In 1945, disguised in German greatcoat and helmet, Mussolini attempted to escape from the advancing Allied armies. Unfortunately for him, the convoy of which he was part was stopped by partisans and his features, made so familiar by Fascist propaganda, gave him away. Within 24 hours he was dead, executed by his captors. He joined those he sent early to their graves as an outcome of his dictatorship - at least a million people, and probably more. He was one of the tyrant-killers who so scarred interwar Europe, but we cannot properly understand him or his regime by any simple equation with Hitler or Stalin. Like Hitler and Stalin, his life began, modestly, in the provinces; unlike them, he maintained a traditional male family life, including both wife and mistresses, and sought in his way to be an intellectual. He was both cruel (but not the cruellist); his racism existed, but never without the consistency and vigour that would have made him a good recruit for the SS. He sought an empire; but, in the most part, his was of the old-fashione, costly, 19th-century variety, not a racial or ideological imperium.
Also, self-evidently Italian society was not German or Russian: the particualr patterns of that society shaped his dictatorship. This book allows the reader to come closer to an appreciation of the life and actions of the man and of the political world and society within which he operated. Drawing on a range of sources, this biography paints a picture of brutality and failure, yet one tempered with an understanding of Mussolini as a human being, not so different from many of his contemporaries.
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(238mm x 164mm x 55mm)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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UK Kirkus Review »
Why are we so fascinated by dictators? The biographies of such monsters as Hitler, Stalin and now Saddam Hussein come thick and fast, and the readership is by no means confined to historians. We are all fascinated by these men who dispensed death and misery to so many while claiming to be saviours of their countries. Mussolini is, of course, one of the most infamous of this unsavoury breed, and his regime has been the subject of numerous excellent studies. But R J B Bosworth has a particular skill in conjuring up the complex personality of the Italian dictator, and his cool, dispassionate prose perfectly evokes an era and the man who ruled Italy so ruthlessly. As with so many monsters, there are surprising aspects to the dictator: he was a devoted student of philosophy, and followed sport with a genuine enthusiasm. Of course, the number of people who died under his regime rivals even those of his ally Hitler, but Mussolini (unlike Hitler and Stalin) is often regarded as a clownish figure, with his strutting manner and bizarre appearance. He was the recipient of one of the most frequently made observations about any dictator: he made the trains run time. But did he make Italy more efficient? Bosworth is particularly sharp on the ways in which Mussolini altered Italian society, and demonstrates how the man's savagery often concealed his own debilitating consciousness of weakness and failure. From the youthful intellectual with high-flown ideals to the battered body hanging from a lamppost, the remarkable trajectory of Mussolini's career is given a trenchant and fastidiously researched treatment here. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Richard J. B. Bosworth
Richard Bosworth has a shared professorship in the History departments at Reading University, UK and the University of Western Australia.