UCSB’s The Current on My Interwar Crisis Course
Recently, I sat down with Jim Logan at University of California, Santa Barbara’s news and announcements blog, The Current, to discuss my current summer course, “Interwar Crisis: Europe, 1918-1939.” We talked about my motivations for teaching this particular course, especially in light of recent events in Europe and the United States, as well as my experimental course blog which, as he aptly phrases it, “lets students learn — and teach — about Europe’s interwar decades (1918-1939)”.

Fulbright Research/Study Grant
I am pleased to announced that I have been awarded a 2018-2019 Fulbright Research Grant to Italy. During my year in Rome, I will be consulting source materials at a number of archives and libraries, conducting interviews with winemakers, completing my dissertation’s remaining chapters, volunteering periodically in the vineyards of Rome’s nearby castelli romani winemaking region, and delivering a public lecture at the International Library, “La Vigna” in Vicenza.

Personal Statement:

Brian J Griffith is an Adjunct Professor of Modern European and World History at University of California, Santa Barbara. His interests include modern Europe, modern Italy, Fascism, consumerism, (trans)national identities, and the digital humanities. Brian is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Cultivating Fascism: Wine and Politics in Mussolini’s Italy which explores the way in which vino came to be viewed as a quintessentially ‘Italian’ beverage among Italy’s middle- and upper-class households during Fascism’s twenty years in power.

Dissertation Title:

Bringing Bacchus to the People: Winemaking and “Making Italians” in Fascist Italy

Selected Publications:


  • “Bacchus among the Blackshirts: Winemaking, Consumerism, and Identity in Fascist Italy, 1919-1937,” Contemporary European History (forthcoming).


Public Engagement

  • “‘Chi ne beve giusto è un leone’: anti-alcoolismo, vitivinicoltura, e la realizzazione di una bevanda nazionale nell’Italia fascista,” La Vigna News: pubblicazione trimestrale della Biblioteca Internazionale La Vigna 9:35 (dicembre 2016): 26-50.
  • “Cultivating Fascism: Winemaking and Making Italians in Fascist Italy,” Perspectives on Europe 46:1 (Spring 2016): 88-92.



Teaching Fields:

  • Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History
  • Modern Italy
  • Italian Fascism
  • Food History
  • Consumer Cultures
  • Digital and Public History
  • World History (1700 to the Present)

Courses Taught:

Graduate Level Courses

Undergraduate Level Courses

Awards & Professional Activities:

  • Fulbright Study/Research Grant
    Institute of International Education / 2018-2019
  • Brython Davis Endowment Graduate Fellowship
    Graduate Division / University of California, Santa Barbara / Spring 2017
  • Graduate Humanities Research Fellowship
    University of California, Santa Barbara / Spring 2016
  • Council for European Studies Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship
    Council for European Studies / Columbia University / Spring 2015
  • The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation European Studies Fellowship for Dissertation Research
    The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation / University of California, Santa Barbara / Spring 2014 & Spring 2015
  • Dick Cook Memorial Award
    History Department / University of California, Santa Barbara / Spring 2015
  • Humanities & Social Sciences Research Grant
    University of California, Santa Barbara / Spring 2014
  • Graduate Students Association Excellence in Teaching Award
    University of California, Santa Barbara / Spring 2014
Future Research
  • MONOGRAPH: Black Coffee, Blackshirts: Coffee and Its Culture in Mussolini’s Italy
    Following the publication of my first monograph, I intend to begin a second book-length project on the history of coffee production, mass marketing, and popular consumption in modern Italy and beyond. Much like pizza, pasta, and wine, coffee consumption is one of the defining features of contemporary Italy’s world-renowned food and beverage cultures. But when, specifically, did this relationship between Italians and their caffè begin to take its current form? To answer this question, this monograph-length project will investigate the period between the turn-of-the-century through the post-World War II decades in order to identify the primary influences, and influencers, behind the shaping of Italy’s coffee culture. In addition to exploring the many roles played by Italy’s Liberal- and Fascist-era colonial conquests in East Africa (and, specifically, Benito Mussolini’s 1935-1936 invasion of Ethiopia, after which coffee consumption skyrocketed within the peninsula), I will examine the varying strategies employed by industrial lobbying groups, merchants, caffè owners, and, equally as significant, operatives within Il Duce’s dictatorship in the popularization of this, now, quintessentially ‘Italian’ beverage. While I intend to consult a wide range of archival and published source materials, I intend to begin with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s collections at the Central Archive of the State in Rome, where I have already come across large quantities of documentation on coffee cultivation and consumption while conducting my dissertation research.
  • ANNOTATED DIGITAL SOURCEBOOK: “Sorella fascista”: The Collected Writings of an American Fascist in Interwar Italy’s African Empire
    This planned annotated digital sourcebook is centered on the collected writings of a fascist sympathizer from New York City by the name of Ruth Williams Ricci. Having served both as a volunteer nurse in the Italian Red Cross and, later, as a freelance journalist during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, Ricci set out to document what she believed to be Mussolini’s “civilizing expedition” in Ethiopia in order to convince her fellow Americans of Fascist Italy’s “right” to additional colonial territories in East Africa. The dictatorship, of course, was quick to recognize the potential value of a such an outgoing American woman, and wasted no time in establishing a working partnership with Ricci via the regime’s ministries of Foreign Affairs and Popular Culture. Following a brief propaganda tour along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Ricci set out once again for Fascist Italy’s African territories in 1938, driving herself from General Francisco Franco’s Spain, across North Africa, and to Eritrea and Ethiopia in a customized Dodge coupe. In addition to remaining completely unknown to other scholars of Fascism and colonial studies, the essays and letters she composed during these various expeditions have largely remained untouched in their boxes at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, the CAS and the Diplomatic Archive at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome, and a handful of other minor archival repositories in both the United States and Italy, from which I gathered them.

    Working with three advanced undergraduates via two research mentorship programs at University of California, Santa Barbara, I have already been able to transcribe and copy edit over 150,000 words of Ricci’s writings. After receiving her long awaited FBI files, which I have requested via a Freedom of Information Act request, I intend to finish transcribing and editing her collected papers and publish them, along with an editor’s introduction, as an Open Access digital volume using The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture’s Scalar platform, which is intended for enabling authors to write “long-form, born-digital scholarship online.” In addition to the text, the digital volume will feature a range of digital tools and widgets, including an interactive timeline and map of Ricci’s various travels, and a photo gallery, each of which will serve as hypertexted “portals” into the collection of Ricci’s writings.

Miscellaneous Links
  • Brian J Griffith
    My professional website features my up-to-date Curriculum Vitae, research interests and current/future projects, teaching experience and philosophy, and miscellaneous resources pertaining to the study of modern Italian history.
  • Profile is a place to share and follow research.
  • Zapruder World: An International Journal for the History of Social Conflict (Roma: Odradek Edizioni / ISSN: 2385-1171)
    Zapruder World is both a digital journal and a global network of historians and political activists. The journal aspires to transform the way we look at history, and the way historical knowledge is transmitted from one generation to another.