In recent decades historiography has moved decisively away from the highly personalized treatments of past events which were once favoured. Not ‘great men’ but ‘labouring men’, collective movements, political forces, social and economic development, women's and local history have been the focus of attention. Nowadays, the problem of political leadership is considered primarily in institutional terms, and the emphasis given to personality has correspondingly diminished. With very few exceptions, biography has been relegated to the level of popular narrative. To raise the question of charisma in these circumstances is almost to violate a taboo, to address an embarrassing topic unworthy of scholarly attention. With the exception of the mainly theoretical work of Luciano Cavalli on the origins and permutations of charisma, there have been no sustained attempts to examine comparatively the various cases of charismatic leadership that Italian political life has produced. Thus, partly because charisma has been abandoned as a scholarly topic, it can appear inexplicable, inaccessible to the historical methods used for the study of social and political structures.