These pages have been designed using Internet Explorer - they may not display correctly in other Browsers.


Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (1883 ~ 1945)

Italian fascist (Italian patriotic and anti-communistm movement) dictator (I921-45), whose dream of building a new Roman Empire was thwarted by his disastrous military alliance with the Germans.

Born in Dovia, the son of a blacksmith, Mussolini was educated at a school in Forlimpopoli, where he gained a diploma in primary education (1901). Teaching briefly in Gualtieri Emilia, he emigrated to Switzerland (1902) but was forced to return to Italy (owing to a false passport) in 1904. Over the next few years he became involved in socialist politics as a labour leader and editor of La Lotta di Classe (The Class Struggle), a provincial newspaper.

He was elected director of the Socialist Party and editor of its newspaper Avanti in 1912, but was expelled from the party in 1914 because he advocated that Italy should enter World War 1. He then founded an independent paper Popolo d,talia, supported by the Autonomous Fascist Party. In 1919 Mussolini formed a new fascist party &emdash; the fighting fascists, or Blackshirts &emdash; and was elected to parliament in 1921 as the head of a National Fascist Party. He led the march on Rome the following year, establishing himself as a dictator (known as il Duce ). After he had developed a powerful militia and secret police, he reorganized the state economy into a corporate state.

In 1929 he signed the Lateran Treaty establishing the independent Vatican state to mollify Roman Catholic opinion and by the early 1930s he had crushed virtually all opposition to his regime. Although three assassination attempts were made on him, he had at this time a large measure of popular support. However, this support began to wane when their theatrical and arrogant dictator began to involve the Italians in a series of military measures.

In 1936 he invaded Ethiopia, provoking worldwide protests and a feeble attempt by the League of Nations to impose sanctions on Italy. Initially antagonistic towards Hitler, he attempted to prevent him from annexing Austria by blocking the Brenncr Pass (1934). However, in 1937 he formed the Rome&emdash;Berlin Axis with Hitler to show his people that they did not stand alone in the world.

To emulate the Nazis, in the hope that some of their success might rub off on him, he introduced anti-semitism and a number of other measures that attracted only the hooligan element in Italy (unlike Germany) and alienated the mass of the peace-loving Italian people.

At the beginning of World War II he invaded Albania (1939) and finally declared war on the Allies after the German invasion of France (1940). From that point onwards his fortunes declined rapidly. By 1943 he had suffered disastrous military losses and was forced to resign. He was executed by Italian partisans at Donego in 1945 and his body ended up hanging upside down from a lamp-post in a Milan square.