Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini's Italy


Today Mussolini is remembered as a hated dictator who, along with Hitler and Stalin, ushered in an era of totalitarian repression unsurpassed in human history. But how was he viewed by ordinary Italians during his lifetime?

In Fascist Voices, Christopher Duggan draws on thousands of letters sent to Mussolini, as well as private diaries and other primary documents, to show how Italian citizens lived and experienced the fascist regime under Mussolini from 1922-1943. Throughout ...

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Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini's Italy

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Today Mussolini is remembered as a hated dictator who, along with Hitler and Stalin, ushered in an era of totalitarian repression unsurpassed in human history. But how was he viewed by ordinary Italians during his lifetime?

In Fascist Voices, Christopher Duggan draws on thousands of letters sent to Mussolini, as well as private diaries and other primary documents, to show how Italian citizens lived and experienced the fascist regime under Mussolini from 1922-1943. Throughout the 1930s, Mussolini received about 1,500 letters a day from Italian men and women of all social classes writing words of congratulation, commiseration, thanks, encouragement, or entreaty on a wide variety of occasions: his birthday and saint's day, after he had delivered an important speech, on a major fascist anniversary, when a husband or son had been killed in action. While Duggan looks at some famous diaries-by such figures as the anti-fascist constitutional lawyer Piero Calamandrei; the philosopher Benedetto Croce; and the fascist minister Giuseppe Bottai-the majority of the voices here come from unpublished journals, diaries, and transcripts. Utilizing a rich collection of untapped archival material, Duggan explores "the cult of Il Duce," the religious dimensions of totalitarianism, and the extraordinarily intimate character of the relationship between Mussolini and millions of Italians. Duggan shows that the figure of Mussolini was crucial to emotional and political engagement with the regime; although there was widespread discontent throughout Italy, little of the criticism was directed at Il Duce himself. Duggan argues that much of the regime's appeal lay in its capacity to appropriate the language, values, and iconography of Roman Catholicism, and that this emphasis on blind faith and emotion over reason is what made Mussolini's Italy simultaneously so powerful and so insidious.

Offering a unique perspective on the period, Fascist Voices captures the responses of private citizens living under fascism and unravels the remarkable mixture of illusions, hopes, and fears that led so many to support the regime for so long.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this thoroughly engaging history, Duggan (The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy Since 1796), an expert on Italian history, chronicles Mussolini’s rise, reign, and fall through a close examination of journals, letters, telegrams, and other textual artifacts from before and during WWII. Taken together, they capture by turns the Italian people’s love and hatred of their leader, as well as the sheer strangeness of living in a fascist state. Mussolini’s “broad church” of fascism brought many of his countrymen and women into the fold, and Duggan’s account presents jaw-dropping examples of their attachment to Il Duce. One author wrote a book called The Imitation of Mussolini; schoolchildren were taught a poem about Mussolini and his mother; female admirers wrote love letters. Others, however, furtively recorded their principled opposition to the violence of the fascist regime. In a powerful shift to the present, Duggan ends the book with a selection of laudatory entries recently penned in the guestbook at Mussolini’s tomb—a sobering reminder that though Il Duce is dead, his strange and mercurial allure lives on. 2 maps. (July)
From the Publisher

"A valuable companion to courses on fascism and for anyone interested in the topic. [Duggan] demonstrates the need to understand "Mussolini" as a fetish --an invented modern saint to many, whose hagiography could be inscribed in public and private writing, whose image could be venerated in time of plenty, and whose name could be invoked in times of need. Recommended." --CHOICE

"An elegantly written study that is the work of a historian at the height of his powers [Duggan] works most effectively from below, with his argument and prose enlivened by his skillful choice from the unpublished diary entries of 200 and more Italians who were part of the Mussolini generation." --Richard Bosworth, History Today

"[An] excellent new history of Italian Fascism." --Financial Times

"Fascist Voices takes up the challenge of understanding why the Duce and his regime appealed to so many Italians. The author's thoughtful tone and sensitive handling of his sources, which include diaries, police informers' reports and letters sent to Mussolini, enhance the book, and his clear prose makes it eminently readable." --Times Higher Education, London

"In his magnificent new book, a pathbreaking study that everyone interested in Fascism, or in Italy past and present, should read, Christopher Duggan fills the gap by examining a wide range of diaries, including Petacci's, and the numerous letters sent to Mussolini by private citizens during the two decades of his rule..." --Richard Evans, London Review of Books

Library Journal
★ 09/15/2013
Using vast archives of letters sent to the fascist leader of Italy during his tenure from 1922 to 1943, as well as portions of unpublished diaries, Duggan (modern Italian history, Univ. of Reading; The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy Since 1796) explores why the totalitarian Mussolini experienced such long and widespread support in his country. Duggan interweaves these primary-source excerpts into a readable narrative, which includes a discussion of why this topic has largely gone unexplored by scholars of Italian history. In postwar Italy, there was no cycle of trials and retribution, together with the sense of some healing, as there was in Germany. Many of Italy's civil servants under Mussolini stayed in their positions in the aftermath of World War II. Duggan also notes the unique role of the Catholic Church in Mussolini's own rhetoric, which reinforced iconographies familiar to Italians. The Catholic Church, needless to say, remained a strong component of the post-fascist Italian state. Italians with fascist sympathies to this day flock to Mussolini's grave. VERDICT With an intriguing cast of characters derived from his primary sources, Duggan's work is both accessible to readers of World War II history and an important new work in the historiography of modern Italy.—Kelsey Berry Philpot, Holderness Sch., NH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199730780
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/1/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 885,926
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Duggan is Professor of Modern Italian History at the University of Reading, Head of of the School of Languages and European Studies, and Director of the Centre for Modern Italian History. His publications include: Francesco Crispi: From Nation to Nationalism and The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy since 1796.

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Table of Contents

1. The Fruits of Victory, 1919-20
2. From Rhetoric to Violence, 1920-22
3. Return to Order, 1922-24
4. The Man of Providence
5. Purifying the Nation's Soul
6. Spaces for Dissent
7. Imparting Faith
8. The Politics of Intimacy
9. A Place in the Sun
10. Defence of the Race
11. War
12. The Road to Disaster
13. The Last Act

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