David I. Kertzer has been the Dupee University Professor of Social Science since coming to Brown in 1992. He is also professor of anthropology and Italian studies.
Among his books are Comrades and Christians: Religion and Political Struggle in Communist Italy (Cambridge University Press, 1980); Ritual, Politics, and Power (Yale University Press, 1988); Sacrificed for Honor: Italian Infant Abandonment and the Politics of Reproductive Control (Beacon Press, 1993); Politics and Symbols: The Italian Communist Party and the Fall of Communism (Yale University Press, 1996); The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (Knopf, 1997) (finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, published in 12 languages); The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism (Knopf, 2001) (published in 9 languages); Prisoner of the Vatican (Houghton Mifflin, 2004); Amalia's Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 2008); and The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Random House, 2014) (published in 11 languages) In 2015, Kertzer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Biography for The Pope and Mussolini.
In 2005 Kertzer was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is past president of the Social Science History Association and of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, and served as provost of Brown University from 2006 to 2011.
The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic, 1848-1850
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. New York: Random House, 2014. Italian edition Rizzoli; UK edition Oxford University Press; Romanian edition Editura Rao
Edgardo Mortara,” Enzyklopaedie juedischer Geschichte und Kultur, ed. By Dan Diner. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2014
“Pietro Tacchi Venturi, S.J., Mussolini, Pius XI, and the Jews.” Pp. 265-73 in The Tragic Couple: Encounters between Jews and Jesuits, ed. by Robert Maryks and James Bernauer. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
“Da Garibaldi a Berlusconi attraverso Mussolini.” In Questo diletto almo paese: profili dell’unità d’Italia, ed. by Ernesto Galli della Loggia. Bologna: Il Mulino, 2013.
"The United States, the Holy See, and Italy's racial laws," (with Alessandro Visani). Pp. 327-41 in Charles Gallagher, David Kertzer, and Alberto Melloni, eds., Pius XI and America. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2012.
"Italy's Path to Very Low Fertility: The Adequacy of Economic and Second Demographic Transition Theories," (with Michael White, Laura Bernardi, and Giuseppe Gabrielli). European Journal of Population 25(1): 89-115, 2009.
"Social Anthropology and Social Science History." Social Science History 33:1:1-16 (2009).
"An imperfect contraceptive society: Fertility and contraception in Italy." (with Alessandra Gribaldo, and Maya Judd). Population and Development Review, 35(3): 551-584 (2009).
Amalia's Tale: A Peasant's Fight for Justice in 19th Century Italy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Italian edition Rizzoli (La Sfida di Amalia, 2010); Brazilian edition by Rocco (A Historia de Amalia, 2010).
“Population composition as an object of political struggle,” with Dominique Arel. Pp. 664-677 in Robert Goodin and Charles Tilly, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Anthropology 1910G: Senior Seminar: Politics and Symbols
It is impossible to understand politics without understanding the key role played by symbols, myth, and ritual. This seminar provides the theoretical background – drawing heavily on anthropology, but also on a variety of other fields – to examine how political actors manipulate symbols and devise and utilize myths and rituals to win support. Through such symbolic activities, political reality is created and political groups formed, whether aimed at defending the status quo or overthrowing it. We look at examples throughout the world and throughout history. Special attention is given to the 2014 political races in the U.S.
Italian Studies 1390 Modern Italy
An introduction to Italian society, culture, and politics, focusing on developments over the past two centuries. We pay particular attention to how a modern Italian national identity was created; the role played by the Catholic Church; changing gender and class relations; family life; conflicts between the North and the South; the development of fascism; and postwar political developments, including the influence of the Communist Party, and the rapid political changes of the past decade.
December 10, 2019
The Boston Globe
In this letter to the editor, Professor of Social Science, Anthropology and Italian Studies David Kertzer responds to a previous editorial and argues that the amount of financial aid available — and not the preference for alumni children in admissions — is the biggest factor in a school's economic diversity.
December 5, 2019
In November 2019, David Kertzer co-wrote "The Medieval in the Modern: Nazi and Italian Fascist Use of the Ritual Murder Charge" with Gunnar Mokosch (Brown University) - a piece examing both the debate over the "modern" nature of the German and Italian fascist regimes and the related question of the role played by the Christian churches in making the Holocaust possible.
March 6, 2019
PRI's The World
Faculty Fellow David Kertzer joined PRI's The World to discuss the recent announcement made by Pope Francis that the Vatican will unseal the records of Pope Pius XII. "The question is, how he might have tried to accommodate to Nazi rule. So the criticism against him wasn't that he was pro-Nazi, which he certainly was not."
March 5, 2019
Faculty Fellow David Kertzer in The Atlantic, "The decision follows more than half a century of pressure. Pius XII—a hero of Catholic conservatives... while denounced by his detractors for failing to condemn the Nazis’ genocidal campaign against Europe’s Jews—might well be the most controversial pope in Church history."
March 5, 2019
Watson Faculty Fellow David Kertzer comments on Pope Francis' decision that the Vatican will unseal the records of Pope Pius XII. "For much of the war, the Pope was hoping to play the role of unbiased mediator between the two sides, and that’s part of the rationale for not taking a stand against the Nazis."
August 17, 2018
The Seattle Times
This roundup of new biographies mentions Professor David Kertzer's "The Pope Who Would Be King," which details the exile, intrigue and double-dealing that marked Pius IX's papacy.
June 22, 2018
The Providence Journal
Reviewer Tim Norton says Faculty Fellow David Kertzer's new book, The Pope Who Would Be King, is an "important contribution in understanding the many ways that the Catholic Church, cloaked with unquestioned power in the Papal States of Europe, conspired to keep it."
May 25, 2019
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. John Hay Library, Willis Reading Room, 20 Prospect Street
Apr 26, 2018
4:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. Joukowsky Forum
Meet the Author