Feature Archive : Italian Archives for French Historians

In the second of his posts on his work on the Italian Occupation of south-eastern France during the Second World War, Niall MacGalloway talks us through Italian Archives for French Historians.  To see more about Niall, go to his academia.edu page: https://st-andrews.academia.edu/NiallMacGalloway

In an increasingly transnational world, and for those studying international history, greater numbers of researchers in French history are turning to non-French archives. My work on the Italian occupation of south-eastern France during the Second World War inevitably led me to consult archives in Rome.
The most useful archive in Italy for French historians will most likely be the Archivio Storico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Although all archivists are extremely helpful in the reading room, the fact that this archive is in the Ministry itself makes entry difficult. Applications must be made online to create an account. For non-Italians, this will involve a scan of your passport, a letter indicating your subject of study, and for PhD students, a letter of introduction (all PDF format – nothing else will be accepted). Please note that letters can only be accepted in Italian. Once you have created an account, you can book a place in the reading room in advance. I would recommend at least one to two months in advance – once the fifteen or so desks are full, they are full. You cannot simply turn up on the day, or rely upon cancellations, as security checks are run prior to all bookings. Entry to the building will require a passport or driving licence, and a bag check. You will be assigned a locker at the reading room.
Documents must be ordered in advance. This amounts to three boxes per day and no more under any circumstances. If boxes are not available, this will not be made clear until you arrive and your quota will not be reset. You can keep three boxes on reserve from previous visits, however only a maximum of six boxes can be kept on your shelf at any time. Documents must be ordered before 11am the previous day. If you book a month in advance, you can simply order all of your boxes in advance for the upcoming dates. This is a much more efficient way than trying to find an internet connection in Rome – there is no wifi in the archive.

Getting there can be an issue. Bus numbers in Rome are subject to change without any warning. Between my first visit in May 2014 and my second in January 2015, all bus numbers and routes had changed. The best way is to take the A line of the metro to Ottaviano, then catch a bus going east on via Barletta. Any bus with “Stadio Olimpico”, “Farnesina”, or “Lungotevere Marescialo Diaz” on the route plan will take you there. Google Image the archive building and keep a look out to your left for it – it should be near the obelisk which still stands with the word “Mussolini” engraved on it, but you will need to walk from there. Entry to the archive is on the left-hand side of the building, through a side door.

Also of use to French historians is the Archivio Centrale dello Stato. These hold most of the archival holdings of the Italian state, but include huge holdings of private papers and the files of the Interior Ministry amongst others. This can be reached by Metro line B and getting off at the last stop, Laurentina. The archive is signposted from the metro station. There is no need to book in advance, however early arrival is key. Documents can be ordered before 9.30, and again before 11.30. You must request a shelf from the reading room staff before ordering, or orders will be deemed void. Once you have a shelf number, note this down – it must be written clearly on your order slips. Requests must be made via slips on the desks of the archivists. You can find out document numbers by consulting large ring-bound folders lining the walls. Precious little information pertaining to contents can be found on the website, sadly.
The ACS is open Monday to Friday all day, and Saturday mornings. Documents can only be consulted on Saturday if ordered on Friday morning. It is not possible to order documents online. Photographs are permitted, but at a cost of three euros per document box. To obtain permission, you must note down the designated box and take it to the central office. Your slip must be signed and remain on the desk at all times. There is no wifi or internet access.

Although these archives can be difficult to consult and follow what seems a byzantine system for those used to French archives, their inaccessibility offers those using them the chance to uncover sources rarely consulted by foreign scholars. All archivists are extremely helpful, and the blame for the difficulty in using these facilities must be placed squarely at the feet of the Italian government, who have for too long cut funding. The closure of many Italian archives in the afternoon can be used as an opportunity to explore Rome, or to use the well-equipped Biblioteca di Storia Moderna e Contemporanea in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, English and French are rarely spoken by archivists, and at least a passive understanding of Italian is essential.



Address: Ministro degli Affari Esteri, Piazzale della Farnesina 1, I-00194, Roma (next to the Stadio Olimpico)
Website: http://www.esteri.it/mae/en/ministero/servizi/uapdsd/storico_diplom/
Getting there: Metro stop Ottaviano on Line A. For details on bus routes, check the ATAC website http://www.atac.roma.it/ before arrival.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 2.00. Closed in August, and during Easter and Christmas.


Address: Piazzale degli Archivi, 27, 00144, Rome
Website: http://acs.beniculturali.it/
Getting there: Metro stop Laurentina on Line B.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 6.45. Saturdays, 9.00 – 1.00.


Thanks Niall!


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