Patrizia Delpiano

Victims of Freedom: Slavery and “La Civiltà Cattolicaµ

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This article analyzes the discussion of slavery and emancipation that took place in the journal La Civiltà Cattolica, published by the Jesuits starting in 1850, to help map a debate that involved both shores of the Atlantic during the nineteenth century and has yet to be systematically addressed as relates to the Italian peninsula. Rather than condemning slavery and calling for its abolition, the journal exposed the mistreatment characterizing this system – namely the harshness of slaveowners – even while continually stressing the dangers of emancipation. It was only in the face of the final abolitionist laws of the late nineteenth century and the publication of the encyclical In plurimis (1888) by Leo XIII that La Civiltà Cattolica shifted its approach: it began taking an anti-slavery stand and reconstructing the past in a way that, in keeping with papacy’s cultural policy of the time, cast the Church as one of the institutions that had played a pioneering role in urging emancipation.


  • Slavery
  • Catholicism
  • Jesuits
  • La Civiltà Cattolica
  • Nineteenth century


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