Benito Mussolini

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Benito Mussolini was born on July 29, 1883 in Predappio. The

son of a blacksmith he was largely self-educated. He became a

schoolteacher and a socialist journalist in northern Italy. In 1910

he married Rachele Guidi who bore his five children. Mussolini was

jailed in 1911 for his opposition to Italy's war in Libya.

Soon after his release in 1912 he became editor of the

socialist newspaper in Milan, "Avanti!". When WWI began in 1914

Mussolini advocated Italy's entrance into the war on the allied side

and was expelled from the socialist party. He then started his own

newspaper in Milan, Il Popolo d'Italia (The People of Italy) which

later became the origin of the Fascist Movement. In 1916 Mussolini

enlisted in the military. After his promotion to sergeant he was

wounded and in 1917 he returned to his paper.

During the Chaos that Gripped Italy after the war Mussolini's

influence grew swiftly. Mussolini and other war veterans founded

Fasci di Combattimento in March of 1919. This Nationalistic

antisocialist movement attracted much of the lower middle class and

took its name from the Fasces, an ancient symbol of Roman

discipline. The Fascist movement grew rapidly in the 1920's,

spreading through the countryside where it's Black Shirt Militia won

support of the land owners and attacked peasant leagues of Socialist

Supporters. To take advantage of the opportunity Fascism shed it's

initial Republicanism gaining the support of the King and Army.

On October 28, 1922 Mussolini led his Fascist March on Rome.

Mussolini was immediately invited to form the Italian Government by

King Victor Emmanuel III. Although Mussolini was given extraordinary

powers to return order to Italy he governed constitutionally until

1924 after the violence of the 1924 elections resulting in the death

of Socialist party deputy Giacomo Mattoetti. Mussolini moved to

suspend constitutional government and establish a totalitarian

regime. He proceeded in stages to establish a dictatorship by

forbidding the parliament to initiate legislation, making him

responsible to the king alone. By 1926 he had passed decrees issuing

him the force of law, establishing total censorship of the press and

suppressing all opposition parties.

In 1929 Mussolini made one of his greatest diplomatic

triumphs when he concluded the Lateran Treaty between Italy and the

Holy See. This settled the 60-year controversy concerning the power

of the Pope within the Italian State.

In 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany and was

greeted cautiously by the Italians. Hitler in turn expressed

friendship for the Italian Fascist government. During Germany's

annexation of Austria, Italy improved her French relations when she

rushed 75,000 troops to the Italo-Austrian frontier announcing that

she would intervene if Germany took overt action. Italy drew closer

to he WWI allies in 1935 when she protested Germany's violations of

the Treaty of Versailles.

Adopting an aggressive foreign policy Italy defied the League

of Nations in 1935 by Conquering Ethiopia, which won him acclaim with

nearly every sector of the populace. Il Duce, as he became known as,

popularity declined as he sent troops to aid General Francisco Franco

in the Spanish Civil War. He also Linked Italy with Fascist Germany,

Enacted Anti-Jewish Laws and Invaded Albania.

Because Mussolini was not militarily prepared she did not

enter WWII until 1940 after the Germans had overrun France. The

Italians however were driven from Albania and Greece by the Greeks

following some major British Victories in Egypt, which shook the

foundation of fascist Italy. Mussolini then had...
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