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For almost all nations, the First World War was an unparalleled disaster, but the Italian experience especially was to have catastrophic consequences. Weakened and embittered, trying and failing to come to terms with 600,000 dead and with an entire generation of men militarized by fighting, Italy gave birth to a new form of political life: Fascism. Richard Bosworth brings to life the period when Italians participated in a vast and ultimately ruinous political experiment under their dictator, Benito Mussolini, and his fascist henchmen. The fascists were the first totalitarians, aiming to reshape Italy and its people utterly. Their regime was based on a cult of violence and obedience. Yet, despite this, Italians found ingenious ways of adapting, limiting, undermining and ridiculing Mussolini's ambitions for them. The heart of this book is its engagement with the life of these ordinary Italians and their families, struggling through terrible times. Bosworth creates a powerful, plausible and entertaining picture of Italian life and a regime which - as the world hurtled towards the cataclysm of the Second World War - was to force humiliation, defeat, invasion and the utter collapse of the nation state.