The impossible capital: Monumental Rome under liberal and fascist regimes, 1870-1943

Author: Agnew, John

Source: Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, Volume 80, Number 4, December 1998 , pp. 229-240(12)

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Every nation-state has a capital city from where the central government's institutions operate and where the past of the nation is remembered monumentally. Following unification in 1870 Rome became the capital of the new Italy. Turning it into a singular site to represent the aspirations of the regimes that came to power, however, proved an impossible task. Not only did the Liberal and Fascist regimes of the period 1870-1943 have contradictory intentions and goals, they also ran up against the complexities of Rome's own history in trying to establish their own. This paper contends that there are important similarities between the two regimes in their approaches to making Rome a capital for the new state and that contemporary cultural analysis of the Fascist regime misses this continuity when it takes the regime's claims to aesthetic novelty and architectural innovation at face value. In the end, Rome resisted attempts at using its monumental space to symbolically unify a country that remained materially and culturally divided.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Professor and Chair of Geography and Associate Director of the Center for European and Russian Studies, UCLA, Los Angeles CA, USA

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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