WA book on Italian leader an international best seller

A UNIVERSITY of WA professor’s biography of former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini has been a surprise hit.

And publishers Allen Lane/Penguin have already commissioned a follow-up work.

Hardcover editions of Mussolini, written by UWA history professor Richard Bosworth, have virtually sold out and a paperback edition is due to hit bookshop shelves in the UK on October 28.

That date is significant because it will mark the 80th anniversary of Mussolini’s ascension to power.

The book has been added to the US History Book Club list and was recently named Book of the Year by the BBC History Magazine.

Professor Bosworth said he had been interested in writing the book on Mussolini because there hadn’t been an English biography focusing on the Italian dictator for a generation.

“Besides, dictators are rather in the news at the moment,” he said.

“In many ways my book was flowing on from Ian Curshaw’s recent biography of Adolf Hitler.

“I’ve been a historian of modern Italy for many years. For example the terms totalitarian and fascism actually come from Italian.”

Professor Bosworth said Mussolini had been a bright young man who had become the editor of Italy’s main left wing newspaper before he was 30.

“He changed political sides during World War I. That war took a tremendous effort from the Italians. They had an agriculturally based economy and had to change it rather dramatically. They spent more on WWI than on any other conflict,” he said.

Professor Bosworth said the follow-up book would go away from the dictatorship and look instead at its effects on the Italian people.

“I’m interested in the patron-client relationships that were at work during a dictatorship,” he said.

“One of the great slogans of the regime was: ‘Believe, obey, fight’. It implied that everyone did what they were told, but this was not the case. The Italian family, for example, outweighed the dictatorship system.”

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