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Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 Paperback – January 30, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With this insightful, comprehensive study, Bosworth secures his place as one of the two leading historians in the English-speaking world (the other being Paul Ginsborg) of 20th-century Italy. Bosworth begins with an admission that he has embarked on an "impossible project": "to unveil the lives of Italians" from all walks of life "under a generation of dictatorship." Impossible, indeed, but what a grand attempt at a synthesis of social and political history he produces. While Mussolini and the party officials are at the center of the story, Bosworth dips into the Fascist police files to see what ordinary Italians were up to during the dictatorship, in order to portray a "fascism of the everyday." A good-natured drunken night on the town, ending with the singing of antifascist songs in the streets disturbing the people's sleep could land you in some God-forsaken remote village as punishment; further, the dictatorship was a corrupt and compromising affair. Yet Fascism in Italy, Bosworth frequently shows, was tempered by the continuing influence of the family and other nonparty institutions such as the Church, the army, the diplomatic corps and the universities.Another important feature is Bosworth's refusal to let "Liberal Italy" (1860–1922) off the hook. From imperialism to racism, corruption to authoritarianism, liberal Italy, he says, laid the groundwork for the Fascist regime. And while he gives ample instances of the violent and at times murderous nature of the regime, Bosworth does exonerate the Italian people of falling for totalitarianism. If Italians come off well from 1922 to 1945, they look far less noble in the postwar period. Bosworth's last chapter, "The Fascist Heritage," is a disturbing account of the tenacious survival of fascism into contemporary Italy. While not as pessimistic as Ginsborg, Bosworth (Mussolini) still reminds us of the "eternal tendency toward fascism." 35 b&a mp;w illus. not seen by PW; 3 maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Bosworth wrote a biography of Mussolini in 2002; here he investigates how fascistic Italian society became under the ministrations of Il Duce. Bosworth recounts the origin of fascism in both Italian indignation about its inconsequential gains from World War I and the unconsolidated nature of the Italian state. Within this framework, Bosworth explores in detail the Fascist Party's claim to expand territorially and unify the populace via an authoritarian nationalist revolution. Mussolini's regime aspired to totalitarian control with its aggressive propaganda ("believe, obey, fight"), secret police, youth organization, and military. Bosworth sharply characterizes the leaders of these forces of the regime, considering most of them, Mussolini included, to have been corrupt cynics; however, he is studiously analytical about their importunities upon Italian society. Well attuned to ingrained attitudes, such as trust in family and suspicion of government, Bosworth traces, with sympathy and insight, the fate of Italians and the catastrophe the regime visited upon them. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Not a bad book if you enjoy reading for the sake of looking at words.
John Pavliga
It is a very long and detailed book, which I had found myself losing interest a few times because of the ton of names he throws out to the reader.
Bosworth shows well that Fascist Italy appears to be relatively benign only by comparison with Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union.
R. Albin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an ambitious and successful attempt to write the social history of Fascism. Italian Fascism, Bosworth reminds us, controlled Italy for almost a generation, a considerably longer period than the disastrous experiment of Nazi rule of Germany. How was Fascism experienced by Italians? To what extent did Fascism change Italy? What were the essential features of Fascist rule? What were the well springs of Fascism? Bosworth treats all these issues and more in this carefully documented and well written volume. Rather than pursuing these issues topically, Bosworth has organized this book chronologically. He begins with the nature of Liberal Italy and the experience of WWI, moves through the interwar period and the grim events of WWII, concluding with a concise but revealing chapter on postwar fascist movements. He weaves his topical themes into the narrative very well, providing considerable analysis and showing the historically dynamic nature of the Fascist experience. This combination of narrative and analysis is excellent.

Bosworth is particularly concerned with providing a balanced view of Fascist Italy. The Fascist state is often viewed popularly as a comic opera dicatorship. Bosworth shows well that Fascist Italy appears to be relatively benign only by comparison with Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union. This oppressive dictatorship destroyed democracy and human rights in Italy, and by Bosworth's reckoning, was ultimately responsible for about 1 million deaths in Italy, the Balkans, and Africa. It was a police state in which millions of Italians were informing on each other, corrupting the quality of public life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pkneeno on February 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
For a first generation American-Italian with an interest in both history and specifically Italian history this book is very frustrating. Bosworth doesn't give us the big picture, but rather a collection of names, political labels, and half stories that leave the reader looking for the thread, looking for the central theme. The first three chapters must list 20+ characters who had some influence on Italy's post WWI politics. None of the named individuals is fleshed out enough to understand what his or her influence was exactly. It's as if Bosworth had a stack of index cards and just transcribed, not really making any effort to link to a chronology or specific theme. His language is frightfully ham-handed in places. The footnotes: Prof B. has 2013 footnotes in 572 pages. The winner is chapter 16, a 35 page chapter with 172 footnotes. It's not that accurate citations are a problem. We want accurate, trustworthy research. It's that the footnotes are indicative of the lack of any coherent theme. We want accurate, trustworthy scholarship, but give us some sort of overview. This is like reading a well researched phone book. Weave it together, doctor. In the words of Rick Atkinson (Army at Dawn, Day of Battle) you can write that the king died and then the queen died or you can write the king died and the queen died of a broken heart. This is a book for the library to buy. I plowed through the footnotes and did get some other books of interest. Bosworth is good at giving translations immediately. Interesting that in Ch 8 p215 he tells us that the word 'totalitarian' was coined in Italy. In a sea of translation and footnotes, he chooses this place to a)not give us the Italian word and b) not give us a footnote citing the speech, publication, whatever. Perhaps Dr. Bosworth's bio of Mussolini is better. A proposito... the Italian word for totalitarianism is 'totalitario' (Webster's New World Italian Dictionary, 1992).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Fishman on July 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
Professor Bosworth puts together a well-balanced look at the development of Italy's Fascist Party and its subsequent takeover of Italy. While arguing that Mussolini was far from innocent, Bosworth does show that he was considerably less malignant than either Hitler or Stalin. For instance, Mussolini did not create anything approaching the horrors of Auschwitz. Moreover, he shows how, unlike those other 2 dictators, Mussolini never established a truly totalitarian state (despite his boasting to the contrary). For instance, the Catholic Church remained as a leading institution within Italian society, and did not always toe the Fascist line. The same thing applies to the Italian monarchy (although Bosworth does not present King Victor Emmanuel III in a positive light). Moreover, he makes a convincing case that the Rome-Berlin Axis was clearly a marriage of unequals, with Italy playing the role of a very junior partner (apparently, Italians did not figure highly in the Nazi racial hierarchy). Even though "national characteristics" are no longer en vogue among historians, I got the impression from this book that Italians were somehow culturally incapable of establishing a genuinely totalitarian state, not to mention one that would seek to create any sort of "new world order." Bosworth also peppers the book with references to Italian Jews who were active in the Fascist Party. This is obviously a striking contrast to the situation in Nazi Germany. On a more critical note, I wish that Bosworth would have given more attention to the issue of "Italia Irredentia" as a function of Mussolini's foreign policy. After all, the Paris Peace Conference did not resolve this issue in Italy's favor (as it had created Yugoslavia out of much of that territory).Read more ›
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