Last year when I was doing research for my year-by-year account of the 1970s (click here to read it), I realised how little is actually written about this period of history. In bookshops or in the library you’re lucky if you come across any volumes about the seventies squeezed between the second world war and a biography of Margaret Thatcher (Yes, Margaret Thatcher was PM from 1979, but her premiership is synonymous with the eighties).
In contrast, in Italy, the years that encompass the seventies are considered of pivotal importance in post-war history and are given their own name – “anni di piombo” or the Years of Lead. These years are characterised by social and political turmoil in Italy including public disorder, social conflict and terrorism. The term’s origin is a reference to a 1981 German film Marianne and Juliane directed by Margarethe von Trotta, which was released in Italy as Anni di piombo. The film centres on the lives of two members of the West German militant far-left group Red Army Faction. However, the term “The years of Lead” has come to have wider meaning, encompassing various terrorist activities, the “strategia della tensione” (the strategy of tension in Italy), Operation Condor (South America) and the cold war (US / Russia). Given the prominence of this slice of Italian history, I wasn’t short of historical source material, only short of my own ability to read and absorb it!
On the 1st December the Fortuna-Baslini Law was introduced which legalised divorce. However, there was widespread controversy and many of the political parties were opposed to the move. In the same year another law was passed specifically in response to the controversy. This law established that referendums could be used as a means for citizens to express their opinion. The hope, in some quarters, was that this law could be used to revoke the “scandalous” divorce law. 
The first regional elections were held this year. There are twenty regional governments in Italy. Although some of these were already in existence before 1970, for example Sicily and Trentino-Alto Adige, the elections saw regional governments set up for the remaining Italian regions. What might not be obvious is just how autonomous these regions are. All regions can keep 20% of all levied taxes. Regions with special status are able to levy their own taxes and are entitled to as much as 100% of the tax revenue raised locally. Italy has only been a united country since 1861 and it is a cultural and linguistically diverse country. This return to regional politics not only retained this cultural and regional diversity, but in some regions alleviated political tensions, such as in Trentino-Alto Adige, where a large percentage of the population are German-speaking. In contrast, the Scottish parliament and the National Assembly for Wales were only granted in 1998.  
 Storiologia website – 1970 (in Italian)
 Divorce on wikipedia (in Italian)
 The years of lead on wikipedia (in Italian, in English)
 Trentino-Alto Adige on wikipedia (in Italian)
 Italian Regions on wikipedia (in Italian)
March 16, 2019 at 12:12 pm
Thanks for that interesting post. I remember doing something about Italian unification under Garibaldi in my history lessons but that is really the extent of my knowledge of Italian political history apart from the recent machinations of Silvio Belursconi. I don’t know if you’ve ready any of the social histories by Dominic Sandbrook but he has a few on the seventies.
March 16, 2019 at 5:37 pm
Thank you. Italian history isn’t something that gets studied much. I have seen Dominic Sandbrook’s books in the bookshops, but haven’t read them yet. Perhaps I should. He’s done a whole series of post-war books.
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