From Malthus to Mussolini : the Italian Eugenics movement and fascist population policy, 1890-1938
This thesis examines the origins and impact of fascist population policy. The 'battle for the birthrate' inspired major social and institutional reforms under the dictatorship. Yet the question of why the regime should embark upon a pronatalist campaign remains largely unexplored. The study traces the origins of Mussolini's demographic campaign to the eugenics movement. This thesis begins with an analysis of the meaning of race in Italian scientific culture. A central concern is to show how the debates of prewar science shaped the agenda set by the fascist regime. The first part of this thesis is devoted to a discussion of the theories of prominent eugenicists. Their arguments provide the key to understanding the wider aims of the Duce's plans for state intervention to boost the birthrate. The thesis then proceeds to an examination of policy implementation. Welfare programmes stood at the centre of fascist population policy. The regime sought to provide encouragements to Italians to increase their reproductive output in the form of substantial health reforms. The second part of the thesis explores the institutional development of the National Organisation for the Protection of Motherhood and Infancy. Created In 1925, ONMI established Italy's first comprehensive national health service for women and children. This section seeks to assess whether the regime built a viable and efficient state apparatus for the mass organisation of welfare. The third part of this thesis takes a closer look at public provision. As a considerable part of ONMI's budget was spent on a campaign to reduce levels of maternal abandonment, this section explores the impact of illegitimacy policy. To assess more fully the achievements of fascist welfare policy, the thesis attempts to describe the continuities and changes in state administration of social assistance from liberalism to fascism. One aim Is to uncover the legacy of Church charity in a Catholic country with a rich beneficent heritage. The transformation of pious institutions into a system of public welfare proceeded very haphazardly in Italy. The liberal state proved too timid a force for the unruly network of private charities which proliferated throughout the kingdom. This thesis will argue that fascism failed to consolidate this inheritance into a tight and efficient system of social services. The pattern of welfare development during the fascist period shows how uneasy and uneven institutional growth remained even under a centralising and modernising dictatorship.