The Journal of Modern History

"Cassata’s monograph is a long overdue and very welcome addition to the literature. It is an amalgamation of work that he has published in Italian—on Corrado Gini and related topics—and, significantly, an expansion of his Molti, sani e forti: L’eugenetica in Italia (Turin, 2006). Building the New Man is a serious and important study of an aspect of modern Italian history that remains relatively underresearched. New regional, national, and transnational case studies of eugenics in recent years have counterbalanced the Anglo-American and Nazi-centric bias in the historiography. Cassata’s book contributes exceedingly well to this ongoing and worthy project on global eugenics. The great strength of this work lies in the depth of its scholarship. Based on extensive archival research, his narrative shows great sensitivity to the plurality of approaches within Italian eugenics. Italian eugenics found a home not just in biomedicine, as was commonly the case, but also in the social sciences. The author rightly emphasizes that, despite this diversity, there was an overwhelming consensus of opinion within Italian medicine, science, and the state about the positive role that the environment, welfare, and society could play in engineering racial improvements over time. While accounts of eugenics more commonly stop in 1945, Cassata extends his chronological reach well into the 1960s. The wisdom of this choice is amply rewarded by that fact that he is thereby able to make a major contribution to one of the more interesting avenues of current scholarship on eugenics: that which is concerned to illuminate the relationship between the old and the new. Cassata examines the crucial issue of continuity in scientific and political discourses about race, and as he ably shows, the eugenetic project did not end with the fall of Fascism. No longer benefiting from Fascist state patronage, postwar Italian eugenics fell victim to discord and lost its relevance and purpose."
Reviewed book: 
Francesco Cassata
$55.00 / €44.95 / £40.00