Books by Jasper Ridley

Released: Aug. 1, 2001

"Nicely told, but lacking depth and highly slanted."
Another on the religious persecutions promulgated by the much-unloved Tudor monarch, this time presented in a lively if highly partisan style reminiscent of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

"Readers looking for a deeper understanding of Freemasonry will find Ridley a fascinating, informative guide to its historical and contemporary roles."
A history of Freemasonry through the ages, and an analysis of the secret society's role in the contemporary Western world. Read full book review >
MUSSOLINI by Jasper Ridley
Released: Nov. 23, 1998

This new biography will refine our portrait of a 20th-century dictator. It has been Mussolini's great historical fortune that he shared the stage with Hitler and Stalin. Overshadowed by the barbarism of his two contemporaries, Mussolini has reaped the benefit of appearing benign while Hitler and Stalin continue to battle for supreme title of the 20th century's worst dictator. Another historical anomaly was that Mussolini was initially praised by many Western leaders, most warmly by Winston Churchill and influential persons in the US. Ridley, a lawyer and author of more than 15 historical biographies, shares these opinions. Ridley correctly admonishes an earlier historiographical and political tradition that saw Mussolini as a mere buffoon, gesturing wildly during his many balcony speeches. No buffoon remains in power for two decades. This is a more nuanced portrait, showing Mussolini hesitant and undecided at times, willing to cooperate with other governments when it suited his designs. Of particular value is Ridley's description of Mussolini's early life and career, usually given short- shrift in other biographies of the dictator. A full third of the book is devoted to these early years, including information on his family, education, war experience, and eventual expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party for advocating intervention in the Great War. Mussolini was a complex and often contradictory man, as exemplified by his early political career as a revolutionary socialist. But Ridley is sometimes overly sympathetic with his subject: fascist violence is not depicted in its full savagery, while antifascists who attempted to assassinate the dictator are called "terrorists" (without the accompanying ironic quotes). Although the fascist Gabriel Garc°a Lorca regime cannot claim the number of victims destroyed by Stalin or Hitler, fascists were skilled in the political use of violence and terror, having the distinction of organizing the first death squads, the infamous Blackshirts or squadristi. The writing here is sometimes dry and particularly British. Still, though not without its flaws, this is a valuable introduction to Mussolini. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 10, 1992

Impressively researched but flatfooted history of Mexico's mid-19th-century struggles for independence, as personified by the main antagonists, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and the Zapotec Indian Benito Ju†rez. Once again, Ridley (Elizabeth I, 1987, etc.), displays near-obsessive fact-gathering abilities but fails to shape his material into an involving narrative. Ridley's title characters were so antithetical they might have been fictional creations: Maximilian—tall, blond, and self- deluding; Ju†rez—short, swarthy, pragmatic. The religious- conservative and secular-liberal elements of Mexican society had long been in conflict, and, Ridley contends, Maximilian and Ju†rez came to represent this conflict in their persons and their attitudes. Driven from power in the 1850's by a liberal government, the ousted conservatives went looking for a European power that could restore their hegemony. Napoleon III, eager for glory, became interested; convincing Maximilian to accept the conservatives' offer to be named emperor, Napoleon sent French troops to Latin America, purportedly to protect France's nationals but in reality to enforce Maximilian's rule. But liberals, despite continual intraparty rivalry, eventually managed to defeat the foreign armies and to topple—and execute—Maximilian. Brimming with fascinating historical figures—in addition to the principals, there are Lincoln, Grant, Francis Joseph of Austria, etc.—but Ridley sticks mostly to the facts, probing neither motivation nor character, and so fails to vivify his sprawling action and its players. (Eight-page photo insert—not seen). Read full book review >