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14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0340809884
ISBN-10: 0340809884
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Bosworth (history, Univ. of West Australia; Italian Dictatorship) is an authority on 20th-century Italy, and his exhaustive study of Benito Mussolini, first published in London, leaves no stone unturned in trying to explain the complexities of Il Duce and his times. Bosworth includes copious footnotes and an impressive bibliography to authenticate his compelling interpretation of Italy's Fascist dictator. This portrait of Mussolini reveals the author's appreciation of the complex ingredients of Il Duce's legacy a legacy that still influences Italian politics. Mussolini was a "man of image" whose virile charisma unified a fractious nation, but the ideological underpinnings of fascism never sank very deeply into Italian society. Although his 22-year dictatorial reign brought misery to millions, Mussolini never bought into the racist fanaticism of his Nazi brethren. As Bosworth infers, Mussolini's inherent zest for life kept him from becoming the grim exterminator Hitler wanted him to be. Bosworth's biography easily supersedes Denis Mack Smith's 1982 Mussolini as the definitive study of the Italian dictator and belongs in every public and academic library with a strong European history collection. Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Recently there has been a disturbing resurgence of interest in Mussolini and his political movement within Italy. Some of this can be attributed to the benign curiosity of a younger generation lacking any personal memory of the fascist era. However, revisionist TV documentaries and "scholarly" surveys of the period that combine nostalgia with willful glossing over of the outrages conducted by Il Duce are quite distressing. Bosworth, a professor of history at the University of Western Australia, has written extensively about Italian fascism, and fortunately this is not a revisionist tome. While Bosworth does not demonize Mussolini, he views him as an extreme example of an ego-driven personality incapable of divorcing his own self-gratifying impulses from the best interests of his people. However, the author also convincingly asserts that, as a political force, Mussolini was not an aberration; he and his movement grew out of and were linked to a supposedly "respectable" ultranational and intolerant strain in the Italian body politic, and that strain is still flourishing. A well-balanced examination. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (October 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340809884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340809884
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,337,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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95 of 109 people found the following review helpful By on June 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Twenty years ago Denis Mack Smith published what was at the time the definitive biography of Mussolini. Concise and economical, it was also utterly devastating and mordantly hilarious. But between then and now the conservative Italian historian Renzo De Felice finished his mammoth biography that weighed in at perhaps twenty times the length of Mack Smith. At the same time De Felice's book was noticeably more sympathetic to the man (and to the Italian ruling class that let him get away with so much) and helped encourage what to outsiders appears the bizarre atmosphere of "anti-anti-Fascism" that typifies Berlusconi Italy. Partially as a response to this diplomatic historian R.J.B. Bosworth has produced a new biography, which seeks incorporate twenty new years of scholarship. It counters De Felice's lenient version and offers a more complex response to Mussolini than Mack Smith's olympian scorn.
Is it better than Mack Smith? Not necessarily. But it is a useful book worth reading. One should compare it to Paul Preston's book on Franco, Herbert Bix's work on Hirohito and Ian Kershaw's two volume biography on Hitler. Bosworth's book is shorter than all three (and the body is only a hundred pages longer than Mack Smith's). His portrait of Mussolini as a bullying demagogue, manipulative thug, shallow ideologue, brutal colonialist and incompetent general does not differ too much from Mack Smith's version. As a result it is not as revelatory as Bix's was on Hirohito's complicity or Preston's was on Franco's willingness to support the Axis. Bosworth is not as thorough as Kershaw.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By H. Argun on December 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike most biographies, Bosworth's book actually starts from late in Mussolin's life, specifically his last 2 years alive 1944-45 and later resumes with Mussolini's birth and childhood and moves on to his adulthood as a teacher and writer and traces his political beginnings which were actually as a socialist. Later on it describes how Mussolini turned to fascism, gained power, and the prewar years and World War II. I was a little surprised at how much damage Mussolini did to Libya and Ethiopia as well as the magnitude of the killings of the local populations in those areas carried out by the Italians. The book includes a section of photographs as well as maps, footnotes, and bibliography. The last chapter even gives an account of the travels of Mussolini's corpse after he was executed and put on diplay in Milan. As much as this was a biography of Mussolini, it also seemed to be an analysis of fascism as a whole and how much harm that ideology and Mussolini were for Italy and the Italian people, as well as the above mentioned areas of Africa, and Europe. All in all, it was an interesting read, however, one can only pity the Italian people for having to put up with such poor, damaging, and detrimental leadership for such a long time, during an especially critical part of their history. I believe the fact that Mussolini is mentioned in the same breath with such a harmful leader as Hitler is indeed fitting and appropriate.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Chapin on November 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It seems like I have been studying World War II all my life, but a glaring deficiency in my education is my lack of knowledge concerning the intricacies of Fascist Italy. This caused me to pick up a used copy of this book the other day and I wasn't disappointed. I will say though that I thought the font on the paperback edition was too small, and I share this here just in case anyone else is really annoyed by small print. Bosworth's accounting of Il Duce was complete and fascinating. His narration skills are strong although his contempt for Mussolini definitely comes across in these pages which is really the only criticism that I have. Clocking in at around 430 pages, this text packs a serious punch and provides a brimming overview of the man and his times. The panorama he gives on Italy and the Italian people also made it well worth the money. Mussolini was more than a brutal clown, and Bosworth's study of him allows us to realize this.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By lector avidus on September 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Richard Bosworth is an academic specialized in modern Italian history, who improbably teaches at the University of Western Australia. After reading his spin-off of this book, I decided to read this book.

Bosworth doesn't disappoint with this exceptionally well-written biography of one of the more unpleasant individuals to rule Italy. Anyone who was expelled from school for knifing a fellow student, who accepted foreign money for influencing his country's politics towards bringing it into a disastrous war, who didn't shy from using violence and murder to advance his political ends, who openly and flagrantly dishonored his marital vows, who used racial and religious animosities for political ends, and under whose command poison gas was used against Ethiopians cannot be a statesman, and ought have no place in politics. In this book the strong impression arises that Bosworth went out of his way to be fair to the "duce" but that there just was little that was flattering to be said for him. However, when Bosworth describes Preston's biography of Franco as "authoritative," and compares him to the other unelected European leaders of his time, I am not persuaded that Bosworth was as meticulously fair-minded.

Bosworth describes himself as a proud product of 1789, and writes that he is quite open to hearing criticisms that his politics color his historiography. I do believe this to be the case: Bosworth is quite willing to describe the pathology of the duce, but doesn't ponder why Italians were willing to tolerate such a loathsome individual as their leader.
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