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Carlo Ginzburg and Anthony Grafton on Arnaldo Momigliano

08Dec6:00 pm8:30 pmCarlo Ginzburg and Anthony Grafton on Arnaldo Momigliano6:00 pm - 8:30 pm(GMT+00:00) CIMA Center for Italian Modern Art, 421, Broome Street, 4th floor

Event Details

Historians Anthony Grafton and Carlo Ginzburg will discuss the work of Arnaldo Momigliano, one of the most distinguished 20th-century scholars of ancient and modern history. In 1939, following the passage of Italy’s racial laws, Momigliano was forced to leave his professorship in Turin. He continued his career at Oxford, London, and later in Chicago. His study of ancient and classic historiography and the emergence of national history are essential to the contemporary debate on religion, politics, and the understanding of the past. This program is presented in collaboration with CIMA, Center for Italian Modern Art and the Italian Cultural Institute and celebrates one year of Tablet magazine in print. This event is free of charge.  Reservation is required


The speakers

Carlo Ginzburg is an Italian noted historian and proponent of the field of microhistory. He received a PhD from the University of Pisa in 1961. Prof. Ginzburg has subsequently held teaching positions at the University of Bologna and at the University of California, Los Angeles (1988–2006). His fields of interest range from the Italian Renaissance to early modern European history, with contributions to art history, literary studies, and the theory of historiography.

He is best known for The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller, which examined the beliefs of an Italian heretic, Menocchio, from Montereale Valcellina.

Among his works are The Night Battles (1966), an examination of the benandanti visionary folk tradition found in 16th-century Friuli; Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (2013); Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (1991); The Judge and the Historian: Marginal Notes on a Late-Twentieth-Century Miscarriage of Justice (1999); and Threads and Traces: True False Fictive (2012).

Prof. Ginzburg was awarded the Aby Warburg Prize in 1992, and the Premio Feltrinelli for Historical sciences by the Accademia dei Lincei in 2005, and the Balzan Prize for History of Humanities in 2010. In 2013, he was elected an International Member of the American Philosophical Society. He is honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton.
His work focuses on the cultural history of Renaissance Europe, the history of books and readers, the history of scholarship and education in the West from Antiquity to the 19th century, and the history of science from Antiquity to the Renaissance. He joined the Princeton History Department in 1975 his Ph.D. (1975) in history from the University of Chicago and spending a year at University College London, where he studied with Arnaldo Momigliano.

Professor Grafton sees the past through the eyes of influential and original writers. He also studies the long-term history of scholarly practices, such as forgery and the citation of sources, and has worked on many other topics in cultural and intellectual history.

Professor Grafton is the author of many books including. Defenders of the Text (1991) and Bring Out Your Dead (2001); What Was History?: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (2012); Canonical Texts and Scholarly Practices: A Global Comparative Approach (2016) with Glenn W. Most. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1993), the Balzan Prize (2002), and the Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2003), and is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the British Academy.


About Arnaldo Dante Momigliano (1908-1987), Peter Brown, British Academy

Arnaldo Dante Momigliano arrived at Oxford in 1939. In the previous fall he had been dispossessed of his professorship in Roman history at the University of Turin, hence, of his livelihood, as a result of the Racial Laws. The courtyard of the Bodleian Library was “a place of peace” like few that he had known. Its opening hours, he noted once, permitted a whole day’s work. In July he was joined by his wife Gemma, and his five-year old Anna-Laura. Throughout the war, the Momigliano family lived in three rented room in a succession of houses in North Oxford. Momigliano had never been out of Italy. In these first months he found himself in a cold and distant world. Conversation in English was a torment to him. Italian newspapers were nowhere to be found. The letters written to Italy at that time, to Carlo Dionisotti, the friend of his study days, make painful reading. At last, Dionisotti could arrange to have a newspaper sent to him every day.

Arnaldo Momigliano was born on 5 September 1908. He grew up in a well-to-do house in Piazza Cavour in Caraglio, a small Piedmontese town close to the provincial capital, Cuneo.

The Momiglianos were a Jewish family. The were said to have derived their name from Montmélian on the outbreak of the Black Death, having been held responsible, by their Christian neighbors, for the spread of the disease.

In 1890 these memories belonged to the distant past. Momigliano’s father, Riccardo Salomone, was a respected local figure, l’ caviar Riccardo, as Riccardo’s uncle and adoptive father, Amado, had been before him. A successful opponent of the clerical faction in the town council, senior assessor and, from 1917 to 1919, acting mayor of Caraglio, Riccardo chose names for his son that evoked the aspirations of the liberal Italy of a slightly older, and yet more romantic, age —Arnold of Brescia and the Great Ghibelline poet.

His uncle, Felice Momigliano, was a frequent visitor to the house. A professor of theoretical philosophy at Rome, an admirer of Renan and Mazzini, he was proud of combining a Judaism that stressed ethical  and social message of the prophet of Israel and the Jewish messianic hope with modern socialism.

At the age of ten, Momigliano and his elder sister printed a newspaper in which the nationalization o the banking system was advocated. His father promptly confiscated the inflammatory document.

As an older man, Momigliano liked to linger on the peculiar nature of his background. His reminiscence were designed to leave an impression of the strength that came from a complex life lived without confusion. Differences, clearly seen and embraced with pride, mattered. Piedmont was not quite Italy: a once-Celtic land, later absorbed into the unity imposed upon the West by Rome, it had come to harbor an unusual number of vivid and tenacious minorities, Protestants as well as as well. The ambiguity of Piedmontese culture was a source of double pride. His parents spoke Piedmontese with each other, but Italian with Arnaldo and his two sisters, Tiziana and Fernanda. As he remembered it, the Momigliano children stood out in the town as the only native speakers of Italian. Fussed over in infant school by affectionate Catholic nuns, Arnaldo completed his studies with private tutors at Cuneo.

It was a home of books—editions of the philosophers, the novels and poetry of the previous century, a wide range of classical text and, in the Zemah David, the “Offshoot of David”, a great trilingual dictionary, the columns in Hebrew, Latin and Italian spoke of the ancient diversity of the culture to which the family belonged. Arnaldo approached his Bar Mitzvah already well-acquainted with Spinoza and convinced of the purely historical character of the Old Testament. Yet he would remember, as sharp echoes of a familiar and secure world, the solemnity of an observance that was orthodox, in the sense that it maintained the ancient usages that were a source of peculiar dignity for Jewish families. In times of happiness among his friends, he loved to recall the hymns of the of the even of Shabbath set to distinctive tunes and sung in the agent of the Jews of Piedmont.

His adoptive father, Amadio, was a man of uneroded, deeply particular piety, a reader of the Zohar and the recipient of a honorary rabbinate. The last of Momigliano’s many volumes of collected essays is dedicated to the memory of Amado, “who taught me to study and to love the tradition of the Fathers”. For all secular and rationalist enthusiasm which a younger generation of Jews than his own had shared with their fellow Italians of the Risorgimento, Amadio—Momigliano was careful to remember—had continued to find his delight … in the Law of the Lord”.

Amadio died in 1924. Next summer, Arnaldo went to Cuneo, to sit for the examination of the Maturità Classica. Along with his friend, Michele Pellegrino, the future Archbishop of Turin, he was urged by examiners to “continue in the ways of scholarship”. In November 1925, at the age of seventeen, he enrolled in the Faculty of Letters in the University of Turin. He had already brought with him, “from a Jewish house in a small town of Piedmont”, a precocious depth of learning, and the tension associated with complex identity. Continue reading


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