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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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Note: for details of newspapers, magazines and journals see the Appendix. Archival sources Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Rome Ministero della Cultura Popolare Ministero dell’Interno Archivi fascisti Archivio Storico dell’Aeronautica Militare, Rome Comando Aeronautica dell’Egeo Corpo Aereo Italiano The National Archives, Kew, London Cabinet Foreign Office The House of Parliament, London House of Commons House of Lords 228 Bibliography Published primary sources Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, Vol. 4, Le Saint Siege et la guerre en Europe, Juin 1940–Juin 1941, ed. Pierre Blet, Robert A. Graham, Angelo Martini and Burkhart Schneider (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1967). Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, Vol. 9, Le Saint Siège et les victimes de la guerre, Janvier–Décembre 1943, ed. P. Blet, R. A. Graham, A. Martini, and B. Schneider (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1975). Alessi, Rino, La strada e la vita. Commento ai fatti del giorno (Milan: Mondadori, 1942). Antonini, Sandro, Catene al pensiero e anelli ai polsi. Censura di guerra in Liguria 1940–1944 (Genoa: De Ferrari, 1999). Appelius, Mario, Parole dure e chiare (Milan: Mondadori, 1942). Autera, Leonardo (ed.), Antologia di Bianco e Nero 1937–1943, Vol. 4, Sceneggiature (Rome: Edizioni di Bianco e Nero, 1964). Bellanova, Piero, Bombardata Napoli canta: aeropoema futurista (Rome: Edizioni Futuriste di Poesia, 1943). Bellomo, Bino (ed.), Lettere censurate (Milan: Longanesi, 1978). Carucci, Paola, Dolci, Fabrizio, and Missori, Mario (eds), Volantini antifascisti nelle carte di pubblica sicurezza 1926–1943 (Rome:...

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