by Richard Lamb ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 27, 1999
A flawed look at Mussolini's diplomacy. This is an American edition of a work published last year in Great Britain. Lamb's controversial thesis: that until the mid-1930s, Mussolini was undecided whether to support Nazi Germany or Great Britain in the inevitable war on the horizon. Lamb (Churchill as War Leader, 1993, etc.) here enters the territory of revisionist history. Most scholars, examining Mussolini's and Hitler's respective ideologies, have concluded that Fascist Italy's alliance with Nazi Germany was inevitable and preordained. Lamb is only partially correct in pointing out that Mussolini was not slavishly tied to any ideology; indeed Mussolini in the 1920s boasted that fascism had no ideology. But this is a misreading. Lamb himself recognizes that Mussolini was quite able to say one thing on Monday and the opposite on Tuesday, but he reads Mussolini's courtship of Britain as earnest fascist foreign policy rather than cynical maneuvering. Lamb contends that a golden opportunity to divorce Mussolini from Hitler's fatal embrace was lost by Anthony Eden; Eden, according to Lamb, felt that Hitler was a man with whom the British "could do business," while Mussolini was no more than a common gangster. He was wrong on both counts. That Lamb is essentially correct in condemning Eden and much of the British Foreign Office does not prove his thesis. A curious aside is Lamb's contention, based on a previously published work (Mussolini's Other Woman) that the Jewish intellectual and patron of the arts, Margherita Sarfatti, influenced his foreign policy and early distrust of Hitler. Although there is no denying the tense relationship between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Lamb's thesis requires a selective reading of the evidence and a failure to address ideology. It is doubtful that Mussolini ever seriously considered entering the war against Hitler; it was more a question of when and how to enter the war at his side as an equal partner. Revisionist history that fails to revise. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)
Pub Date: Oct. 27, 1999
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999
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