The University of Southampton

HIST1160 Fascism and the Italian people

Module Overview

This module will examine the political, social and cultural history of fascist Italy from the rise of Mussolini after World War 1 to the violent and protracted end of the regime between 1943 and 1945. The primary focus will be on the impact of the fascist regime on the lives of ordinary Italians, and topics will include militarism and the making of the ‘fascist man’, culture in fascist Italy between propaganda, censorship and entertainment and the impact of fascism on both the urban working classes and on the countryside. Fascism’s military and colonial past, both in Africa and Europe will be examined, while the module will also consider the breakdown of fascist consensus and of the regime itself between the late 1930s and 1945. Finally, it will also examine the controversial and contested memory and legacy of fascism in Italy since 1945. While the focus of the module will be on Italy, it will also serve as an introduction to the ideology and nature of fascism in the broader context of inter-war Europe, thus preparing you for the study of other far Right European movements and regimes in years 2 and 3.

Aims and Objectives


The aims of this module are to:

  • Introduce you to the ways in which fascism shaped politics, society and culture in inter-war Italy (and afterwards) and to the different debates among historians regarding the study of the Italian fascist regime.
  • Introduce you to the ideology of fascism in the broader European context, using Italy as a case study.
  • Explore the history of fascist Italy using a broad range of primary source materials, both audio-visual and textual.
  • Augment and refine the range of skills useful in life after university.

Knowledge and understanding

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The ideology of fascism and how shaped it political life in Italy between 1922 and 1945.
  • The impact of fascism on ordinary life in Italy; on men, women and children, in the city and in the countryside.
  • The legacy and memory of fascism after 1945
  • Selected historiographical debates relating to the rise of fascism, repression and consensus, the ideology and political culture of fascism, its impact and legacy.

Cognitive (thinking) skills

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:

  • Identity and explain the key characteristics of the ideology of fascism.
  • Explain and debate the notion of ‘consensus’, whether and up to what point it existed and how and why it broke down.
  • Describe and debate the impact of fascism on Italian society and culture both up to 1945 and afterwards.
  • Identify and explain the different approaches historians have used in the study of fascism, debating why its impact and legacy are still contested both in Italy and internationally.

Key transferable skills

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:

  • engage in a programme of independent reading guided by the module tutor
  • think analytically about the material you have located and read
  • share your thoughts about your reading verbally and in writing, constructing arguments based on evidence.
  • manage your own learning and your time effectively, meeting deadlines.


Topics are likely to include: 

  • What was fascism – as politics, ideology and way of life?
  • Post-war Italy and the rise of fascism 1918-22
  • Mussolini in power: constructing the totalitarian state
  • How did fascism shape ordinary life in Italy? a) in the cities b) in rural Italy
  • Militarism and masculinity: Making the fascist man
  • ‘Crisis woman’ and fascist mother: Women in Mussolini’s Italy
  • Propaganda, censorship and entertainment: Culture in fascist Italy
  • Building a fascist empire: Abyssinia, 1939
  • The road to war in Europe
  • Occupation, civil war and the end of fascism, 1943-45
  • Contested memories: The legacy of fascism after 1945

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:24
Private study hours:126
Total study time: 150 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include

  • Short Lectures which may also include class participation
  • Seminar discussions focusing on both historiographical debates and the analysis of primary sources

Learning activities include

  • Preparatory reading and individual study
  • Active participation in seminars, including informed discussion of assigned readings, group work and if appropriate, short presentations
  • In depth analysis and discussion of a range of primary sources in class, both independently and in groups

Resources and reading list


Indicative Reading List

Richard Bosworth, Mussolini’s Italy. Life under the dictatorship, 1915-1945 (London, 2005)

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Fascist modernities. Italy, 1922-1945 (Berkeley, 2001)

Martin Clark, Modern Italy, 1871 to the present (London, 2008)

Paul Corner, The Fascist Party and Popular Opinion in Mussolini’s Italy (Oxford, 2012)

Victoria De Grazia, The culture of consent. Mass organization of leisure in fascist Italy (Cambridge, 1981)

— How fascism ruled women. Italy 1922-1945 (Berkeley, 1993).

Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (Oxford, 1991)

Stephen Gundle, Christopher Duggan and Giuliana Pieri, The Cult of the Duce: Mussolini and the Italians (Manchester, 2013)

Christopher Duggan, Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy (London, 2013)

David Forgacs and Stephen Gundle, Mass culture and Italian society, from fascism to the Cold War (Bloomington, 2007)

Kate Ferris, Everyday life in fascist Venice (London, 2012)

John Foot, Italy’s divided memory (London, 2010)

Emilio Gentile, The sacralization of politics in fascist Italy (Cambridge Mass., 1996)

Adrian Lyttleton (ed.), Liberal and fascist Italy (Oxford, 2002)

Philip Morgan, Italian fascism, 1919-1945 (Basingstoke, 1995)

– The fall of Mussolini (Oxford, 2007)

Luisa Passerini, Fascism in Popular Memory

The Cultural Experience of the Turin Working Class (Cambridge, 1987)

 Stanley Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-1945 (Madison WI, 1995)

 Steven Ricci, Cinema and fascism: Italian film and society 1922-1943 (Berkeley, 2008)

 Marla Stone, The patron state: culture and politics in fascist Italy (Princeton, 1998)



Assessment methods


There willl be:

One Commentary Exercise (500 words) worth 10%

One essay (2000 words) worth 40%

One group presentation worth 10%

One examination (1 hour) worth 40%


Share this module Facebook Google+ Twitter Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.