a questionnaire published by LIPIM’s review—discoursed at length on the theme of mental hygiene in classrooms:

  • 247 Leonardo Bianchi, “Che vuol dire ‘sano di mente’?,” L’igiene mentale 6, no. 2 (1926): 3.

The Italian primary schools are not well organized everywhere, they do not all offer that which is required by hygiene: very seldom are there medical-scholastic workers, prepared for all the exigencies of modern-day schools. Not all schools select students, who, due to organic conditions, or to a certain level of psychical insufficiency, need particular schools and pedagogical methods designed to develop their physical and mental organism.247

  • 248 Bianchi, “Che vuol dire ‘sano di mente’?,” 3.

141In the secondary schools, the situation was, if possible, worse: “the programs are confused, the culture is too broad; the choice of books is not guided by sound criteria, mnemonic methods prevail; no consideration is given to the individual disposition and particular attitudes; the number of overtired students is worrying.”248 These same worries were expressed by the Neapolitan Eugenic Group in 1926, concluding a “broad debate on mental hygiene, intimately linked to the healthy psychical-physical evolution of human life and therefore to the prosperous future of the individual and the race.” The group hoped:

  1. That suitable schools be provided as soon as possible in big and small cities, which are still behind in fulfillment of their fundamental social duties;
  2. That school buildings include where possible a free area, or at least wide verandas […];
  3. That the function of vigilance of health and mental hygiene in childhood and adolescence, through the figure of the school physician, should be strictly disciplined and observed as a function of the State, with a national character;
  4. That certain weak or more slowly developing students are selected and instructed in special classrooms and schools, with methods and programs more suitable for the development of their physical and mental conditions.249
  • 250 The Lazio section was particularly active in the field of optional premarital examinations, neurol (...)
  • 251 For some biographical sketches, see “IV Assemblea generale dei soci (Milano 19 marzo 1934): Commem (...)

142In Rome, the key figure was undoubtedly that of Sante De Sanctis, president of the Lazio section of LIPIM from 1924 and national president, from 1930.250 De Sanctis had been a pioneer of Italian experimental psychology, had studied methods of “scholastic selection” from the beginning of the century, was the author, in 1907, of a scale of mental tests for the evaluation of I.Q., and in 1909, of a broad “medical-pedagogical and assistance classification of mentally ill and neuropsychopathic children.”251 De Sanctis contributed to LIPIM’s eugenics with his decades of experience in the field that he himself defined as the “scientific organization of mental work.”

  • 252 Sante De Sanctis, Igiene Mentale (Turin: Paravia, n. d.), 6–7.
  • 253 De Sanctis, Igiene Mentale, 6.
  • 254 De Sanctis, Igiene Mentale, 8.

143As in the factories, also in the classrooms Taylorism should be applied. De Sanctis claimed: “There is no doubt that the school is a factory, where students work, and which needs to be productive. School productivity has a value analogous to all the economic values.”252 In order to be “guarantor of the greatness of the nation,”253 schools had to be “organized in a scientific way, as an industry of the State would be organized.” There were three phases in particular that would define the “mental and moral reclamation” of the “school factory”: the intellectual and moral “evaluation” of the scholars; the “selection,” with the “scope of eliminating those pupils from the student body that, following their evaluation, demonstrated, in their mental level or in their character, variations below normal, and therefore damaging to the community”;254 the “differentiation” of the group, aimed at distinguishing, through mental tests, the subgroups of “differentiated inferior” from the “differentiated superior” (that is, the “very intelligent” and “very wise”). After carrying out these three preliminary operations, the hygienist-teacher had to impose an optimum working regime on the scholars, following the principle of “temporary maximization of work,” with an educational, not productive, scope:

  • 255 Sante De Sanctis, “L’organizzazione scientifica del lavoro mentale,” Rivista italiana di sociologi (...)

When the students find themselves, for intrinsic reasons, in the phase of underachievement and imitate, without meaning to, certain unionized workers, we think it would be useful to whip them to maximum work. If the under-achievement is then involuntary, or is due to extrinsic causes, it is scholastic hygiene that must intervene to re-establish an optimum regime. [...] The experience has made me appreciate the practice of dividing the work as an excellent means of maximizing purely mental work, without increasing the speed and the quantity: that is to say, to teach the students secondary work, whether it is work of memorization or composition, which is subordinate to the principal work.255

  • 256 Sante De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” Gerarchia 12 (December 1928): 962.

144As well as being one of the most illustrious and active members of LIPIM, De Sanctis, from 1926, was the head of the Roman Provincial Federation of the National Maternity and Infancy League (Federazione provinciale romana dell’Opera Nazionale Maternita e Infanzia), known as ONMI. This new institutional role was instrumental in linking his competencies as a pioneer of Italian experimental psychology and his social fascist political ambitions. In 1928, in the pages of Mussolini’s Gerarchia, De Sanctis welcomed the constitution of ONMI with enthusiasm, but at the same time, invited the regime to listen to the advice of experts: “Social assistance monitored by the State demands expertise; and it demands it in the name of its aim, which is the defense of the stock.”256 The problem of selection between the “recoverable” and “rejected” was once again central:

  • 257 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 963.

To the “rejected” group, we must assign the juvenile deficients, paralytics, serious idiots, deficients, serious epileptics, invalids with complications, such as: deaf-mutes, or deficient blind people, or blind epileptics, and the mentally ill with tuberculosis.
To the “recoverable” group, we can easily assign so-called “differentiated” juveniles, and deficients and epileptics with paresis or not, but not the most serious […].257

  • 258 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 966.

145The grouping into two categories was to be based on “psychological methods,” fast and flexible, rather than on the extremely useful, but “long and delicate,” “polymorphic investigations” of Pende’s Biotypological Institute. According to De Sanctis, the judgment of “educability” had to be made “as technical as possible” and, to such an aim, it was necessary that the selection operate according to criteria of “social and productive adaptation of the mentally ill”:258

  • 259 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 965.

The technical assistance of the “recoverables” is done, because (to speak in banking, therefore brutal, terms) what is spent represents a species of advance or loan on the part of the community, which will be compensated in time by the future productivity of the assisted.259

  • 260 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 965.

146The same internal ONMI memorandum, on the 20 February 1928, declared, however, that assistance should only be granted to elements functional to national interests: “Assistance from ONMI is justified only for those individuals who, in the appropriate conditions, could operate socially as useful and productive elements for the nation.”260 The “training in a profitable job” was therefore, for De Sanctis, “the most serious and most economic instrument of correction, of social redemption for our unhappy youth”:

  • 261 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 969.

Now, if the deficients of the kindergarten/school children from 12 years onwards can achieve an “individual economic value” that is from 50–80% of the value of normal children of the same age, this will inevitably have one consequence: social legislation that imposes obligatory work on abnormal children and youths, whether feeble-minded or unstable of conduct. In sum: “ruralize” and “industrialize” the “recoverable” deficients.261

147As well as being economically advantageous for the “defense of the stock,” the “techniques of work” exercised an obvious therapeutic function:

  • 262 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 970.

Work “recovers,” because it develops common sense. […] Common sense can certainly not be obtained with education; since there are no rudiments and no training. It can only be hoped that it will develop in “recoverables” through the acquisition of the consciousness of their own force to overcome the extrinsic and intrinsic obstacles of life. Consciousness that cannot be acquired if not through work that is visibly and tangibly productive, transformable into easily comprehensible values. Therefore, the ideal education of deficients must be homo faber, not homo sapiens.262

  • 263 Luigi Maggiore, “L’assistenza dello Stato agli invalidi, storpi e mutilati,” Politica sociale 4 (1 (...)

148“Of useless men, make productive elements”:263 this was the objective that sanctioned the happy meeting of the fascist social assistance system with the specific current of eugenic thought that was rooted in the development of experimental psychology and mental hygiene in Italy. Reform of asylums, psychiatric dispensaries and “differential classes” were, ultimately, three aspects of a single eugenic project, of which the ultimate goal was the maximum level of economic rationalization of national biological resources.

  • 264 Friedländer, The Origins of Nazi Genocide. From Euthanasia to the Final Solution, 26. The law defi (...)
  • 265 “I Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Parigi, 30–31 maggio 1932),” L’igiene mentale 12, no. 2 (...)
  • 266 “I Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Parigi, 30–31 maggio 1932),” 17.

149In the 1920s, this eugenic approach had represented an alternative method of efficient management to the Hoche and Binding proposal, while in the 1930s it was at odds with Nazi eugenic sterilization policies. Borrowed from a precedent Prussian project of 1932, the German sterilization law was approved on 14 July 1933, with the name of “Law on the Prevention of Genetically Deficient Progeny” (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses). It opened the offensive against the disabled, only six months after Hitler came to power, and became the “cornerstone of the regime’s eugenic and racial legislation.”264 At the First European Congress for Mental Hygiene (Paris, 30–31 May 1932), the Italian delegates, with Tumiati and Corberi at their head, impeded the approval of a resolution, based on the report of the Swiss psychiatrist Ernst Rüdin265—director from 1931 of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry in Munich and from 1933 head of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene—according to whom “the only effective weapon for mental hygiene [...] is that of impeding the fertility and the development of the sexually defective.”266 A year later in Rome, during the Second European Congress for Mental Hygiene, it was Sante De Sanctis who hurled himself against the theoretic premise of the 14 July 1933 law:

  • 267 “II Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Roma, 27–28 settembre 1933),” L’igiene mentale 13, no. (...)

Rüdin’s empirical hereditary prognosis is supported by statistics that are too limited to be the basis of a method of demonstration. In order to be convinced, you must already have... prejudices that not everyone shares. For instance, faith in “Morel’s harmful progressive heredity” or in the absolute applicability of Mendel’s Laws to human generations; or the certainty of a “progressive cerebration” in the sense of von Economo; or the mystic adoration of Nietzsche’s “superman” or the perfect model of a privileged and omnipotent race. [...] We are not in favour of the kind of catastrophic eugenics that pays homage to one or more of these preconceptions. We wish to use indirect means for the prophylaxis of neuropsychological illnesses, even if we lack faith in the automatic elimination of psychodegenerated, of the unfit and the carriers of hereditary predispositions.267

  • 268 “II Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Roma, 27–28 settembre 1933),” 43.

150As an alternative to the German “catastrophic eugenics,” De Sanctis proposed the assistance activities of ONMI “with the aim of improving the stock.” And his eugenic ambitions, more than Germany, looked to California, particularly to Lewis Terman’s model of “supernormal classes”: an effective means, according to the Italian psychologist, of “creating an elite of intellectually superior men, for the good of the community.”268

151In July 1936, in Paris, on the occasion of the Second International Congress of Mental Hygiene, Arturo Donaggio, director of the Neuropsychiatric clinics of Bologna and president of the Italian Society of Psychiatry, publicly contested Rüdin’s theory in favor of eugenic sterilization:

  • 269 “II Giornata genealogica,” Atti della Lega italiana di igiene e profilassi mentale (1938): 106.

Prof. Rüdin, to justify compulsory sterilization, starts from premises based on a certainty. In fact, only absolute certainty can justify the intervention of authority, which decides the fates of a human personality, which imposes on his future in a decisive way. Now, does this indispensable condition of certainty in the premise of Prof. Rüdin really exist?269

  • 270 “II Giornata genealogica,” 106.

152According to Donaggio, Rüdin based compulsory sterilization on a “public health system inspired by eugenic principles,” but actually eugenics was “not a real and proper science,” but only a “complex of observations, which is trying to constitute a body of science.” In second place, the “medical body excelling in the art of diagnosis” theorized by Rüdin, did not exist in reality, because “in fact, diagnoses are frequently disparate.” Finally, “human hereditary biology” could not establish a sufficient basis for certainty, as it was also a “discipline still under formation.” And all this was without even considering the possible “processes of regeneration,” or the fact that “at times, beautiful minds and even geniuses—that is, propellant elements of human civilization, representative individuals or heroes in the sense of Emerson or Carlyle—had hereditary ancestors heavily burdened with mental illness.” Donaggio’s conclusive judgment admitted no doubts: “For the current state of our knowledge, the not so certain bases that we possess cannot allow a decision of authority regarding a disablement of human personality, that is, sterilization.”270

153A few years would pass before Italian psychiatry expressed what it was disposed to import from Nazi psychiatric eugenics: not the sterilization laws of 1933, but rather the model of a national center of genetic psychiatry, based on the example of Munich and Berlin.

Notes

1 On the expansion of the State functions in public health and welfare policies, after 1918, see Michele Pietravalle, “Per un Ministero della Sanità ed Assistenza Pubblica in Italia,” Nuova Antologia 1131 (1919): 111; Pietro Bertolini, “Assicurazioni operaie e provvidenze sociali,” Nuova Antologia 1107–08 (1918): 3–30; 149– 76; Pietro Capasso, L’assistenza di oggi e l’assistenza di domani (Napoli: Stab. Tipografico Morano, 1920). For a comprehensive framework of the issue, Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 203–23.

2 In February 1914, the Parliamentary Medical Fascio (Fascio medico parlamentare), piloted by hygienist Giuseppe Sanarelli in the first decade of the century, became the Parliamentary Medical Committee (Comitato Medico Parlamentare) crossing political battle-lines; see Tommaso Detti, “Stato, guerra e tubercolosi (1915–1922),” in Franco Della Peruta, ed., Storia d’Italia. Annali, vol. 7, Malattia e medicina (Turin: Einaudi, 1984): 880.

3 For the statute of SISQS, see “Società italiana per lo studio delle questioni sessuali,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 1, no. 4 (July–August 1921): 272–74.

4 For an intellectual profile of Aldo Mieli, see Claudio Pogliano, “Aldo Mieli, storico della scienza,” Belfagor 5 (1983): 537–57.

5 SIGE was established on 15 March 1919: the president was Pestalozza, vice-president Gini, secretary Artom and vice-secretary Boldrini. SIGE’s steering committee included representatives of different disciplines: Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri (anthropology), Cesare Artom (general biology), Romualdo Pirotta (botany), Giulio Fano (physiology), Alessandro Ghigi (zoology), Bartolomeo Moreschi (zootechnics), Francesco Radaeli (Dermo-syphilopathic Clinic), Vittorio Ascoli (clinical physician), Giuseppe Sanarelli (social hygiene), Ettore Marchiafava (general pathology), Giovanni Mingazzini (psychiatry), Ernesto Pestalozza (obstetrics and gynaecology), Silvio Longhi (juridical science), Achille Loria (social science), Corrado Gini (statistics), Giovanni Marchesini (moral science), Enrico Modigliani (paediatrics). See Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica (Rome: Tipografia del Senato di G. Bardi, 1920), 6–7 and 9. See “Società italiana di genetica ed eugenica,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 1, no. 1 (January–February 1921): 53. On the modification of the statute, see Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 6, no. 3 (September 1926): 292–93.

6 Corrado Gini to Leonard Darwin (1 August 1919), Wellcome Institute, SA, EUG, c. 123.

7 Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 8–9.

8 Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 9.

9 Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 9 (reply not signed by the Eugenics Education Society, 7 May 1920).

10 See Difesa sociale 1 (1922): 18.

11 See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 242–43. At the start of 1924, the number of members was over one hundred: see “Società italiana per lo studio delle questioni sessuali,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 4, no. 1 (January– February 1924): 42.

12 See Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 4, no. 3 (May–June 1924): 215–16.

13 Cesare Artom, “Indicazioni sommarie sugli studi di genetica,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 15–20.

14 Cesare Artom, “Per gli studi di genetica ed eugenica,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 13.

15 Artom, “Per gli studi di genetica ed eugenica,” 13–14.

16 Artom, “Per gli studi di genetica ed eugenica,” 14.

17 Giovanni Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 24.

18 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 24.

19 On Charles Richet’s La sélection humaine, see, in particular, Schneider, Quality and Quantity, 109–13.

20 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 26.

21 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 28.

22 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 28–29.

23 Marchesini, “Il fattore psicologico nel dominio dell’eugenica,” 24.

24 Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 31.

25 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 34.

26 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 33.

27 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 35.

28 Giuffrida-Ruggeri, “Il problema fondamentale dell’eugenica,” 35.

29 Achille Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” in Atti della Società Italiana di Genetica ed Eugenica, 37–38.

30 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 38.

31 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 39.

32 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 39.

33 Loria, “I confluenti economici dell’eugenismo,” 39–40.

34 Ettore Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro (Rome: La Voce, 1921).

35 For the curriculum vitae of Ettore Levi, see the documentation sent by Levi to Mussolini’s secretary on 12 March 1930, in ACS, SPD, CO, b. 109005/2, “Levi Ettore.” For more informations on him as a eugenicist, see Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 215–25, and Roberto Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1999), 14–22.

36 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 10.

37 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 10.

38 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 14.

39 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 19.

40 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 19.

41 Levi, La medicina sociale in difesa della vita e del lavoro, 9.

42 For the debate on Critica sociale, see Ettore Levi, I partiti e la salute della stirpe (Rome: IPAS 1921).

43 Among others, Luigi Luzzatti, Benedetto Croce, Camillo Golgi (Nobel prize winner for medicine and president of the Superior Council of Public Health), Bonaldo Stringher (director of the Bank of Italy and president of the National Insurance Institute), Gino Olivetti (secretary of the General Industrial Confederation), Pio Foa (president of the Italian Anti-Tubercular Federation), Giuseppe De Michelis (Commissioner General of Emigration), Ettore Marchiafava (malariologist and vice-president of the Italian Red Cross).

44 In particular, propaganda posters for schools and workplaces (Direttissimo della salute [Health express], Alfabeto della salute [Alphabet of health], Medusa, Conquista della salute [To conquer health]); the reprint of the volumes dedicated to social hygiene; the establishment in 1924 of the first Filmoteca Nazionale di Educazione Sociale [National Film Archive of Social Education]. See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 218–19.

45 In particular, Levi, in his role in the League of Red Cross Societies, supported the foundation of a Central International Committee for the Coordination of the International Federations of Preventive Medicine and Social Relief; see Ettore Levi, Central International Committee for the Coordination of the International Federations of Preventive Medicine and Social Relief (Rome: IPAS 1924), cited in Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 220.

46 Ettore Levi, “Per l’avvenire della razza,” Difesa sociale 1, no. 1 (January 1922): 7.

47 Ettore Levi, “Alle radici dei mali sociali: il fascismo alla prova,” Difesa sociale 2, no. 1 (January 1923): 3.

48 See, in particular, Weindling, Health, Race and German Politics, 399–440.

49 See, for example, “La visita prematrimoniale in Danimarca e in Austria,” Difesa sociale 2, no. 11 (November 1923): 12–13; “Austria. Visita medica prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 10 (October 1925): 23–24; “Belgio. L’esame medico prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 5, no. 4 (April 1926): 18.

50 See, for example, “Stati Uniti. Il certificato medico prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 7 (July 1925): 23; “Cenni storici e critici sulla sterilizzazione eugenica,” Difesa sociale 5, no. 5 (May 1926): 10–11.

51 [Ettore Levi], “Contenuto etico e sociale dell’Eugenica,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 11 (November 1925): 14. For a discussion of Mendel laws, see R. Righetti, “Le basi scientifiche del movimento eugenico,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 12 (December 1925): 10–14.

52 [Levi], “Contenuto etico e sociale dell’Eugenica,” 15.

53 [Ettore Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” Difesa sociale 5, no. 1 (January 1926): 15.

54 [Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” 16.

55 [Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” 16.

56 [Levi], “La fecondità dei deficienti come problema di Eugenica,” 16.

57 See Angelo Zuccarelli, “Al professor Ettore Levi, membro del Consiglio superiore di sanita,” Il pensiero sanitario 18 (1922): 3–4; Ettore Levi, “Risposta al professore A. Zuccarelli, in tema di eugenica,” Il pensiero sanitario 19 (1922): 3–4.

58 See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 128–31.

59 Gaetano Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo. Saggio di ricerche sulla trasmissione ereditaria dei caratteri biologici (Florence: Vallecchi, 1924), 461–62.

60 For more information on these aspects, see Francesco Campione’s book, Per i germi della specie (Bari: Laterza, 1920) and the articles in the journal L’igiene e la vita by physician and socialist member of Parliament Giulio Casalini. See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 187–90.

61 Tullio Rossi-Doria, “Congresso di ostetricia sociale,” Il Policlinico - Sezione pratica 3 (19 January 1919): 79.

62 For an analysis of the clash between the activities of Rossi-Doria in the field of “social medicine” to protect the weaker classes and the maximalist left-wing of the socialist party, see Tullio Rossi-Doria, Medicina sociale e socialismo. Scritti per l’educazione politica e igienica dei lavoratori (Rome: Mongini, 1904).

63 Tullio Rossi-Doria supported, at the end of the 1800s, the Lamarckian theory of the heredity of acquired characteristics, to reinforce the importance of “preventive medicine” in the rational and hygienic management of the reproductive process: see Tullio Rossi-Doria, L’eredità delle malattie (Milan: Vallardi, 1893). In 1913, he became a member of the Italian Committee of Eugenic Studies.

64 Tullio Rossi-Doria, “Congresso di ostetricia sociale,” Il Policlinico - Sezione pratica 4 (26 January 1919): 113. The Congress was characterised by papers on the “protection of legitimate pregnancy” (E. Truzzi); “illegitimate pregnancy” (E. Alfieri); the “assistance for illegitimate children” (O. Viana); the public diffusion of “obstetrical hygienic norms to advantage the mother and the unborn child” (T. Rossi-Doria); the “tuberculosis in pregnancy and anti-tubercular prophylaxis in infancy” (L. Mangiagalli), on the prophylaxis of syphilis (I. Clivio); “alcoholism and maternity” (E. Ferroni); and on methods to slow “the increasing frequency of criminal abortions and neo-Malthusian practices” (E. Pinzani).

65 Ettore Levi, “Il controllo delle nascite (neomalthusianismo),” Rassegna di studi sessuali 4, no. 1 (January–February 1924): 24–25.

66 Levi, “Il controllo delle nascite,” 29.

67 Gini was the only Italian, together with Ettore Levi, to participate in the Sixth International Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, with a presentation titled “On Birth Control,” later published in Difesa sociale 4, no. 3–4 (March–April 1925): 83–87. See also Corrado Gini, “Il neomalthusianismo,” Difesa sociale 1, no. 8 (August 1922); Corrado Gini, “Prime ricerche sulla fecondabilità della donna,” Atti del Regio Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti 83, part 2 (1924): 315–44; Corrado Gini, “Nuove ricerche sulla fecondabilità della donna,” Atti del Regio Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti 84, part 2 (1925): 269–308; Corrado Gini, “Decline in the Birth-Rate and the Fecundability of Woman,” Eugenics Review 17 (January 1926): 258–74.

68 Corrado Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione (Catania: Studio editoriale moderno, 1931): 103. The book is the fruit of the conference held in 1927 at the Italo-Brazilian Culture Institute (Istituto di Alta Cultura italobrasiliano) in Rio de Janeiro, integrated with the university lessons from the years 1927–28 and 1930–31.

69 See ch. 4, 179–183.

70 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 112.

71 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 117.

72 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 118.

73 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 125.

74 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 125.

75 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 130.

76 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 137.

77 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 136.

78 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 137.

79 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 142.

80 Gini, Le basi scientifiche della popolazione, 142.

81 Ettore Levi, “Demografia ed eugenica in rapporto al movimento contemporaneo per il razionale controllo delle nascite,” in Roberto Almagià, ed., Atti della SIPS. XIV riunione (Pavia, 24–29 maggio 1925) (Rome: SIPS 1926), 120.

82 Anna Treves, Le nascite e la politica nell’Italia del Novecento (Milan: LED, 2001), 128.

83 Ettore Levi to Corrado Gini, 1 February 1926, ACS, Gini Papers (hereafter AG), b. b5.

84 For a complete list of the titles in the series, see Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 241.

85 Silvestro Baglioni, Principii di eugenica (Naples: Edizioni del Pensiero sanitario 1926), 44. See also Silvestro Baglioni, “Problemi eugenici e demografici nei riguardi del rafforzamento della razza,” in Lucio Silla, ed., Atti della SIPS. XXVI riunione (Venezia, 12–18 settembre 1937) (Rome: SIPS, 1938), 1, 363–96.

86 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 46.

87 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 47.

88 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 51.

89 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 53.

90 Baglioni, Principii di eugenica, 54.

91 Pietro Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica (Naples: Edizioni del Pensiero sanitario, 1926), 58. For a similar position, see Leonardo Bianchi, “Iperpopolazione ed eugenica,” Il pensiero sanitario 3 (1928): 12–16.

92 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 17.

93 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 28.

94 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 44–45.

95 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 45.

96 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 49.

97 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 46.

98 Capasso, Pressione demografica, emigrazione ed eugenica, 58.

99 See Marie-Thérèse Nisot, La Question Eugénique dans les divers pays, 2 vols., (Brussels: Librairie Falk Fils, 1927 and 1929).

100 Ferdinando De Napoli, “Lue, maternità, eugenica e guerra in rapporto alla Politica Sanitaria,” Il Policlinico-Sezione pratica 45 (1919): 1323.

101 De Napoli, “Lue, maternità, eugenica e guerra in rapporto alla Politica Sanitaria,” 1326.

102 See Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 179.

103 See “Primo convegno italiano delle dottoresse in medicina,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 1, no. 5 (September– October 1921): 278–79.

104 A. M., “Il certificato sanitario prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 2, no. 6 (November–December 1922): 357. On 10 February 1923, the Parliamentary Medical Group entrusted Pietro Capasso with preparing a draft bill on “Health certificates for marriage contracts” (Certificato sanitario dei contraenti matrimonio): see “Il fascio medico parlamentare,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 1 (January–February 1923): 74.

105 Max Hirsch, Chi debbo sposare? Consigli di un medico (Rome: Leonardo da Vinci, 1923).

106 A. M., “Il certificato sanitario prematrimoniale,” 357–58.

107 Vincenzo Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 2, no. 6 (November–December 1922): 359.

108 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” 359.

109 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” 360.

110 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale e la profilassi sociale della sifilide,” 360.

111 Montesano, “A proposito di certificato matrimoniale e di abolizionismo,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 1 (January–February 1923): 122.

112 Domenico Barduzzi, “Sul certificato sanitario prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 1 (January–February 1923): 45.

113 Ferdinando De Napoli, “Visita prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 1 (January–February 1923): 50.

114 De Napoli, “Visita prematrimoniale,” 50.

115 De Napoli, “Visita prematrimoniale,” 52.

116 Pietro Capasso, “Intorno al certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 3 (May–June 1923): 188.

117 Pietro Capasso, “Intorno al certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 4 (July–August 1923): 229.

118 Pietro Capasso, “Intorno al certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 3 (May–June 1923): 189.

119 Aristide Zippari Garola, “Ancora sul certificato matrimoniale,’” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 4 (July–August 1923): 328.

120 Guido Verrotti, “Il certificato medico prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 3 (May–June 1923): 333.

121 Verrotti, “Il certificato medico prematrimoniale,” 333–34.

122 Pietro Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 6 (November–December 1923): 380.

123 See “Notizie. Problemi di eugenica e profilassi in un colloquio dell’on. Capasso con S.E. Mussolini,” Rassegna di studi sessuali 3, no. 6 (November–December 1923): 438; italics added.

124 Pietro Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 4, no. 3 (May–June 1924): 179.

125 Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” 183.

126 Capasso, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” 181.

127 The resolution was reported in Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 4, no. 3 (May–June 1924): 189.

128 On the two inquiries, see also Massimo Ciceri, Origini controllate. La prima eugenetica in Italia (1900–1924) (Rome: Prospettiva Editrice, 2009).

129 See Ferdinando De Napoli, “Difendiamo la stirpe,” Il Resto del Carlino, (26 January 1927). De Napoli continued to support the necessity of a “state prophylaxis of marriage” even after the Ascension Day Speech: see Ferdinando De Napoli, Da Malthus a Mussolini. La guerra che noi preferiamo (Bologna: Cappelli, 1934).

130 See Ipsen, Dictating Demography, 186–87.

131 Umberto Gabbi, “Sentimento e necessità,” Il Resto del Carlino (28 January 1927).

132 Gabbi, “Sentimento e necessità.”

133 Gesualdo Ciarrusso, “Risposta affermativa,” Il Resto del Carlino (30 January 1927).

134 Guglielmo Bilancioni, “Questione di civiltà,” Il Resto del Carlino (2 February 1927).

135 Enrico Ferri, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 1–2.

136 Ferri, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” 1–2.

137 For a bibliography on the figure of Arcangelo Ilvento, see Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista, 32.

138 Arcangelo Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 3–4.

139 Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” 6.

140 Aldo Mieli, “Proposte pratiche,” Il Resto del Carlino (9 February 1927).

141 Vincenzo Montesano, “Risposta negativa,” Il Resto del Carlino (2 February 1927).

142 Ernesto Pestalozza, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 4–5.

143 Vittorio Ascoli, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 2–3.

144 Giovanni Mingazzini, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 2–3.

145 Giuseppe Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 3.

146 Montesano, “Il certificato prematrimoniale,” 3.

147 Nicola Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale: obbligo legale od obbligo morale?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 10.

148 Sante De Sanctis, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 3 (March 1927): 2. In his role as president of the Lazio section of the Italian League of Hygiene and Mental Prophylaxis, Sante De Sanctis approved, in January 1927, the adoption of a “campaign scheme,” full of “hygienic-prophylactic” rules for engaged couples, which had to be printed on the back of prescriptions written by the neuropsychiatric wards, see “Lega Italiana d’Igiene e Profilassi Mentale. Sezione laziale,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 1 (January 1927): 13–14.

149 Giuseppe Lucchetti, “Le difficoltà del certificato,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).

150 Alessandro Stoppato, “I vantaggi e i danni,” Il Resto del Carlino (28 January 1927).

151 Giuseppe Pellacani, “Basta la visita prematrimoniale?,” Il Resto del Carlino (30 January 1927).

152 Lucchetti, “Le difficoltà del certificato.”

153 Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” 10.

154 Pellacani, “Basta la visita prematrimoniale?.”

155 Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” 8–9.

156 Leone Lattes, “Dalla teoria alla pratica,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).

157 Pellacani, “Basta la visita prematrimoniale?.”

158 Antonio Dal Prato, “Basta la pratica igienica,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).

159 Salvatore Ottolenghi, “I rimedi legali sono insufficienti,” Il Resto del Carlino (6 February 1927).

160 Francesco Bonola, “Soluzione negativa,” Il Resto del Carlino (9 February 1927).

161 Mieli, “Proposte pratiche.”

162 Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” 8.

163 Ilvento, “Visita medica prematrimoniale?,” 7. See also Arturo Donaggio, “La visita medica prematrimoniale obbligatoria,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 4.

164 Pende, “Sul certificato prematrimoniale,” 10.

165 Widar Cesarini Sforza, “Perché approviamo la ‘visita prematrimoniale,’” Il Resto del Carlino (17 February 1927).

166 Cesarini Sforza, “Perché approviamo la ‘visita prematrimoniale.’”

167 Augusto Carelli, “Visita prematrimoniale obbligatoria?,” Difesa sociale 6, no. 4 (April 1927): 6. After Mussolini Ascension Day Speech (May 1927), Carelli became a firm opponent of neo-Malthusianism and “Nordic” eugenics: see Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista, 33; Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 300–01.

168 The initiative was promoted, in 1924, by gynaecologist Emilio Alfieri and again in 1928 by gynaecologist and president of the Milan Red Cross, Alfonso Cuzzi.

169 For the initiatives of the local group of SISQS and, in particular, of syphilographer Arturo Fontana, see Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 6, no. 4 (December 1926): 326–28 and Rassegna di studi sessuali, demografia e di eugenica 8, no. 1 (January–March 1928): 25ff.

170 For the initiatives of the Ligurian group of SISQS and the lecturer of legal medicine Gian Giacomo Perrando; see Rassegna di studi sessuali e di eugenica 8, no. 2–3 (April–November 1928): 164ff.

171 For the initiatives of the local Sanitary Group of Fascio femminile, see Difesa sociale 5, no. 7 (July 1926): 167.

172 Promoted by the Poliambulanza Felsinea; see “Il consultorio medico prenuziale,” Il Resto del Carlino (14 April 1928).

173 ACS, SPD, CO, b. 509.560/III, “Istituto Centrale di Statistica,” sf. 1: “I.C.S. – Provvedimenti legislativi nell’Interesse Demografico.” See also Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 291, for a deeper analysis of the topic.

174 Umberto Gabbi, “La battaglia per la natalità,” Archivio fascista di medicina politica 2 (1928): 267–68.

175 See “Politica demografica e crisi di natalità,” Archivio fascista di medicina politica 2 (1928): 283–359. Korherr’s volume was published by the Libreria del Littorio in 1928, with a preface by Mussolini. On the figure of Umberto Gabbi, right-wing liberal, interventionist, nationalist in 1919, fascist in 1923, member of Parliament in 1924 and senator for “exceptional scientific merit,” see Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista, 33–38; Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 269–70 and 286–87.

176 In United States, in 1907, the state of Indiana (USA) approved the first sterilization law for criminals, idiots, imbeciles and those guilty of sexual violence. By 1924, approximately 3,000 people had been involuntarily sterilised in America; the vast majority in California. By the late 1930s, more than fifteen states of the United States, as well as the parliamentary governments of several European states and Canada, had adopted compulsory and “voluntary” legislation authorizing sterilization, castration, and abortion on eugenic grounds. In Europe, the first example of sterilization legalisation with a eugenic aim was in the Swiss canton of Vaud, in 1928. It was followed by Denmark (1929, 1934, 1935), Germany (1933, 1935), Norway (1934), Sweden (1935, 1941), Finland (1935) and Estonia (1936). Among the most recent studies, see Marius Turda, “‘To End the Degeneration of a Nation’: Debates on Eugenics Sterilization in Inter-war Romania,” Medical History, 53 (2009): 77–104; Mark A. Largent, Breeding Contempt: the History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2008); Gisela Bock, “Nationalsozialistische Sterilisationpolitik,” in Klaus-Dietmar Henke, ed., Tödliche Medizin im Nationalsozialismus. Von der Rassenhygiene zum Massenmord (Cologne: Böhlau, 2008): 85–99; Ian Dowbiggin, The Sterilization Movement and Global Fertility in the Twentieth Century (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Natalia Gerodetti, “From science to social technology: eugenics and politics in twentieth-century Switzerland,” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society, 13, no. 1 (2006): 59–88.

177 On Zuccarelli, see also see Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista, 12; Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 52–53.

178 Angelo Zuccarelli, “Asessualizzazione o sterilizzazione dei degenerati,” L’anomalo, 8, no. 6 (1898–99), offprint.

179 Angelo Zuccarelli, “Per la sterilizzazione della donna come mezzo per limitare o impedire la riproduzione dei maggiormente degenerati,” Bollettino della Società Ginecologica di Napoli 1 (February–March–April 1901): 3.

180 Angelo Zuccarelli, “La proposta della ‘sterilizzazione’ dei più anormali quale misura profilattica sociale contro la degenerazione,” L’anomalo (1909):16–17, offprint.

181 Angelo Zuccarelli, Il problema capitale della “eugenica” (Ferrara: Industrie Grafiche Italiane, 1924), 8.

182 Umberto Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” L’infanzia anormale 5–6 (1920): 1–86; 79–80. On the figure of Saffiotti, see also Maiocchi, Scienza italiana e razzismo fascista, 18; Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 176–77.

183 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 81.

184 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 81.

185 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 81.

186 Saffiotti, “Eugenica e anormali,” 82–83.

187 Important exponent of Florentine socialism from the start of the nineteenth century, anti-interventionist and anti-fascist, on 10 June 1925 Pieraccini was detained by authorities, while, with Carlo Rosselli and Alessandro Levi, he was laying flowers on the tomb of Garibaldi in memory of Giacomo Matteotti. In 1930, he was arrested for handing out commemorative manifestos about Matteotti. The sentence of a year of imprisonment was commuted to an admonishment. His house was a meeting place for anti-fascists, and the police believed he was in contact with anti-fascist emigrants. He became the first mayor of Florence after Liberation. See ACS, CPC, b. 3954, f. 5944, “Pieraccini Gaetano.” For a biographic profile, see Maurizio Degl’Innocenti, Gaetano Pieraccini. Socialismo, medicina sociale e previdenza obbligatoria (Manduria: Lacaita, 2003).

188 See Gaetano Pieraccini, La difesa della società dalle malattie trasmissibili (Torino: Bocca, 1895).

189 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo. For a review of this “brilliant book,” see M. Carrara, “Le leggi dell’eredità in una storica famiglia italiana,” Difesa sociale 5, no. 4 (April 1926): 6–9.

190 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 445.

191 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 445–46.

192 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 447–48.

193 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 457.

194 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 459.

195 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 458.

196 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 460.

197 Pieraccini, La stirpe dei Medici di Cafaggiolo, 461.

198 On the figure of Paolo Enriques, see Claudio Pogliano, “Bachi, polli e grani. Appunti sulla ricezione della genetica in Italia,” Nuncius. Annali di Storia della Scienza 14, no. 1 (1999): 150–52.

199 Paolo Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo (Milan: Vallardi, 1924), 380.

200 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 381–82.

201 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 384–85.

202 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 385.

203 Paolo Enriques, “Eugenica e diritto,” Studi sassaresi 1 (1921).

204 Enriques, L’eredità nell’uomo, 386.

205 Carlo Foa, “L’eredità dei caratteri normali e patologici. 1,” Gerarchia 9 (1925): 609–13; Carlo Foa, “L’eredità dei caratteri normali e patologici. 2,” Gerarchia 10 (1925): 677–82; Carlo Foa, “L’eredità dei caratteri normali e patologici. 3,” Gerarchia 11 (1925): 745–50; Carlo Foa, “Conseguenze sociali dell’eredità biologica,” Gerarchia 12 (1925): 815–19.

206 Professor of human physiology at the University of Milan, collaborator of Pende—see Carlo Foa and Nicola Pende, La fisiologia e la clinica degli increti (Milan: Istituto Biochimico Italiano, 1927)—president (from 1929) of the Italian Society of Social Medicine (Società Italiana di Medicina Sociale), Carlo Foa became, starting from 1927, one of the most orthodox voices of the pronatalist population policy and of “quantitative” eugenics of the regime: see Carlo Foa, “Eugenica e matrimonio italiano,” Politica sociale 4 (1932): 191–200. In 1938, he fell victim to the racial laws. For his views on sterilization, see Carlo Foa, “Eugenetica e diritto,” Gerarchia 1 (1926): 58–61; Foa, “Opere e leggi di medicina sociale,” Gerarchia 2 (1927): 151–52.

207 See ch. 4, 147–58.

208 Roberto Michels, Problemi di sociologia applicata (Turin: Bocca, 1919), 1–14.

209 Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens, ihr Mass und ihre Form (Leipzig, F. Meiner, 1920). On the Binding-Hoche polemic, see among others: Henry Friedländer, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 13–16.

210 Enrico Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa (eutanasia) in rapporto alla medicina, alla morale e all’eugenica, (Turin: Bocca, 1923), 89.

211 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 66.

212 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 232.

213 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 237.

214 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 250.

215 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 253.

216 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 258.

217 Morselli, L’uccisione pietosa, 259.

218 Invited in 1923 to a meeting in Paris in his role as vice-president of the International Commission for the Study and Prophylaxis of Mental Illnesses, Ferrari was urged to institute also in Italy a section of the new International League of Prophylaxis and Mental Hygiene created in New York on the initiative of Clifford W. Beers. In Italy, Ferrari contributed to the creation of a provisory committee for participations in future congresses in New York of the International League and, in view of the formation of a National League, coordinated with Ettore Levi, already supporter since 1921 of a similar project: see Giulio Cesare Ferrari, “La lega italiana per l’igiene mentale,” Difesa sociale 3, no. 6 (June 1924): 4–6.

219 The list of regions and their relative presidents is as follows: Piedmont (Lugaro), Lombardy (Medea), Veneto (Cappelletti), Liguria (Vidoni), Emilia (Ferrari), Tuscany (Amaldi), Marche (Modena), Lazio (De Sanctis), Abruzzo (Del Greco), Campania (D’Abundo), Apulia and Sicily (the clinical psychiatrists of the Universities of Catania and Bari), Sardinia (De Lisi): see “Costituzione della Lega Italiana di Igiene e Profilassi Mentale. Resoconto ufficiale della seduta inaugurale. Bologna 19 ottobre 1924,” Difesa sociale 3, no. 11 (November 1924): 8.

220 Costituzione della Lega Italiana di Igiene e Profilassi Mentale,” 8.

221 La Direzione, “Per la psichiatria nel dopo-guerra,” Quaderni di psichiatria 6, no. 3–4 (March–April 1919): 98.

222 Leonardo Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” Difesa sociale 1, no. 6 (June 1922): 3.

223 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 4.

224 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 4.

225 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 7.

226 Bianchi, “Medicina preventiva e malattie nervose e mentali,” 7; italics added. Bianchi’s eugenics was based on neo-Lamarckian theories that used the “engrams” or “mnemes” of Richard Semon to describe the evolution of the “germ plasm”: see Leonardo Bianchi, Eugenica, igiene mentale e profilassi delle malattie nervose e mentali (Naples: Idelson, 1925).

227 La Direzione, “Per la psichiatria nel dopo-guerra,” 96.

228 Ferdinando Cazzamalli, “Una riforma della Spedalità psichiatrica,” Quaderni di psichiatria 6, no. 5–6 (May–June 1919): 138.

229 La Direzione, “Per la psichiatria del dopo-guerra. Proposta di un Congresso Alienistico pel Dopoguerra,” Quaderni di psichiatria 6, no. 5–6 (May–June 1919): 144.

230 La Direzione, “Per la psichiatria del dopo-guerra.” 144–45.

231 La Direzione, “I nuovi indirizzi della assistenza neuro-psichiatrica,” Quaderni di psichiatria 14, no. 5–6 (May–June 1927): 108

232 Enrico Morselli, “La funzione sociale del Manicomio,” Quaderni di psichiatria 7, no. 5–6 (May–June 1920): 135.

233 Morselli, “La funzione sociale del Manicomio,” 134.

234 Morselli, “La funzione sociale del Manicomio,” 136.

235 Giuseppe Muggia, “Per l’avvenire della Psichiatria e dell’assistenza psichiatrica,” Quaderni di psichiatria 9, no. 9–10 (September–October 1922): 192.

236 Muggia, “Per l’avvenire della Psichiatria e dell’assistenza psichiatrica,” 194.

237 Giulio Cesare Ferrari, “Il prossimo avvenire dell’Assistenza psichiatrica in Italia,” Quaderni di psichiatria 10, no. 5–6 (May–June 1923): 112.

238 Ferrari, “Il prossimo avvenire dell’Assistenza psichiatrica in Italia,” 114.

239 Cesare Agostini, “Per un trattamento più razionale ed economico degli alienati di mente,” Quaderni di psichiatria 10, no. 9–10 (September–October 1923): 193.

240 Ernesto Ciarla, “Per l’istituzione di un servizio provinciale di profilassi delle malattie mentali,” Quaderni di psichiatria 11, no. 9–10 (September–October 1924): 192.

241 Giuseppe Pellacani, “Psichiatria e psicoigiene,” L’igiene mentale 15, no. 1 (1935): 8.

242 Pellacani, “Psichiatria e psicoigiene,” 9.

243 Carlo Ferrio, “Nota conclusiva sull’Assistenza Psichiatrica non coattiva in Italia,” L’igiene mentale 1 (1936): 101. The date of foundation of the Bologna and Treviso dispensaries are missing in the source.

244 Ferrio, “Nota conclusiva sull’Assistenza Psichiatrica non coattiva in Italia,” 103.

245 Eugenio Medea, “L’igiene mentale e la scuola,” L’igiene mentale 13, no. 3 (1933): 10–12.

246 Giuseppe Pellacani, “I servizi di profilassi neuro-mentale in Italia,” L’igiene mentale 14, no. 1–2 (1934): 17.

247 Leonardo Bianchi, “Che vuol dire ‘sano di mente’?,” L’igiene mentale 6, no. 2 (1926): 3.

248 Bianchi, “Che vuol dire ‘sano di mente’?,” 3.

249 “Sezione campana,” L’igiene mentale 6, no. 4 (1926): 18.

250 The Lazio section was particularly active in the field of optional premarital examinations, neurological examinations of underage prisoners or those in corrective facilities, and genealogical researches in schools: see “Lega italiana di igiene e profilassi mentale, sezione laziale,” Difesa sociale 4, no. 12 (December 1925): 19–20; “Lega italiana di igiene e profilassi mentale, sezione laziale,” Difesa sociale 5, no. 8 (August 1926): 17–19.

251 For some biographical sketches, see “IV Assemblea generale dei soci (Milano 19 marzo 1934): Commemorazione del prof. Sante De Sanctis (Antonini, Medea, Corberi, Albertini),” L’igiene mentale 15, no. 2 (1935): 6–18.

252 Sante De Sanctis, Igiene Mentale (Turin: Paravia, n. d.), 6–7.

253 De Sanctis, Igiene Mentale, 6.

254 De Sanctis, Igiene Mentale, 8.

255 Sante De Sanctis, “L’organizzazione scientifica del lavoro mentale,” Rivista italiana di sociologia 20, no. 5–6 (September–October 1916): 520–21.

256 Sante De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” Gerarchia 12 (December 1928): 962.

257 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 963.

258 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 966.

259 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 965.

260 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 965.

261 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 969.

262 De Sanctis, “I problemi di rieducazione,” 970.

263 Luigi Maggiore, “L’assistenza dello Stato agli invalidi, storpi e mutilati,” Politica sociale 4 (1932): 477–81, cited in Mantovani, Rigenerare la società, 317.

264 Friedländer, The Origins of Nazi Genocide. From Euthanasia to the Final Solution, 26. The law defined a person “affected by a heredity illness,” and therefore a candidate for sterilization, as anyone who was afflicted by the following disorders: congenital lunacy, schizophrenia, circular insanity (manic-depressive disorder), hereditary epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, serious hereditary physical deformations, serious alcoholism. On the rejection of Nazi negative eugenics by the fascist regime and the Catholic Church, see Giorgio Sale, Hitler, la Santa Sede e gli ebrei (Milan: Jaca Book, 2004): 115–24.

265 “I Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Parigi, 30–31 maggio 1932),” L’igiene mentale 12, no. 2 (1932): 20.

266 “I Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Parigi, 30–31 maggio 1932),” 17.

267 “II Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Roma, 27–28 settembre 1933),” L’igiene mentale 13, no. 3 (1933): 42–43.

268 “II Riunione Europea per l’Igiene Mentale (Roma, 27–28 settembre 1933),” 43.

269 “II Giornata genealogica,” Atti della Lega italiana di igiene e profilassi mentale (1938): 106.

270 “II Giornata genealogica,” 106.

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