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Staging the Fascist War

The Ministry of Popular Culture and Italian Propaganda on the Home Front, 1938–1943


Luigi Petrella

Historians regard the Italian home front during the Second World War as an observation post from which to study the relationship between Fascism and society during the years of the collapse of the Mussolini regime. Yet the role of propaganda in influencing that relationship has received little attention. The media played a crucial role in setting the stage for the regime’s image under the intense pressures of wartime. The Ministry of Popular Culture, under Mussolini’s supervision, maintained control not only over the press, but also over radio, cinema, theatre, the arts and all forms of popular culture. When this Fascist media narrative was confronted by the sense of vulnerability among civilians following the first enemy air raids in June 1940, it fell apart like a house of cards.
Drawing on largely unexplored sources such as government papers, personal memoirs, censored letters and confidential reports, Staging the Fascist War analyses the crisis of the regime in the years from 1938 to 1943 through the perspective of a propaganda programme that failed to bolster Fascist myths at a time of total war.


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Appendix: The Italian Press


Quoted newspapers, magazines and journals Bertoldo Illustrated satirical magazine founded in Milan in 1936 by the publisher Rizzoli. During the Second World War it produced a great number of cartoons mocking Churchill and Britain under the German air raids. The last issue of the paper was published on 10 September 1943. Corriere della Sera First published in Milan on 5 March 1876. Edited from 1900 by Luigi Albertini, it soon became the most reputable Italian daily. It led the con- servative opposition to Giovanni Giolitti, the politician who, as prime minister through most of the first two decades of the twentieth century, tried to adapt classical liberalism to the social and economic conditions of Italy. The paper supported the Libyan campaign and Italy’s entry into the Great War against the Central Powers. After Mussolini’s rise to power, its editor attempted to keep the paper independent from the regime’s influ- ence, but in 1925 the Crespi family dismissed Albertini who only held a minority stake in the publishing company. Aldo Borelli was editor from 1929 to July 1943. The illustrated weekly magazine La Domenica del Corriere (from 1899) and the monthly literary review La Lettura (from 1901) were issued by the daily. Critica fascista Fortnightly review founded, edited and owned by Giuseppe Bottai, Minister of National Education from 1936 to 1943. It was first published on 15 June 1923 with the aim of increasing support for Fascism among Italian intel- lectuals, especially those of the younger generations. 222 Appendix: The Italian...

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