Mussolini's Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Fascist Vision

Mussolini's Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Fascist Vision

by Edwin Palmer Hoyt, Edwin P. Hoyt
     
 

He was Il Duce, godfather of Italian fascism, a leader fired by grandiose imperial ambitions who drove his nation into an unwinnable war. Yet, as historian Edwin Hoyt reminds us, Benito Mussolini was once the most popular political figure in the world. Mahatma Gandhi called him "a superman" and "one of the great statesmen of all time." To Thomas Edison he was "the… See more details below

Overview

He was Il Duce, godfather of Italian fascism, a leader fired by grandiose imperial ambitions who drove his nation into an unwinnable war. Yet, as historian Edwin Hoyt reminds us, Benito Mussolini was once the most popular political figure in the world. Mahatma Gandhi called him "a superman" and "one of the great statesmen of all time." To Thomas Edison he was "the greatest genius of modern times." Heads of state, including Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, flocked to Rome to pay him homage. In this fresh look at Mussolini and the rise and fall of Italian Fascism, Edwin Hoyt gives us a vivid, contrarian portrait of this darkly complex, disturbingly admirable man whose life and career embodied the welter of crosscurrents that shaped the first four decades of this century. In Hoyt's analysis, Mussolini had a first-class mind and a shrewd understanding of the European scene that led to his phenomenal rise to power. Born into the poverty of the Italian countryside, the son of a radical socialist blacksmith and a devoutly Catholic school teacher, Mussolini was a loner and a bully, an indifferent student, and an irrepressible rebel. Yet, early on, he exhibited a genius for oratory and languages, as well as keen insight into human nature. Hoyt shows how these gifts, wedded to ruthless ambition and a life-long conviction that he was born to lead the masses, were to account for Mussolini's successes, first as a brilliant young newspaper editor and charismatic leader of the Italian Socialists, and finally as the creator of the Italian Fascist Empire. Hoyt describes how Mussolini set out to be master of Italy and a major world leader and how he succeeded. Through the creation of a totalitarian system he called "fascism," Mussolini reconstructed Italy from the poverty and destruction left by World War I forging her into a major power: He envisioned a new Roman Empire and by 1934 he had conquered Libya and Somaliland. After he took control of Ethiopia in 1936, his Medite

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``As dictators go, Mussolini was very humane .'' So writes Hoyt ( Japan's War ), who here presents an idiosyncratic interpretation of ``the world's most popular political figure of the late 1920s and early 1930s.'' Playing down the violence, corruption and anti-Semitism of Mussolini's regime--and the hammy theatricality of the man himself--Hoyt emphasizes the uneasy relationship between the Italian dictator and Hitler, especially Mussolini's restraining influence on der Fuhrer until 1939. Hoyt brings into focus, for example, Il Duce 's attempts to forge an alliance among Britain, France, Italy and Germany in 1933-1934 to maintain peace in Europe and curb the Nazi leader's expansionist ambitions. The author also sheds light on the Salo Republic, the puppet regime Hitler established in northern Italy for Mussolini after his fall from popular power in 1943 (Mussolini was executed by partisans in 1945). There is also a chapter on Mussolini's relations with women (``Usually he did not take off his trousers'') which, Hoyt acknowledges, has little relevance to his 21-year leadership of Italy or his contributions as a statesman. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Despite its title, this book is not about Mussolini's overseas empire or fascism as a theory. It is instead a biographical treatment of Mussolini that regards him as an intelligent, dynamic, and largely underrated figure. The book is written from a superficial standpoint, describing events and actions in Mussolini's rise and fall but including little attempt to analyze or explain them. Thus, for example, such critical issues for understanding Mussolini as his early involvement with socialism and his conversion to fascism receive fragmentary and confused consideration. Hoyt is a prolific author of popular histories, but this one reads like a potboiler. Libraries whose collections lack such recent standards as Denis Mack Smith's Mussolini ( LJ 5/15/82), Alexander Stille's Benevolence and Betrayal ( LJ 11/15/91), and Philip Cannistraro and Brian Sullivan's Il Duce's Other Woman ( LJ 2/1/93) should purchase these first.-- Barbara Walden, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Jay Freeman
The current decade has already witnessed a disturbing rise in right-wing extremism in Russia, Germany, and Italy (where Mussolini's granddaughter almost won a seat in the legislature). Thus, Hoyt's fascinating but flawed biography makes for timely and compelling reading. As were so many of Mussolini's contemporaries, Hoyt is clearly entranced by his subject's dynamism, courage, and often uncanny political instincts. Hoyt's chapters on Mussolini's early life are fine examples of historical and psychological interpretation and eloquently illustrate how the child became father to the adult. Unfortunately, Hoyt's relatively benign treatment of Il Duce's glaring character flaws detracts from the credibility of his efforts. Hoyt sees Mussolini's failures as essentially political rather than moral. He glosses over the man's blatant cynicism, self-absorption, and inability to commit to anyone or anything beyond his personal aggrandizement. Still, Hoyt's unique psychological insights and his ability to place them into historical context make this a readable and valuable biography.
Booknews
A fast-paced account of Benito Mussolini's personality and the political culture which led to his rise to and fall from power. According to Hoyt, many people today forget some of the remarkable facts about his rule: for instance, that he came to power constitutionally, without bloodshed, and that he killed fewer political opponents than most dictators. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471591511
Publisher:
Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
Publication date:
03/16/1994
Pages:
298
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.01(d)

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