Italian Foreign Policy in the Interwar Period, 1918-1940

In This Review

Italian Foreign Policy in the Interwar Period, 1918-1940

By H. James Burgwyn
Praeger, 1997
246 pp. $65.00
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Burgwyn shows how disappointment at the shabby treatment many Italians believed they had received from their allies at the Paris peace conference paved the way for Mussolini's own brand of nationalism. Halfway between the interpretation of Mussolini's foreign policy as "aggressively ideological" and the view of the Duce as a pragmatic opportunist, Burgwyn's analysis emphasizes imperialistic and revisionist ambitions more than ideology, and "a loose and shifting combination of biases and historical resentments that were exacerbated by [Mussolini's] volcanic and contradictory personality." Eager to be a new Caesar, champion of war as the test of national will, he indulged in "a diplomatic calculation . . . flawed over the years by amateur diplomacy, the personalization of international politics," and an inability to keep his aims within the limits set by Italy's "paucity of natural resources . . . its underdeveloped industry," and a weak war machine. Italy thus did not become the indispensable "balancer" of power in Europe, and having failed to protect Austria's independence, Mussolini was led to his fateful support of Hitler from a position of weakness. After Mussolini's demise, the new Italian republic would repudiate everything he had stood for and redefine Italy's interests drastically -- toward European unity.