Paul Garfinkel

Associate Professor
Office: AQ 6234

Area of Study:


Future courses may be subject to change.


Ph.D., M.A., Comparative History, Brandeis University; B.A., Anthropology, Macalester College

Research Interests

Modern Italy
Criminal and Juvenile Justice
Italian Cinema



  • "Fascist Italy's Juvenile Courts in Their Infancy: First Impressions," in The Limits of Positivism: The Movement for Criminal Law Reform in the West, 1870-1940, ed. Michele Pifferi (Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2021).
  • "Punishing the 'Veterans of Crime': Recidivism in Fascist Italy's Rocco Code of 1930," in Ideology and Criminal Law: Fascist, National Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes, ed. Stephen Skinner (Oxford: Hart, 2019), 257-276.
  • "A Wide, Invisible Net: Administrative Deportation in Italy, 1863-1871," European History Quarterly 48:1 (2018), 5-33.
  • "Forced Residence in Liberal Italy: A Pre-history, 1815-1865," Journal of Modern Italian Studies 16:1 (2011), 37-58.
  • "In Vino Veritas: The Construction of Alcoholic Disease in Liberal Italy, 1880-1914," in Alcohol: A Social and Cultural History, ed. Mack Holt (Oxford: Berg, 2006), 61-76.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Modern Europe.


  • Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize for Criminal Law in Liberal and Fascist Italy, American Historical Association, 2017.
  • Small Research Grant, SSHRC, 2017.
  • Small Research Grant, Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, 2009.
  • President’s Research Grant, Simon Fraser University, 2007.
  • Best Unpublished Manuscript Prize, Society for Italian Historical Studies, USA, 2005.
  • Essay Prize, Association for the Study of Modern Italy, London, UK, 2004.
  • U.S. Department of Education Graduate Research Fellowship, Rome, Italy, 2000-2001.
  • Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome, Italy, 1999-2000.

Previous Special Topics Courses:

This course will explore modern Italian history through “Italian-style” film comedies (a.k.a. commedia all’italiana). At their peak of production and popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, these intensely satirical films offer profound audio-visual histories of Italian social life. We will focus specifically on how these film comedies visualize, interpret and ultimately humanize a crucial era in Italy’s recent past: the dynamic but difficult transition from Mussolini’s dictatorship, wartime defeat and widespread poverty in 1945 to a postwar democratic republic that became one of the world’s richest industrialized nations by the early 1960s.
Italian cinema is an ideal way to examine not just the history of Italian fascism but also the collective memory of it. Treating our films as audio-visual histories, we will examine how fascism has been represented on screen since 1945; how and why those representations have changed over time; what has been remembered (selectively or otherwise); what has been left out, silenced or simply forgotten; and to what extent Italians have ‘come to terms’ with their Fascist past and assumed some sense of responsibility for it.
This seminar explores the enduring problem of organized crime in modern Italian history – a problem that has generated great interest in popular culture but remains poorly understood in historical perspective. We will approach our subject by way of Italian cinema and its representations of the Sicilian Mafia (otherwise known as Cosa Nostra) from 1945 to the present day. Italian cinema offers valuable insights into the nature, evolution, and persistence of this notorious crime syndicate. Unlike their counterparts in Hollywood, who have long romanticized the Sicilian Mafia for purposes of entertainment (The Godfather, etc.), Italian filmmakers have grappled with the problem of organized crime in more politically conscious, socially committed, and cinematically diverse ways.
This seminar introduces students to the pleasures and challenges of analyzing history on film and film as historical text. Taking Federico Fellini’s iconic – and ironic – film La dolce vita (The Sweet Life, 1960) as our thematic foundation, we will explore cinematically Italy’s dynamic but difficult transition from Mussolini’s dictatorship, wartime defeat, and widespread poverty in 1945 to a postwar democratic republic that became one of the world’s richest industrialized countries by the early 1960s. The creative and often revolutionary films that we will study offer profound audio-visual histories of Italian society as millions of people pursued the “sweet life” during the postwar boom. Treating filmmakers as historians in their own right, we will examine their incisive interpretations of cultural attitudes, social customs, sexual behaviors, mass consumerism, internal migration, organized crime, and the Fascist legacy during this era of rapid change and unprecedented prosperity.