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Benito Mussolini was a brilliant Socialist journalist who in 1914 declared war, put himself at the head if the anti-Socialist movement in Italy, manoeuvred himself into power by 1933 and ruled the country until overthrown in 1943. He was a dynamic but insecure personality, who appeared dictatorial but always had to share power with the military and bureaucratic establishment. Mussolini founded an Empire in Africa and tried to 'make Italians' in his own heroic, war like image, but in fact failed to even control his own family! In June 1940, when France fell, he could not resist joining in the Second World War on the German side, although Italy was not equipped for serious fighting. His rule ended in Military disaster and personal humiliation.
This new biography focuses both on Mussolini's personality and on the way he exercised power, and regards these two issues as closely linked. It sees him as a man with all the talents needed to attain power but few of those needed to exercise it well. This book primarily focuses on how Mussolini had absolutely the wrong personality for a successful political leader.
Glossary and Abbreviations
Introduction Mussolini: Personality and Power
1 Early Years and the Great War 18831918
2 Manoeuvres to Power 191822
3 Precarious Tenure 19224
4 Making the Fascist State 19259
5 Targets and Battles 192535
6 At the Height of his Power? The Regime and the Duce 192935
7 The Duce Abroad: Propaganda, Peacemaking and War 192236
8 Electing a New People 193640
9 The Approach of War 193640
10 The Duce at War 19403
11 The Years of Captivity 19435
Conclusion: Debates Among Historians
- Reflects on the nature of government and on how things work in modern societies, and on how far politics and individuals make a difference
- Argues that Mussolini's appeal rested on embodying robust masculine virtues - courage, responsibility, patriotism - that are now distinctly old-fashioned, but still have very widespread support
- Shows that Mussolini pioneered a 'mediacracy' - rule by journalists attempting to ensure that all social institutions, and even the private sphere, conform to government dictates
M Clark is a retired academic, former reader in Politics at the University of Edinburgh (he taught Gordon Brown what he knows about European History!). He is also the author of Modern Italy 1871-1995, ( Longman 1985) and other books on Italian history including Antonio Gramsci and Revolution, (Yale 1977) and The Italian Risorgimento, (Longman 1998).
'...a highly readable account, packed with information, full of references to present-day politics and with a fair number of light-hearted asides to the reader. Clark is a master of the moderating synthesis and has no place for moral outrage.'
Paul Corner, Journal of Modern Italian Studies 2006
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