Detailed Information

AE-HN403 Terrorism, Italian Style

This course examines left and right-wing terrorism, a type of political violence that has featured prominently in post-WWII Italian history. It opens with an overview of the ideological, political, social, and cultural divisions inherited by the republican state established in 1946. This is followed by a discussion of the factors that deepened these divisions, the main one being the onset of the Cold War, the fault lines from which split Italy into two factions that believed that they were facing an existential threat. The emergence of extra-parliamentary movements supported by paramilitary organisations ready to engage the ‘enemy’ in battle is presented as ushering in the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ (1969-1988), a period marked by so large a number of bombings, assassinations, mutilations, and kidnappings (14,615) to be regarded as ‘the worst outbreak of terrorist violence in the industrialised world’. The course also analyses the impact of the demise of European Communism, which triggered the transformation of the Italian political landscape in the early 1990s and paved the way for the rise of a new type of seemingly ‘apolitical’ terrorist treat, which aimed at challenging the authority of the Italian state and its institutions. The course concludes with a reflection on the Italian people’s incapacity and reluctance to acknowledge the collective character of this violence, the harsh state repression of its perpetrators, and the increasingly prominent role played by the relatives of the victims in shaping the collective understanding and remembrance of this traumatic past.


Please note that this is an online course and you will receive your recurring Zoom link a few days before the class starts.

Dates Schedule Time Venue/Location Fee €
02 Oct 2023 to 27 Nov 2023 Sessions: 8
2, 9, 16, 23 Oct (no class 30th Oct), 6, 13, 20, 27 Nov
10:00 Online


Please note that you must be logged into InfoHub to make a Booking. If you do not have an Infohub account you can create one through this link.

8 Mondays


2, 9, 16, 23 Oct (no class 30th Oct), 6, 13, 20, 27 Nov

At the end of this course, a student should be able to:

  • Develop an awareness of how ideology, politics, and violence affected the daily lives of ordinary Italians;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history of Italian terrorism, as well as the reasons why this past threat continues to be omnipresent in public discourse;
  • Evaluate conflicting interpretations and revisionist narratives of the causes and consequences of Black and Red terrorism;
  • Explore the similarities and differences between Italian terrorism and its Irish equivalent; 
  • Engage with primary and secondary sources in a critical manner.
  • A Divided Nation
  • Italy’s Hot Cold War;
  • The ‘Years of Lead’ – Part 1;
  • The ‘Years of Lead’ – Part 2;
  • The Perpetrators;
  • The ‘Victims’;
  • A ‘New’ Enemy;
  • Conflicting Memories of a Traumatic Past

The following is a selection of recommended texts for those interested in reading further around the course content. We advise that you do not buy books in advance of the course as your tutor will discuss the list and suggest the most relevant reading for particular interests.

For a general introduction to the main topics covered in this course, please read any of (or all!) the following books:

  • Richard Drake, The Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy (Indiana University Press, 2021)
  • Anna Cento Bull, Italian Neofascism: The Strategy of Tension and Politics of Nonreconciliation (Berghahn Books, 2008)
  • Anna Cento Bull and Philip Cooke, Ending Terrorism in Italy (Routledge, 2013)
  • Pierpaolo Antonello and Adam O’Leary, Imagining Terrorism. The Rhetoric and Representation of Political Violence in Italy 1969-2009 (Routledge, 2009)
  • Ruth Glynn, Women, Terrorism, and Trauma in Italian Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
  • Marco Briziarelli, Red Brigades and the Discourse of Violence. Revolution and Restoration (Routledge, 2014)
  • Alessandro Orsini, Anatomy of the Red Brigades. The Religious Mind-Set of Modern Terrorists (Cornell University Press, 2011)
  • Robert C. Meade, Red Brigades. The Story of Italian Terrorism (Palgrave Macmillan, 1990)
  • Richard Drake, The Aldo Moro Murder Case (Harvard University Press, 1995)
  • Franco Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy: The Radical Right in Italy after the War (Princeton University Press, 1996)
  • Alison Jamieson, The Heart Attacked: Terrorism and Conflict in the Italian State (Boyars, 1989)
  • Robin Erika Wagner-Pacifici, The Moro Morality Play: Terrorism as Social Drama (University of Chicago Press, 1986)

Dr. Tedaldi holds a PhD in Modern European History. She is a cultural historian whose research focuses on victim competition and the debate surrounding the introduction of 'memory legislation' in Italy and Spain. Since completing her doctorate, she has been the recipient of two IRC post-doctoral fellowships and has worked as Senior Tutor, Occasional Lecturer and Assistant Professor in the School of History at University College Dublin.

Weekly sessions will consist of a lecture followed by a seminar. The lectures will provide overviews of weekly topics, with a focus on key historical trends, debates and events and their relevance to the people of Ireland, a country that has been scarred by sectarian violence and is still dealing with the legacy of partition and the Brexit fallout. Students will be encouraged to ask questions and contribute anecdotes, if they have any that they wish to share with their peers. Weekly seminars will consist of student-led debate and discussion of the concepts and materials examined in the lecture. Autonomous learning is highly encouraged (see the recommended reading options); no mandatory readings will be assigned.