Una storia ambientale delle Paludi pontine
Recently, Assistant Professor in Contemporary Political History Roberta Biasillo published her new book Una storia ambientale delle Paludi pontine: Terracina dall'Unità alla bonifica integrale (1871-1928) [An Environmental History of the Pontine Marshes: Terracina from the Unification to the Integral Reclamation (1871-1928)]. The book is available in open access.
The 1930s reclamation of the Pontine region (south of Rome) represented the most spectacular, and impactful, environmental transformation that was launched and implemented during Mussolini’s regime. The narrative created during, and by, the regime has affected both the public debate and historiography to the extent that the fascist integral reclamation (bonifica integrale in Italian) still stands out as the definitive moments in the modern history of the area.
Biasillo’s Una storia ambientale delle Paludi pontine rejects this assumption and reconstructs the history of the municipality of Terracina, the main administrative unit of the wetland, from 1871 when it joined the Kingdom of Italy to the decision to start the reclamation project in 1928.
A history of a European wetland
The book presents a reconstruction of the modern history of the area before the fascist reclamation. Biasillo traces the competing property regimes, divergent models of resource management, and the tangled network of conflicts among local actors, migrant communities, and state institutions that emerged from the Pontine eco-systems.
Meanwhile, it outlines the interventions of the state at the national level, and how the efforts towards agricultural and hygienic reclamation plans, social conflictuality, and political violence challenged the institutional and ecological balance of the area. The clash between these two layers ceased the centuries-long negotiation between communities and the wetland, thereby paving the way for a top-down and irreversible project of social and ecological reclamation.