Mussolini: A Biography

Mussolini: A Biography

by Jasper Ridley
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

This biography of Benito Mussolini describes his upbringing in the violent society of nineteenth-century Italy and the revolutionary traditions of Italian Socialism; his suspension from school for attacking other boys with knives; his imprisonment in Switzerland as an anarchist tramp. He had numerous love affairs and became a brilliant orator and journalist. He… See more details below

Overview

This biography of Benito Mussolini describes his upbringing in the violent society of nineteenth-century Italy and the revolutionary traditions of Italian Socialism; his suspension from school for attacking other boys with knives; his imprisonment in Switzerland as an anarchist tramp. He had numerous love affairs and became a brilliant orator and journalist. He founded the Fascist party and ordered his squads to burn down the party offices of the Communists and Socialists during four years of virtual civil war. Mussolini, having become Prime Minister and dictator after the March on Rome, showed his true colors as an empire builder and, eventually, as a racist and persecutor of the Jews.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hitler once allegedly told Mussolini that he was "too kind to be any good as a dictator." The remark, suggests prolific biographer Ridley (Thomas Cranmer; Lord Palmerston; Garibaldi; Tito), was "banter between friends in which an apparent censure conceals a compliment." Yet the line also anticipates Ridley's own approach to the brazen, boastful demagogue who ruled Italy ruthlessly for 21 years with the help of thugs and thieves who did Il Duce's bidding. Although Mussolini's revived Roman empire is generally seen as a house of cards, the corrupt creation of a shrewd phrase-maker, Ridley is nonetheless cautiously admiring. His Duce is a good family man (despite his mistresses), a patriot (beneath the propaganda), an adroit politician (except in foreign affairs), even a humanitarian (who didn't deport arrested Jews to death camps). He portrays Mussolini as a pragmatist in peacetime, a bumbler in war. In his account of the years from 1923 to 1940, Ridley writes that Fascism "did not greatly interfere" with ordinary lives and "brought some real benefits to the people," but any such benefits were undermined by an opportunist choice of wartime allies. Perhaps losing interest, or failing in sympathy with the wartime Duce, Ridley passes over the embarrassing and disastrous Axis years in relatively few pages, closing with Mussolini's summary execution by partisans in the last days of the war. Somewhat casual with facts and lacking the sharp candor of Denis Mack Smith's still-standard life (1982), Ridley's Mussolini is not a page-turner. Sixteen-page photo insert. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Ridley has written numerous biographies (e.g., Maximilian and Juarez, LJ 11/1/92), with Mussolini inspiring his latest but probably not his best work. The well-known tale of the poor Italian with the impressive speaking style and boisterous swagger who rose above his station in life to govern Italy during the tempestuous 1920s and 1930s is told rather ploddingly. Although uninspired, Ridley is evenhanded in his portrayal of Il Duce as the Italian strongman who made the trains run on time and his enemies disappear in the middle of the night. Mussolini was a master politician who invented Italian fascism and sought equal stature with Hitler but ended up butchered upside down at the end of a rope. Though told from a limited perspective, this book has great detail and remains the most comprehensive biography to appear in over a decade. For larger collections.--Edward Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
This new biography will refine our portrait of a 20th-century dictator. It has been Mussolini's great historical fortune that he shared the stage with Hitler and Stalin. Overshadowed by the barbarism of his two contemporaries, Mussolini has reaped the benefit of appearing benign while Hitler and Stalin continue to battle for supreme title of the 20th century's worst dictator. Another historical anomaly was that Mussolini was initially praised by many Western leaders, most warmly by Winston Churchill and influential persons in the US. Ridley, a lawyer and author of more than 15 historical biographies, shares these opinions. Ridley correctly admonishes an earlier historiographical and political tradition that saw Mussolini as a mere buffoon, gesturing wildly during his many balcony speeches. No buffoon remains in power for two decades. This is a more nuanced portrait, showing Mussolini hesitant and undecided at times, willing to cooperate with other governments when it suited his designs. Of particular value is Ridley's description of Mussolini's early life and career, usually given short- shrift in other biographies of the dictator. A full third of the book is devoted to these early years, including information on his family, education, war experience, and eventual expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party for advocating intervention in the Great War. Mussolini was a complex and often contradictory man, as exemplified by his early political career as a revolutionary socialist. But Ridley is sometimes overly sympathetic with his subject: fascist violence is not depicted in its full savagery, while antifascists who attempted to assassinate the dictator are called "terrorists" (withoutthe accompanying ironic quotes). Although the fascist Gabriel García Lorca regime cannot claim the number of victims destroyed by Stalin or Hitler, fascists were skilled in the political use of violence and terror, having the distinction of organizing the first death squads, the infamous Blackshirts or squadristi. The writing here is sometimes dry and particularly British. Still, though not without its flaws, this is a valuable introduction to Mussolini. .

The Historian
This is a competent study by an experienced biographer.
— Douglas J. Forsyth
The Weekly Standard
Jasper Ridley has written a good biography of Mussolini.
— Algis Valiunas
The Historian - Douglas J. Forsyth
This is a competent study by an experienced biographer.
The Weekly Standard - Algis Valiunas
Jasper Ridley has written a good biography of Mussolini.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312193034
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
10/15/1998
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.48(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >