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Mussolini Paperback – 15 Nov 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (15 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842126067
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842126066
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 623,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

'A brilliant and convincing account of the man who was Italy's dictator for more than 20 years' Christopher Hibbert, The Week

About the Author

Denis Mack Smith is the author of twenty volumes on Italian history, all of which have been translated into Italian, and he has sold in excess of a million books in that country. He is an Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and of Wolfson College, Oxford, and Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He has been awarded a dozen literary prizes as well as the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize (for Mussolini's Roman Empire) and the Wolfson Prize. In 1996 he was appointed a Grand Officer of the Italian Order of Merit.

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a must for all students studying fascism. It gives an in-depth analysis of the man who founded fascism and provides an insight into his life. Mack-Smith's expertise on the subject gives powerful quotes for essays and his accessible style allows the whole ability range to understand it. But it is not only for the student, since that same style allows anyone who is interested in the past century to understand someone who was much misunderstood. Someone who began life as an extreme Marxist, became a much less radical Conservative, before turning his hand to ultra-nationalist fascism is clearly an interesting person. By reading this book you will understand the man who was behind the ideal of the twentieth century: fascism.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Feb 2002
Format: Paperback
Mack Smith's biography is a thorough account of Mussolini's life. Factually it is excellent in depicting life in Fascist Italy backed up with lots of evidence and statistics. However 'Mussolini' truly excels in Mack Smith's analytical interpretations of the events in Mussolini's life, offering the depth and knowlegde which makes this book a 'must have' for anybody studying Fascist Italy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chris Warne on 14 April 2008
Format: Paperback
A fabulous book on the Duce. Detailed, comprehensive, and very interesting. This is how historical biographies should be written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
One of the most damning biographies ever written 17 Dec 1998
By pnotley@hotmail.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although this is a horrible story of folly, delusion and cruelty, the message of Denis Mack Smith's biography of Mussolini is oddly consoling. As part of his trilogy which includes Mussolini's Roman Empire and Italy and its Monarchy, Smith helps provide a very valuable message. That message is that you can be utterly ruthless and selfish, you be can be completely amoral and unscrupulous, and yet botch everything up completely. Few ruling classes have combined Machiavellian cynicism with an utter lack of competence as the Italian one. And no Italian prime minister has caused so much damage and suffering as Benito Mussolini.
Mack Smith is also the author of seminal biographies of Cavour, and Mazzini, as well as the author of a leading textbook on modern Italy. No other biographer of the man possesses his knowledge. His bibliography contains more than a thousand items of memoirs, biographies, newspapers, articles, diaries and monographs. He has sixty-eight pages of tiny notes. On every page there is someting damning and disreputable. Mussolini was not as vicious and cruel a man as Hitler: he was more of a thug than a psychopath. Yet he was capable of being very cruel, and half the population of Cyraenica, Libya were killed in the course of suppressing a rebellion. When the rebel leader was captured and executed, "Italians were told that this heroic and noble man was a cruel, cowardly and corrupt barbarian whose death brought joy to the whole Arab population."
Mussolini's main talent was not in major reform but his considerable talent of self-promotion and public relations. He pretended that he was not nearsighted, and he kept the light on in his office so that people would think he was still working. He worsened his digestion by a silly rule which said that one should eat every meal in less than three minutes, and he claimed that he flew as main hours as an aviator does in his whole lifetime. But Mussolini failed where he made the most grandiose claims, that in war. He tried to overcome the weaknesses of Italy by a policy of bluff, bravado and vanity. He overestimated the number of divisions by fifteen, he falsified documents when it became clear that he had botched the invasion of Greece, and he refused to accept Hitler's tanks when they could have won him Greece. Never a man of consistent principle, Mussolini in his last days pondered which one of the allies he should side with against the others. But he was too erratic and indecisive, and on April 28, 1945 he was stopped and executed by the Italian resistance.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Still the Best 26 Mar 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Other, later scholars have added a little here and there, but D. Mack Smith's biography of Mussolini is still definitive. It's a very insightful study of Il Duce's personality and psychology, backed up by impressive research and written in a very incisive, pungent style. Its only flaw is that it neglects to investigate very deeply the ideology and political structures of Italian fascism; but since Smith had already discussed these matters in his earlier, equally masterly book "Mussolini's Roman Empire", this lapse is forgivable. In fact, one would do well to read this biography in conjunction with Smith's earlier study to get a complete view of fascist Italy.
One more point: Readers should be aware that the "James" book recommended by a previous reviewer (from Japan) in place of Mack Smith's is a negligible, pro-fascist work dismissed by all reputable scholars in the field (but lauded by the so-called Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust-denying propaganda organization). Stick with Mack Smith.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Definitive Poltical Biography of Mussolini 13 Jan 2005
By Gregory Canellis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Denis Mack Smith has written the definitive political biography of Bonito Mussolini. This work built upon a foundation of short, clear and concise paragraphs make for an enthralling read on the life of the fascist dictator known to millions as IL DUCE. Born in 1883, of humble beginnings on a small Italian village, Mussolini would possess a complex character throughout his life to become one of the three most infamous totalitarian dictators of the twentieth century. Mussolini changed his political ideology from socialist left to fascist right like an actor changes costume. As a result, he became one of the most loved and, ultimately, the most hated by his people. Although slated as a political narrative of fascism, it is the diverse character Mussolini that shines through in Mack Smith's work. As the author points out, "Italian fascism was more than just Mussolini. But the quirks of character in this one man were a crucial factor in both its successes and failures." Mack Smith organized his book in short thematic chapters and sub-headings with an ample supply of dates to guide his audience along. He begins by painting Mussolini's troubled youth as a knife wielding bully that led to numerous expulsions from local schools. Mussolini's father, a blacksmith and active member of the socialist party who had an affinity for drinking and womanizing, suggests Mack Smith, may have had a significant influence in Mussolini's early development and eventual socialist leanings. His mother, a devout catholic and schoolteacher tried her best to keep young Bonito in school. The cantankerous youth would go on to teach school himself, however, for the most part, he led the life of a young Bohemian sporting an unkempt appearance and writing mediocre poetry. Mack Smith is diligent to delve beneath the propaganda myth commonly associated with Bonito Mussolini. The author's favorite source of exposure are several autobiographies written by Mussolini as well as a host of other manuscripts penned by the dictator. Rather than attempting to psychoanalyze his subject, Mack Smith illustrates the true nature of Mussolini that just seems to make good historical sense. Even the many references to Mussolini's various sexual escapades are not included as a motive for sensationalistic journalism, but rather, to illustrate the dysfunctional complex character that was Mussolini. Unintentionally, or perhaps not, the author raises the question of gender in early twentieth century Italy. Was violence at the point of a knife and wanton sexual exploits inherent to the psychological make-up of the Italian male? Mack Smith does not elude to have the answer but the question arises nonetheless. A number of mistresses would play a prominent role even to the end of his life when "Clara Petacci stood by him to the last and insisted on dying with him." The weaknesses of this book are slight. Some have argued that Mack Smith remains to narrowly focused on his subject and fails to provide an adequate historical context. This is not too glaring a defect. The author prepares us early on that this is a political biography of Bonito Mussolini, not a history of fascist Italy in the 1920s and 30s. The author makes it clear, however, that "...the birth and development of fascism owe far more to this one man than anyone else." At times, Mack Smith is perhaps too concise. For example, the masterfully planned and flawlessly executed mission conducted by Otto Skorzeny, to rescue Mussolini at Badoglio, deserves more than the half paragraph Mack Smith devotes to it. Nevertheless, this book is the best treatment of the first fascist dictator. It serves both as a general introduction, and paves the way for further readings. All in all, the book is a significant addition to totalitarian literature.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
mussolini the fraud 3 Feb 2007
By Lehigh History Student - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The life of Mussolini was one that was filled with tragedy for the state of Italy. Mussolini is not lionized by Dennis Mack Smith but instead taken apart for the inadequacies in his rule during the World War 2 era. Mussolini never really had control of the situation in Italy and was most of the time a confused dictator. He believe his strength to be far greater than it was and considered Italy a great power in the world. He was quickly becoming a pawn of Hitler and his indecisiveness led Italy down a path of destruction. There is little to be proud of given the evidence posted in this book and it brings to light a perspective that should be analyzed. The book is very well written and is not bogged down in heavy detail. It highlights the salient points and provides a context for life in Italy under Mussolini. While Mussolini's thugs did terrorize the populace form time to time the country really ran as it did in the pre-fascist days. The security forces were police state at times but nominally Mussolini, especially as the war went on, quickly fell out of favor with the people. He lost his touch with reality and while no one wanted to challenge his perceptions it did not matter as Italy was driven back again and again over the course of the war. This is a must read for those who want to understand how Italy fit into world war 2 beyond simply a military context.
10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Dry as Dust 8 Sep 2009
By H.H. Eccluus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was so looking forward to reading this book but my anticipation was matched only by my disappointment. Mack Smith manages to make a fascinating historical character seem like nothing more that a boring fool. The author fails to get inside the head of the Duce even though there is extensive research evidenced by the plethora of footnotes. But that may have been the problem -- the writing seems to be just a way of stringing the footnotes together.

As an example, though I knew little about Mussolini before reading this book, I did know the name of Clara Petacci, his mistress. But she is hardly more than a footnote in the book. Clara's name pops up occasionally in the text. But at the end of Mussolini's time, as the dictator vasillates about whether to escape, how to escape, Clara is with him, but the author doesn't think to mention it till the last page of the book when he off-handedly relates that she chose to die with him. Mack Smith missed the entire drama of the moment.

It's dry. It's repetitious. It's absolutely not worth the time to read.
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