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The Mediterranean theatre of the Second World War has often been considered, by both the early historiography and the protagonists of the events, a “backwater war”. A marginal battle in the grand scheme of the fight for the ultimate victory, entirely dependent on the great efforts made on the eastern front, in northern Europe, and in the territories and waters of the Asia-Pacific. However, over the last twenty years, a group of historians have not only tried to reconsider the relative role of the region in the overall development of the conflict between the Allies forces and the Axis, but to trace the origins of major aspects of the conflict precisely back to the Mediterranean tensions that arose between the European powers in the interwar years. The role played by the Italo-Anglo-French rivalry in creating the conditions necessary for the outbreak of war in the region and transforming it into a vital crossroads has now been the subject of substantial research, but the complexity of the Mediterranean strategic landscape and its importance within the framework of European and global scenarios deserve further understanding. In particular, this event intends to incorporate multinational perspectives, including American, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.
According to recent calculations, in fact, for 42 months in a row the Mediterranean was the theater that attracted more resources in terms of both means and men among those available to the Western Allies, contributing decisively to the total victory, and to the positioning of the forces that would then determine the balances and realities of postwar Europe.
The global network of war theatres posed major challenges to military planners and political leaders alike, as threats originated from more than one single theatre at a time and the means were not sufficiently rich to counter them all. The allocation of sizable defence resources to the North African campaign, for instance, had an impact on the British loss of Malaya and Singapore, and the commitment of divisions and ships into the Mediterranean significantly delayed the landings in Northern Europe.
This conference intends to reflect on the state of the field, combining the work of prominent scholars with that of younger researchers. It seeks to adopt a fully global approach that can take advantage of diplomatic, military, institutional and social perspectives in order to form an updated image of the Mediterranean during the conflict in all its central aspects in light of the new studies. It will consider the relationship between the Mediterranean and the eastern front, northwest Europe and the campaign in the Pacific. The internal debate within the two alliances on the role the region had to play in the overall development of the war, and the plans and imposition of the postwar order in the region also merits further assessment. Finally, the role played by occupied countries, civilian populations, collaborationist regimes and insurgent movements in the area remain very important themes that offer prospects for deepened understanding and groundbreaking discovery.
November 19, 2018
Napoli, BRAU, Sala del Refettorio, Piazza Bellini 60
12.40 Marco Maria Aterrano, Università di Padova
13.00 Andrew Buchanan, University of Vermont
The Liliputian Bathtub: the Mediterranean in its Global Dimension during WWII
15-15.45 Richard Hammond, Brunel University
The Sea, Shipping, and British Wartime Strategy: Mediterranean Opportunities versus Global Vulnerabilities
15.45-16.30 Pablo Del Hierro, Maastricht University
A Global Metropolis: Tangiers during the Second World War
16.30-16.45 Coffee Break
16.45-18 Roundtable with Gabriella Gribaudi, Daniela Luigia Caglioti, Teodoro Tagliaferri (Università di Napoli "Federico II"
Napoli, Piazza Bellini 60, BRAU, Sala del Refettorio