Eden Knudsen McLean
- By appointment
Eden McLean is a historian of twentieth-century Europe, with a particular focus on Italy in the interwar period. Her first book, Mussolini’s Children: Race and Elementary Education in Fascist Italy (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) uses the lens of state-mandated youth culture to analyze the evolution of official racism in Fascist Italy. Between 1922 and 1940, educational institutions designed to mold the minds and bodies of Italy’s children undertook a mission to rejuvenate the Italian race and create a second Roman Empire. This project depended on the twin beliefs that the Italian population did indeed constitute a distinct race and that certain aspects of its moral and physical makeup could be influenced during childhood. Evidence from state policies, elementary textbooks, pedagogical journals, and other educational materials illustrate the contours of the Fascist racial ideology that resulted, and, as a result, Mussolini’s Children explains how the most infamous period of Fascist racism, which began in the summer of 1938 with the publication of the “Manifesto of Race,” while not inevitable, played a critical part in a more general and long-term Fascist racial program.
Prof. McLean’s second major project, under the working title “An Education in Italianità: Dictating Identity in Italy’s South Tyrol, 1919-1939,” uses the case study of Fascism’s Italianization efforts in the kingdom’s northeastern-most region to explore the modern processes of defining nation-states, collective identities, and cultural borders. More specifically, it employs a recently discovered memoir of Luigi Molina, the region’s superintendent of schools between 1923 and 1945, to analyze Fascism’s attempts to create a border of italianità through the education system and, with it, to standardize the meaning of italianità for the entire nation. Along the way, Molina’s reflections elucidate some of the central conflicts of Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship: the tensions between the Fascist Party and the Italian government; between the Roman “center” and the Tyrolean “periphery”; and between political pragmatism and pedagogical idealism.
As these two projects highlight, Prof. McLean is interested in questions of identity/identification, especially as they pertain to the categories of race, nation, and ethnicity in the modern world. She is also concerned with the intersecting histories of education, childhood, and state ideologies. She offers courses on world history, modern Europe, fascism, and modern Italy.
Prof. McLean joined Auburn University’s Department of History in 2012 after teaching for two years at Western Connecticut State University. She earned PhD in history from Yale University and a BA in history from the University of Virginia.
Last Updated: January 22, 2018