Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Bottai, Giuseppe (1895–1959)

Italian Fascist journalist, theorist, and cabinet minister. Born in Rome on 3 September 1895, Giuseppe Bottai interrupted his studies there in 1915 to join the Italian army. He served at the front until the end of World War I; thereafter, he finished law school and then embarked on simultaneous careers in politics and literary publishing in 1919.

From 1919, Bottai involved himself with veterans' affairs, also embracing futurism and running successfully for Parliament in 1921. At the same time, he edited or published in Popolo d'Italia, Le Fiamme, La Patria, Giornale di Roma, Gerarchia, and Critica Fascista, which he founded the year after he took part in the Fascist 1922 March on Rome. Bottai used Critica Fascista to focus on the technocratic elite within the Fascist movement, as well as a vehicle for his increasingly revisionist interpretation of fascism.

By 1929, Bottai was in the government as minister of corporations, stressing liberal reforms that pleased neither Benito Mussolini nor Italian industrialists skeptical of his technocratic ideas for a planned economy. From 1932, he was without a cabinet portfolio, but four years later, he became minister of national education. Despite his penchant for attempting updated reforms within the Fascist ranks, he busied himself in his new office with some deliberate social engineering. This approach meant fortifying the traditional rural base of Italian fascism through the development of trade schools for lower-middle-class students—thus deflecting them from the higher education path—and leaving unaddressed the handicapping of the social climb for middle- and upper-class offspring (including prominent Jews) who were otherwise bound for the universities. This paradox was characteristic of Bottai's peculiar theories and reforms, and he doggedly hoped for success with his educational and cultural strategies. However, he was thwarted by the arrival of World War II, the demands of which contrasted sharply with the cavalcade of officially imagined improvements he had been concocting for the Fascists' delectation, as well as for their propaganda machine.

On 25 July 1943, Bottai, opposed to the German-Italian alliance, joined Fascist Grand Council colleagues in voting to depose Mussolini, after which he went into hiding. Finally making his way to North Africa, he joined the French Foreign Legion in 1944. Following the general amnesty of November 1947, Bottai returned to Italy from North Africa in August 1948 to reclaim a professorship at the University of Rome and to establish the political review A.B.C. in 1953. Giuseppe Bottai died in Rome on 9 January 1959.

Gordon E. Hogg


Further Reading
Cannistraro, Philip V. Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.; Koon, Tracy H. Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization of Youth in Fascist Italy, 1922–1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.
 

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