Benito Mussolini

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Benito Mussolini

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (b. 29 July 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, Italy; d. 28 April 1945 Giulino di Mezzegra, Italy) was an Italian statesman, soldier, teacher, journalist and revolutionary theorist. Known as Il Duce ("The Leader"), he was the founder of Italian Fascism and ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943.


Benito Mussolini full.png
Mussolini pictured in 1935 with his sons Bruno and Vittorio. These were a product of his long-lasting marriage to Rachele Guidi.
Roman salute from Benito Mussolini, standing beside him is Adolf Hitler, 1 September 1937 in München.

Early life

Mussolini was born on 29 July 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forlì in Romagna. Later, during the Fascist era, Predappio was dubbed "Duce's town" and Forlì was called "Duce's city", with pilgrims going to Predappio and Forlì to see the birthplace of Mussolini.

Benito Mussolini's father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a blacksmith and a socialist, while his mother, Rosa (née Maltoni), was a devout Catholic schoolteacher. He was baptised at birth. Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. His siblings Arnaldo and Edvige followed. He qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in July 1901.

In 1902, Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland, partly to avoid compulsory military service. He worked briefly as a stonemason in Geneva, Fribourg and Bern.

Mussolini became active in the Italian socialist movement in Switzerland, working for the paper L'Avvenire del Lavoratore, organizing meetings, giving speeches to workers, and serving as secretary of the Italian workers' union in Lausanne.

In December 1904, Mussolini returned to Italy to take advantage of an amnesty for desertion of the military. He had been convicted for this in absentia. Since a condition for being pardoned was serving in the army, he joined the corps of the Bersaglieri in Forlì on 30 December 1904. After serving for two years in the military (from January 1905 until September 1906), he returned to teaching.

In February 1909, Mussolini again left Italy, this time to take the job as the secretary of the labor party in the Italian-speaking city of Trento, which at the time was part of Austria-Hungary (it is now within Italy). He also did office work for the local Socialist Party, and edited its newspaper L'Avvenire del Lavoratore. Returning to Italy, he spent a brief time in Milan, and in 1910 he returned to his hometown of Forlì, where he edited the weekly Lotta di classe (The Class Struggle).

In September 1911, Mussolini participated in a riot, led by socialists, against the Italian war in Libya. An action that earned him a five-month jail term.

In 1912, Mussolini had been a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), but was expelled from the PSI for advocating military intervention in World War I, in opposition to the party's stance on neutrality. Mussolini served in the Royal Italian Army during the war, until he was wounded and discharged in 1917. Mussolini denounced the PSI, his views now centering more on nationalism than on socialism.

Partito Nazionale Fascista

He founded the Partito Nazionale Fascista. Founded in Rome during the Third Fascist Congress on 7–10 November 1921, the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista) marked the transformation of the organization Fasci Italiani di Combattimento into a more coherent political group (the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento had been founded by Mussolini in Milan's Piazza San Sepolcro on 23 March 1919). In 1921, Mussolini won election to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time.

March on Rome

In the night between 27 and 28 October 1922, about 30,000 Fascist blackshirts gathered in Rome to demand the resignation of liberal Prime Minister Luigi Facta and the appointment of a new Fascist government. On the morning of 28 October, King Victor Emmanuel III, who according to the Albertine Statute held the supreme military power, refused the government request to declare martial law, which led to Facta's resignation. The King then handed over power to Mussolini (who stayed in his headquarters in Milan during the talks) by asking him to form a new government.

Following the March on Rome in October 1922, Mussolini became Prime Minister. An authoritarian regime was soon implemented.

Il Duce

Between the years 1924–1939, the fascists tamed the Pontine Marshes, reduced unemployment and improved public transport. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. He acquired colonies in Africa and territories previously belonging to Venice.

Mussolini decreed in 1924 that every member of his Fascist Party who was a Mason must abandon either one or the other organization, and in 1925, he dissolved Freemasonry in Italy, saying that it was a political organization.

From 1936 through 1939, Mussolini provided military aid to the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War.

By mid-1938, the big influence National Socialist Germany now had over Italy became clear with the introduction of the Manifesto of Race. The Manifesto, which was closely modeled on the Nuremberg Laws, stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and with it any position in the government or professions.


On 10 June 1940, Italy officially entered WWII on the side of Germany. On 9 July 1943, the Allies invaded Italy. On 25 July 1943, Mussolini was removed from power. On 12 September 1943, Mussolini was rescued from captivity by German forces during the Operation Oak. Mussolini was put in charge of a German-dependent regime in northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic.


Memorial cross at Mussolini's death place

In late April 1945, Mussolini is stated to have been captured by Italian Communist partisans and summarily executed on 28 April 1945. Various other theories regarding what happened have been proposed.

See also

External links