Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Biography, political leadership, and foreign policy reconsidered: the cases of Mussolini and Hitler

Christian Goeschel

Abstract


Extract

-----

Abstract

For many historians writing today, person-centred or biographical approaches constitute ‘the shallow end of history’, a field better left to amateur historians. However, since the 1990s, under the influence of cultural history and because of a growing dissatisfaction with structuralist approaches, some historians have become interested in finding alternative approaches towards the genre of political biography, partly inspired by the ‘new cultural history’ of the 1980s that prompted a return to the individual as a site for micro-history. In this article, I explore from my perspective as a historian of modern Europe what can or cannot be gained from the study of foreign policy through a strong emphasis of leaders’ biographies, an approach which political scientists and IR specialists such as Jack S. Levy have recently advocated. I shall focus on two of the most significant statesmen of the twentieth century, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, leaders of the world’s first fascist dictatorships and allies during the Second World War. According to Fascist and Nazi propaganda, Mussolini and Hitler were charismatic leaders exclusively in charge of their countries and above all of foreign policy. The powerful propaganda image of the dictator in total control makes Mussolini and Hitler an ideal case study to rethink the biographical approach towards foreign policy analysis and to ask if and how a biographical approach can shed light on foreign policy more generally. In this way, the article goes some way towards provoking a fruitful dialogue between IR and History.

Keywords: Mussolini, Hitler, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, leadership, psychology, dictatorship, biography

-----

Bibliography: Goeschel, Christian: Biography, political leadership, and foreign policy reconsidered: the cases of Mussolini and Hitler, ERIS, 2-3-2017, pp. 5-19. https://doi.org/10.3224/eris.v4i2-3.01


References



Full Text: PDF