Everybody with an interest in the everyday life of Italians under Mussolini’s dictatorship will have to read Richard Bosworth’s Mussolini’s Italy. Such a book was long overdue. Whilst we have numerous biographies of Mussolini, with Bosworth’s own thoroughly researched, enlightening and entertaining Mussolini (2002) by far the best of the recent wave, there has not been a new English-language general social history of Italian Fascism since Tannenbaum’s lucid and well-organised synthesis three decades ago. Despite Churchill’s famous claim, Italian Fascism cannot be blamed on ‘one man alone’. Important as Mussolini was in the history of Italy, the popularity of the biographical genre with the general reader has often led to an exaggeration of the Duce’s real influence, and in some cases provoked attempts to rehabilitate him, most notably in Nicholas Farrell’s Mussolini: A New Life (2003), at which Bosworth takes a swipe in passing.
However, journalists and popular biographers are not the only culprits. A number of recent academic historiographical trends have also obscured the reality of life for ordinary Italians during the dictatorship, ignoring mundane matters such as housing, working conditions, food and diseases, in favour of an obsessive concentration on more aesthetically