© 2017

Biography of an Industrial Town

Terni, Italy, 1831–2014


  • Written by the leading oral historian of labor movements in America and Europe

  • Appeals to scholars and students of oral history, anthropology, Italian History and social history

  • Provides an analysis of a small, Italian town’s transformation through the industrial revolution to its post-industrial crisis


Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series (PSOH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Biography of a Town

  3. Specialty Steel

  4. Back Matter
    Pages 381-400

About this book


A pioneering work in oral history, this book tells the story of the rise and fall of the industrial revolution and the apogee and crisis of the labor movement through an oral history of Terni, a steel town in Central Italy and the seat of the first large industrial enterprise in Italy. This story is told through a combination of stories, songs, myths and memories from over 200 voices of five generations, woven with a wealth of archival material. 


Terni, Italy rise of the industry and labor the consumer society rise of Fascism post-industrial crisis youth culture and violence in Italy

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Università di RomaRomeItaly

About the authors

Alessandro Portelli is a former professor of Anglo-American Literature at the University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy. He is the winner of the prestigious Viareggio Prize as well as an Oral History Association book award for The Order Has Been Carried Out (Palgrave, 2003). 

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Biography of an Industrial Town
  • Book Subtitle Terni, Italy, 1831–2014
  • Authors Alessandro Portelli
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in Oral History
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in Oral History
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-50897-9
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-84516-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-50898-6
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXII, 400
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Oral History
    History of Italy
    Labor History
    Cultural History
    European Politics
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Biography of an Industrial Town is an ironclad book that is essential reading for everyone interested in oral history, the politics of resistance, and the privileging of the testimonies of narrators.” (William Burns, The Oral History Review, Vol. 46 (2), 2019)

“This book is a masterpiece. First and foremost, it’s a ground-breaking, exemplary work of oral history. As well, it’s an extraordinary, highly readable micro-history of a single industrial town, and in many ways, of the industrial period itself. And this is a beautiful book about memory—how memory works, and how it interacts with politics, identity, and resistance. It should be recommended reading for anyone studying these topics.” (John Foot, Professor of Modern Italian History, University of Bristol, UK)