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The Aldo Moro Murder Case (1995)

Aldo Moro’s kidnapping and violent death in 1978 shocked Italy as no other event has during the entire history of the Republic. It had much the same effect in Italy as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy had in the United States, with both cases giving rise to endless conspiracy theories. The dominant Christian Democratic leader for twenty years, Moro had embodied the county’s peculiar religious politics, its values as well as its practices. He was perceived as the most exemplary representative of the Catholic political tradition in Italy. The Red Brigades who killed him thought that in striking Moro they would cause the collapse of the capitalist establishment and clear the way for a Marxist-Leninist revolution.

In his thorough account of the long and anguished quest for justice in the Moro murder case, Richard Drake provides a detailed portrait of the tragedy and its aftermath as complex symbols of a turbulent age in Italian history. Since Moro’s murder, documents from two parliamentary inquiries and four sets of trials explain the historical and political process and illuminate two enduring themes in Italian history. First, the records contain a wealth of examples bearing on the nation’s longstanding culture of ideological extremism and violence. Second, Moro’s story reveal much about the inner workings of democracy Italian style, including the roles of the United States and the Mafia.

These insights are especially valuable today in understanding why the Italian establishment is in a state of collapse.

The Moro case also explores the worldwide problem of terrorism. In great detail, the case reveals the mentality, the tactics, and the strategy of the Red Brigades and related groups. Moro’s fate has a universal poignancy, with aspects of a classical Greek tragedy. Drake provides a full historical account of how the Italian people have come to terms with this tragedy.

“Richard Drake’s The Aldo Moro Murder Case is, by its very nature, a fascinating book. It has all the elements of a great story: murder in high places, whodunit, conspiracy, collective obsessions, international intrigue. As the author points out, the Moro case is also a milestone in contemporary Italian history. Moro gave the name to a period, and the Moro case — like the Kennedy assassination in this country — won’t let go of the Italians, even today. “—Claudio Segre, University of Texas at Austin

“[E]ven today, Italian political literature still lacks a serious, detached, and neutral work on this subject. Nearly all the books to have appeared until now are testimonies, confessions, ideological pamphlets, and political-judicial harangues. In this state of affairs, Drake has played a role akin to that of the foreign mayors invited to govern Italian cities in the Middle Ages whenever the factions of the cities were unable to decide on a communal government. In order to carry out his task with precision and objectivity, Drake studied the Italian judicial system, read thousands of documents, and consulted the newspapers and media reports of the time, took part in some of the hearings at the last trial, and personally interviewed several magistrates. The result is an exemplary book or, if you prefer, a pathway that gradually unfolds through a jungle of emotion, theses, and polemics. It is my impression that “Mayor” Drake’s book will be more useful to the Italians than to the Americans.” —Sergio Romano, The Journal of Modern History

“The American Richard Drake, historian of the contemporary period and expert on terrorism, who has read his way through thousands of pages of trial records, offers an intelligently composed summary of the insights gained to date [regarding the Aldo Moro murder case]…. Drake has written the best introduction to date into a complicated topic…. —Jens Petersen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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