- Raimondo Luraghi Remembered
Raimondo Luraghi first lived significant martial history. Then he studied, taught, and wrote military history. I do not believe it is hyperbole to call him a modern Thucydides.
Born into a prominent family in Milan, Italy, on August 11, 1922, Luraghi completed the eight-year elite humanities course of study in five years, graduated from Liceo-Ginnasio Cavour in Torino, and enrolled in the Faculty of the Humanities of the University of Torino in 1940.
But early in 1941, the Fascist Italian government compelled Luraghi and all men of his generation to join the army. He served briefly as an enlisted soldier combating British commando raids, then joined the officer training school in Fano. Promoted to lieutenant, he served with the Frontier Guard patrolling the border with France, and he rose to command a small garrison in the mountains at Madonne des Fenetres.
There Luraghi became disenchanted with Fascism and his Fascist war. So he joined the resistance, Giustiza e Liberta, in Torino and ultimately the 4th Garibaldi Brigade, in which he rose to command a ranger battalion. Wounded in action on July 29, 1944, Luraghi earned a silver medal for bravery. He endured capture, threatened execution, and a heroic, harrowing escape from the Nazis. He left the Italian army in October 1945.
By this time, Luraghi had joined the Communist Party and begun work postwar for the party newspaper I’Unita in Torino. On June 24, 1950, he married Germana Cunioli, a Communist from a traditionally anti-Fascist [End Page 64] family, who worked as an accountant in a steel factory. As the Cold War chilled and Communism became more authoritarian and linked to Stalin’s Soviet Union, both Luraghis quit the party and political activity. Germana continued her career in management, gave birth in 1958 to a daughter, Silvia (now associate professor of linguistics at Pavia University), and in 1964 a son, Nino (now professor of Classics at Princeton University). And she developed the culinary skill to make the best of all possible spaghetti carbonara.
Meanwhile, Raimondo Luraghi left journalism for teaching and soon won an appointment to the Liceo Scientifico Galileo Ferraris in Torino, where he studied the United States and military history. In 1958, the publisher Einaudi issued Luraghi’s first book, a study of Italian opposition to the Fascist regime in Torino, Il Movimento Operaio Torinese durante la Resistenza.1
He first traveled to the United States in 1963 to attend a Harvard International Seminar directed by Henry Kissinger. Fulbright grants enabled Luraghi’s research in the American South and led to the 1966 publication of Storia della Guerra Civile Americana, which won significant awards, at least ten reprints, and David Donald’s judgment as “the best one-volume history of the American Civil War.” And he wrote a history of the United States, Gli Stati Uniti. A series of visiting professorships followed, at the Universities of Richmond, Notre Dame, Indiana, Georgia, and Toronto.2
In Italy, Luraghi established himself at the University of Genoa, and from 1964 he rose to become a full professor of American history, the first person ever to hold a chair in American history in Italy. He created a veritable empire for himself and legions of his students. He was the principal evangelist for southern American history in Italy and perhaps all of Europe.
Luraghi is most accessible in English in his article “The Civil War and Modernization of American Society,” Civil War History 17, no. 3 (September 1972): 230–50, his History of the Confederate Navy (1996), a translation of his work in Italian, and his book written in English, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation South (1978).3 [End Page 65]
Informed by Giambattista Vico, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and others, Luraghi conducted tireless original research in primary sources. He relied upon his personal experience in war and native brilliance and often reached startling insights. To cite only one example, he became enormously impressed with the capacity of the nineteenth-century American South to shed agrarian shackles and create an all but instant war industry. Only one nation, Luraghi posited, had ever rivaled the industrial expansion of the Confederate South...