The Dante Alighieri Society (Italian: Società Dante Alighieri) is a society that promotes Italian culture and language around the world. Today this society is present in more than 60 countries.
It was formed in Italy in July 1889. The society was named after Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), a pre-Renaissance poet from Florence and the author of The Divine Comedy. Dante is considered the father of the Italian language. In October 1948 the society was restructured at a meeting in Venice to give total autonomy to all chapters of the Dante Society so that each could conduct its activities independently, under the direction of its own elected officers, in a manner that best suited local needs, preferences, and capacities while adhering to the Society’s basic principles.
The cultural role of Dante Alighieri
The sole purpose of the Dante Alighieri Society is to “promote the study of the Italian language and culture throughout the world…a purpose independent of political ideologies, national or ethnic origins or religious beliefs, and that the Society is the free association of people – not just Italians – but all people everywhere who are united by their love for the Italian languages and culture and the spirit of universal humanism that these represent.”
The society operates throughout the world, with branches from the United States to Australia. Many societies offer language courses, ranging from tourist and beginner’s Italian to advanced literature, in addition to their cultural activities.
In 2005, the Dante Alighieri Society (along with the Alliance française, British Council, Goethe-Institut, Instituto Cervantes, and Instituto Camões) was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities.
From the beginning, the Company’s operations are directed both within national borders or abroad. As is natural, however, is in this second location that best expresses itself the cultural meaning of Article 1 of the Statute. And ‘in fact, through the expansion and the defined activities of its committees abroad who can shape the evolution of Dante as a body of production and dissemination of culture. At first the activities of the Society was addressed on the impulse of the first president, Ruggiero Bonghi (1889-1895), the establishment of Italian language courses for migrants who went abroad in search of work. In this first period, Dante had his first committees in foreign countries where there was an Italian colony of some significance, especially in Europe: in Switzerland (Geneva, 1894, Zurich, 1895), Belgium (Liege, 1894) and France (Marseille, 1895) where our countrymen emigrated in search of work. Committees also arise in Greece and Turkey, and indeed in these countries constitute the most longstanding alliance of the Company outside the borders of his country: the former Foreign Committee of the Dante was founded in Thessaloniki in 1890 and the following year came to Smyrna, followed in 1895 by that of Constantinople.
In this age of Dante begins expansion outside Europe, and new committees are based in some cities of North America (New York, 1897, Boston, 1901) and particularly in the south (Buenos Aires, Argentina , 1896, Montevideo, Uruguay, 1896, Iquique, Chile, 1896, Rosario, Argentina, 1897 Caracas, Venezuela, 1989, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1899).
The primacy of the farthest from the mainland in this period compared to those of Melbourne (Australia), founded in 1896. In the early twentieth century, under the leadership of its third president Luigi Rava (1902-1906), the Company expanded more markedly in countries very far geographically and culturally national borders would increase the number of committees in North America to reach also Canada (Toronto, 1905). Committees in the same age born in countries where it was affirming the Italian colonial expansion (Benghazi, Libya 1906), or reinforce existing ones (Tripoli, Libya, 1898).
In the early decades of the twentieth century, Dante begins to give a more structured and scientific training to their culture, and under the fourth president Paolo Boselli (1906-1932) the first courses were established for the training of teachers of Italian ‘ abroad.
Immediately after World War I were also established at the initiative of comm. Antonio Ortore and under the patronage of the Royal House and the support of then Senator Boselli, the “Borse Prize” of the Dante Alighieri Society for the unredeemed lands During Fascism the company through an initial phase of expansion in European countries (Katowice, Poland, 1923, Groningen, The Netherlands, 1924, Bessarabia, Romania, 1931, Helsinki, Finland, 1931, and Gothenburg, Sweden, 1932, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 1932 , Oslo, Norway, 1932; Focsani, Romania, 1937), and especially in Germany and Austria (Leipzig, Germany, 1934, Innsbruck, Austria, 1935, Salzburg, Austria, 1935, Linz, Germany, 1936, Stuttgart, Germany, 1936 : Frankfurt, Germany, 1937, Tubingen, Germany, 1938, etc..).
During the same period, the initially positive and modern image that fascism gave the country also contributed to the spread of an attitude “pro-Italian” in many countries around the world, especially the U.S. where it was the abundant presence of our emigrants, with the consequent formation of a large number of committees.
The same period the expansion of Dante also reached the Far East (Tianjin, China, 1924, Batavia, Dutch East Indies then Jakarta, Indonesia, 1934, Hong Kong, China, 1934, Bombay, India, 1935), Oceania ( Brisbane, Australia, 1937) and Africa (Dakar, Senegal, 1938). Obviously, the presence of Dante is also extended to countries in which Italy had imposed its colonial rule: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1936, Asmara, Eritrea, 1937.