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, and subsequently the Italian Social Republic.


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 for sedition.

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

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, amongst other things, drained the Pontine Marshes - a hotbed of diseases, drastically 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 creating the sovereign Vatican State within Rome. Mussolini had 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.

The Second Italo-Abyssinian War between Italy and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) took place between October 1935 and February 1937 resulting in a victory for Mussolini's Italy. It also plugged the land gap between the two existing Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland.

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 so-called Race Manifesto which was closely modeled on the Nuremberg Laws. These stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and forbade them employment in any position in the civil services or professions.


On 10 June 1940, Italy officially entered World War II as an ally of Germany. On 9 July 1943, the Allies invaded Italy through Sicily. On July 25th, Mussolini was requested to resign his positions by King Victor Emmanuel III. He was placed under house arrest before being relocated to a hotel in the mountains. On 12 September 1943, Mussolini was rescued from captivity by German forces during Operation Oak. Mussolini was subsequently restored to power as leader of the Italian Social Republic, which, however, was a German-dependent regime in northern Italy.


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 April 28th. Various other theories regarding what happened have been proposed.

See also

External links


  • Mussolini, Benito, My Autobiography, Hutchinson & Co., Revised edition, London, 1939.
  • Hibbert, Christopher, Mussolini, The Reprint Society, London, 1963.
  • MacGregor-Hastie, Roy, The Day of the Lion: The Life & Death of Fascist Italy 1922-1945, MacDonald & Co., London, 1963.
  • Gregor, A. James, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1979, ISBN: 0-520-03799-5
  • Smith, Denis Mack, Mussolini, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1981, ISBN: 0-297-78005-0.
  • Mussolini, Benito, My Memoirs 1942-1943, edited by Raymond Klibansky, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1949) Phoenix Press, London, 2000, ISBN: 1-84212-025-5.
  • Gregor, A. James, Mussolini's Intellectuals, Princeton University Press, U.S.A., 2005/2006, ISBN: 0-691-12790-5.