The volume written by has been in the bookstore for a few days Michael Grimaldi «Barletta and the puzzle of its history», the synthesis of the 40 years that the author has attempted to reconstruct from his long experience. Started as an apprentice, under the guidance of prof. Giuseppe Dibenedetto, Michele, former manager of the Barletta section, has recently reached the rank of manager also of the State Archives of the Bari and Trani Sections.
Forty years old, the author recalls with pride, an uninterrupted archivist activity, first as a very young unpretentious “apprentice”, then progressively, as a passionate lover of historical research among the hundreds, thousands of papers, which implement the Archive State of Barletta, rich, if anything, of an exceptional documentation on the city. There is a way and a way to be an archivist, as a simple collector of papers, or as a passionate researcher of documents. Michele Grimaldi – with his team – has chosen this second path, and so, year after year, he has cataloged an infinite number of documents and for this reason, when someone asks him for documented news from the past, he knows dexterously how and where to move in research.
Thus, over the years, an invaluable cultural background has been formed. In some respects he lives in the past, among his preliminary papers and authentic documents that convey to us the emotion of a revisiting of times gone by.
It thus took shape, over time and in Grimaldi’s memory, like a large map of a historical-topographical nature; hence the idea of the puzzle. I too have had direct experience with the massacre of the Evangelicals in 1866 (at the request of Mons. Giovan Battista Pichierri), of which little was known. Well, through the voluminous folders of that execrable fact, I managed to historically reconstruct the story not only in the arid documentation of the time, but through a lively – as well as reliable – reconstruction of the events.
The same is true for many other historical events in our city, so any historian cannot ignore the research and study of those papers.
Recent events and remote events, such as the rich documentation relating to the collections of legislative acts of the last dynasties that governed Italy, or on the land registry dating back to the 18th century!
Through research, facts and backgrounds that otherwise could not be known are explored: let’s take for example the story of the birth of the Apulian Aqueduct. Of course, whoever reads the history that dates back to that institution can only draw a standardized reconstruction. While the truth is another, at least in its initial phase. It all began with a project by the Municipality of Barletta when, in the second half of the 19th century, a terrible plague devastated the city and the authorities of the time, seeing the pressure exerted on the Province to obtain funding as useless, undertook their own autonomous initiative aimed at construction of “our aqueduct”. The preliminary papers and exceptional graphic documentation have survived, but also on the ground, a reinforced concrete building to certify a reliable reconstruction.
The State Archive is an institution that collects documents over a centuries-old period, born above all at the service of the Municipality, but also of other public, local and district bodies. And not only. For example, research on the investigative facts of remote trials, or on the reconstruction of events of historical significance in the city and in the city, such as the events relating to the facts of the Fascist period; let’s think of the uprisings of 1931 on the controversy regarding the topographical attribution of the Monument to the Challenge of Barletta, when Bari – between Barletta and Trani, the two contending cities – advanced its candidacy!
In the text there are new pages for the reader, such as those on the Mystery of the Monument to the Fallen, On the school and school building, with an in-depth analysis on the Liceo Classico. And also on the Port whose historical importance is already pointed out in the title (When the port generated the city). Numerous articles on the Great War, on which Grimaldi intervened several times with more intense research when he recalled the story of Lieutenant Nicola Straniero. And then the tragedies experienced by the city from March 1866 to the tragic collapse of via Roma, in October 2011.
Some pages of the chapter on the Palazzo di Città are interesting, such as The demonstrations in Barletta in the aftermath of the unification of Italy, the date of the birth of the traffic police corps and, finally, a piece on the role of bureaucracy.
“The puzzle of the history of Barletta” is the title of Michele Grimaldi’s book, and just like in a puzzle, the author gradually fills the many boxes of which it is composed, and so gradually historical areas are formed which over time are completed with dates and contents, to leave the reader with the pleasure of a mere systematic research.
Alongside the great one, a “familiar” investigation of those – professionals, entrepreneurs, ordinary citizens – are looking for a so-called “private” documentation. And so Michele, with great skill and availability – unusual in a state official – sets out to research with zeal and precision, without waiting for the long times of a slumbering slowocracy. For example, the reconstruction of the genealogical tree of a family, when Michele does not limit himself to investigating using the standardized models of his office, but with the flair of artistic reconstruction, of someone who knows how to model an authentic “tree”, moreover colors.
Papers, many papers over the decades, consulting them has come to form over time like an enormous puzzle that gave the title to the book, in which, piece by piece, the stitches of the documentary reconstruction of the city have been woven, and so Michele, after forty years of research, has seen fit to leave a trace of this extraordinary weaving, reconstructing it with a double criterion, chronological and thematic. Starting with the events and characters best known to our city, where the chapters are not written in an academic and scientific manner, but with reliable content and simple exposition. This is how he recalls the rediscovery of the Disfida di Barletta, at the beginning of the 1960s, of which he recalls – since he was a child – the exciting phases of its birth and its development, also helped by the fact that his father Vittorio was one of the active promoters . And with the story of the facts, that of the characters, above all don Peppuccio Damato, the cav. Damiano Daddato, known as Skavott. And the same for many other events, such as the battle of Canne, on which the tarpaulin of the representation rises extemporaneously, then sadly lowers and waits for the next return of interest. Not to mention more recent and dramatic events, such as the tragic collapse of via Canosa, or the mournful events linked to the dramatic days of March 1956 (the year of the great snowfall and the deaths in street clashes with the police ).
The State Archives of Barletta, of which Michele Grimaldi was the great investigator, an inexhaustible mine of information. 220 pages, an anthology of news about Barletta and the past, through the papers of the State Archives of which Grimaldi is the punctual custodian, a true notary of our historical documents.