On the Fiery March: Mussolini Prepares for War

On the Fiery March: Mussolini Prepares for War

On the Fiery March: Mussolini Prepares for War

On the Fiery March: Mussolini Prepares for War

Synopsis

By the 1930s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini reached the conclusion that Italy faced a clear choice: expand its power at the expense of the British and French Empires or face stagnation and decline. He believed that the regimes in the democratic West would not be able to contain their inherent hostility toward fascist dynamism, while their demographic and political weaknesses provided the opportunity for the younger, demographically virile fascist Italy to carve a new empire in the Mediterranean status quo.

Through his intervention in the Spanish Civil War and his attempts to challenge French Power in Europe and British imperial domination of the Middle East and East Africa, Mussolini sought to decisively change Italy's long-standing position as the least of the Great Powers. Although the Pact of Steel did not always function smoothly, Mussolini remained loyal to its principles, eventually throwing Italy into the Second World War, where he would belatedly discover that his regime had signally failed to prepare his legions for fighting in a modern war.

Excerpt

Historians have sifted through the disastrous decisions of the 1930s that plunged the world into depression and war. Historians, political scientists, and philosophers have spilled proverbial rivers of ink trying to explain the causes of World War II, surveying an ever wider array of sources and evidence. Why, then, do we need another study that attempts to explain a part of the complex, interrelated origins of that war? The answer lies in two broad categories. The first, more nebulous one is that successive generations of historians bring new perspectives to old, unchanging histories. We have the benefit of assessing past writers' works, subjecting them to critical scrutiny, and, ideally, over time improving our collective understanding of the past. The second, more tangible reason is that historians occasionally achieve greater access to historical documentation.

Such is the case with this study on Mussolini and Italian foreign policy. After a long process of restoration, the Italian Foreign Ministry Archive has restored and microfilmed the so-called Carte Lancelotti, a collection of papers that then Foreign Minister Raffaele Guariglia removed in September 1943 from the Foreign Ministry to safeguard from German capture as the new Italian government tried to arrange its exit from the war. These papers from Galeazzo Ciano's Gabinetto, the Foreign Ministry office under which Mussolini and Ciano successively centralized and tightened Fascist control of foreign policy, comprise an important collection of telegrams, notes of interviews with foreign statesmen and diplomats, and personal memoranda. In addition, scholars now have access to the Serie Affari Politici, copies of telegrams from embassies abroad plus the diplo-

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