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Historical Roots of Political Extremism: The Effects of Nazi Occupation of Italy


  • Fontana, Nicola

    () (London School of Economics)

  • Nannicini, Tommaso

    () (Bocconi University)

  • Tabellini, Guido

    () (Bocconi University)


The Italian civil war and the Nazi occupation of Italy occurred at a critical juncture, just before the birth of a new democracy and when, for the first time in a generation, Italians were choosing political affiliations and forming political identities. In this paper we study how these traumatic events shaped the new political system. We exploit geographic heterogeneity in the intensity and duration of the civil war, and the persistence of the battlefront along the "Gothic line" cutting through Northern-Central Italy. We find that the Communist Party gained votes in the post-war elections where the Nazi occupation and the civil war lasted longer, mainly at the expense of the centrist and catholic parties. This effect persists until the early 1990s. Evidence also suggests that this is due to an effect on political attitudes. Thus, the foreign occupation and the civil war left a lasting legacy of political extremism and polarization on the newborn Italian democracy.

Suggested Citation

  • Fontana, Nicola & Nannicini, Tommaso & Tabellini, Guido, 2017. "Historical Roots of Political Extremism: The Effects of Nazi Occupation of Italy," IZA Discussion Papers 10551, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10551

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Laia Balcells, 2011. "Continuation of Politics by Two Means: Direct and Indirect Violence in Civil War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 55(3), pages 397-422, June.
    2. Nico Voigtländer & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2012. "Persecution Perpetuated: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1339-1392.
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    4. Pauline Grosjean, 2014. "Conflict and Social and Political Preferences: Evidence from World War II and Civil Conflict in 35 European Countries," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 56(3), pages 424-451, September.
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    6. Vasiliki Fouka & Joachim Voth, 2012. "Reprisals remembered: German-Greek conflict and car sales during the Euro crisis," Economics Working Papers 1394, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2013.
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    8. Bellows, John & Miguel, Edward, 2009. "War and local collective action in Sierra Leone," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1144-1157, December.
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    11. Ochsner, Christian & Roesel, Felix, 2016. "Migrating Extremists," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145632, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alessandro Bucciol & Luca Zarri, 2017. "The Lasting Legacy of Traumatic Events on Life Satisfaction," Working Papers 13/2017, University of Verona, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    political extremism; path dependence; regression discontinuity design;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models

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