History

'Dead Anarchist Becomes Cause Célèbre in Italy'

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I stole the International Herald Tribune's headline because I doubt I could improve on it. The article is about Giovanni Passannante, who tried to kill King Umberto I in 1878. In one of the most elaborate punishments in modern Italian history, the failed assassin was tortured and sentenced to life in prison, "his entire family was jailed (except for his brother who escaped) and Passannante's hometown, formerly known as Salvia, was forced to change its name to Savoia di Lucania." And it didn't end there:

At the anarchist's death, the head and brain were removed to be studied by sociologists, an act in keeping with the scientific eugenicist theory made popular at the time by a criminologist named Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso believed that criminality was inherited and could be identified by physical traits.

For the last 70 years the brain and skull have been in a neon-light display case, framed by old anarchist manifestos on the second floor of the Criminology Museum, just off the Via Giulia.

But this week the skull and brain were to leave the museum in front of reporters and photographers, for burial with the body, under pressure brought by an eclectic group of hundreds of petition signers. Instead, on Thursday, under a cloak of secrecy, the remnants were whisked away and buried in his hometown in the Basilicata region of southern Italy….

The full article is here. The Criminology Museum's Passannante page is here. The pro-Passannante position is outlined here. Another unimprovable headline is here.

And King Umberto? He "was later assassinated by another anarchist."

 

passanante

 

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  1. Better than donating his organs for transplants. Remember “Body Parts?”

  2. “And King Umberto? He “was later assassinated by another anarchist.””

    And it took decades until the trains ran on time.

  3. How did this not make it into Against The Day? Every other goddam thing is in that stupid book.

  4. At the anarchist’s death, the head and brain were removed to be studied by sociologists, an act in keeping with the scientific eugenicist theory made popular at the time by a criminologist named Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso believed that criminality was inherited and could be identified by physical traits.

    All Right Thinking people are probably supposed to laugh at or be repulsed by Lombroso’s ideas, but he was merely ahead of his time – and ahead of most people of our time (“outdated positivist position”), except perhaps those people currently validating his ideas with brain scans and actual genetic studies (as opposed to pleasant-sounding assertions).

  5. All Right Thinking people are probably supposed to laugh at or be repulsed by Lombroso’s ideas, but he was merely ahead of his time – and ahead of most people of our time

    Burns: She has the sloping brow and cranial bumpage of the career criminal.
    Smithers: Uh, Sir? Phrenology was dismissed as quackery 160 years ago.
    Burns: Of course you’d say that…you have the brainpan of a stagecoach tilter!

  6. Abdul,

    Didn’t he also make a claim about big lips being a sign of criminality?

  7. Grotius,

    I think you’re confusing Mr. Burns with Don Imus.

  8. If this is what they did to an unsuccessful assassin, what did they do to the successful one?

    Aside: Why does the article refer to him as “King of Savoy”? Shouldn’t he be called “King of Italy.”

  9. Looking again, they say “Umberto I of Savoy,” which I suppose he technically was, but it’s like calling Louis XIV “Louis XIV of Bourbon.” (They do say Umberto was king of Italy elsewhere.

  10. “I stole the International Herald Tribune’s headline because I doubt I could improve on it. The article is about Giovanni Passannante, who tried to kill King Umberto I in 1878.”

    1878? Must have gotten hung up in the editing process…

  11. I wonder if future libertarians will hail Timothy McVeigh as a folk lore hero.

  12. hmm… i guess they really taught that anarchist that government is a wonderful idea. when will people see that government is pure evil.

  13. “was later assassinated by another anarchist.”

    Well at least some good came out of it.

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