Benito Mussolini

Who was the Prime Minister of Italy between 1922 and 1943?

And the answer: Benito Mussolini.      

Known in Italy as Il Duce (the Leader), Mussolini became the fascist dictator of Italy in the early to mid 20th century. Under his leadership, Italy allied with Nazi Germany and Japan during World War II.

Photo: public domain.

Though he later became known as the father of fascism, Mussolini was born in 1883 and named after Italian socialist leaders. Young Mussolini was raised by his Roman Catholic mother and socialist-leaning father to put his faith in Karl Marx and the Pope, leading to an interest in socialism and an education in religion. However, Mussolini was an unruly child and, after his compulsory 10 years of education, he discovered that his needs were better met in Switzerland, where he found his way by charisma alone. Yet Mussolini was deported after several years and was soon drafted into the Italian army, where he served for 18 months.

In Italy, Mussolini worked in a series of temporary teaching positions, but his unruliness never quite left him. He began to focus more heavily on his interests by writing for socialist newspapers which critiqued the Italian government, democracy, the middle classes, and even the church. Although his writings earned him time behind bars, he also caught the attention of socialist leaders, who saw him as somewhat of a rising force in socialism. In 1912, shortly after his release from prison, Mussolini was appointed editor of the national socialist newspaper Avanti. Within 6 months, his journalism had more than quadrupled the paper's readership.

With a national forum to air his views, Mussolini first began to advocate against Italian participation in the first World War, as he saw it as anti-socialist to pit one country's working class against another. However, his tune soon changed, as he began to see war as a means of revolution. Avanti rejected this line of thinking and removed him from his editorship, as did the socialist party. In defiance, Mussolini began his own political party: the Fascist Party.

After the war, Italy entered a period of instability. Four prime ministers circulated through the government, all unable to enact change. In 1921, elections were held which granted Mussolini and his right-wing associates seats of power in the Italian government. As his reputation grew, so did the perception of Mussolini as a leader who ruled with a firm hand – something many Italians felt the country desperately needed. By age 39, Mussolini had become Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Italy.

As Mussolini's aggressive propaganda infiltrated Italy, he spent the next several years dismantling democracy in Italy and establishing his own totalitarian regime. In 1939, he partnered with Hitler's Nazi regime to fight the second World War against the allied powers.

Learn more about Mussolini's rise and fall below.

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