> Skip to content
  • Published: 6 June 2024
  • ISBN: 9780141995229
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 544

Italy Reborn

From Fascism to Democracy




A major new account of the emergence of Italian democracy after the Second World War

The rebirth of Italy after the Second World War is one of the most impressive political transformations in modern European history. In 1945, post-fascist Italy was devastated by war and its reputation in the international arena was nil. Yet by December 1955, when Italy was admitted to the United Nations, the nation had contested three acrimonious but free general elections, had a flourishing press, and was a leader in the re-building of Europe. The contrast with Fascism was stark.

This book charts the descent of Italy into Fascism, the scale of the wartime disaster, the Italian resistance to Nazi occupation, and the establishment of the Republic in 1946. The Cold War divided, in 1947, the coalition of parties that had led the resistance to Fascism and Nazism.

The book’s final chapters deal with the consolidation of Italian democracy and with the statesmanship of Alcide De Gasperi, the premier from December 1945 to August 1953. The book argues, first, that De Gasperi deserves more credit than he has typically been accorded for Italy’s post-war democratization and, second, that Italian democracy was constructed on a sound foundation – which is why it has been able to survive its many post-war crises.

Largely based on contemporary Italian sources, the book is written in an engaging, lively way for both the general reader and specialists in Italian history.

  • Published: 6 June 2024
  • ISBN: 9780141995229
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 544

Praise for Italy Reborn

Gilbert makes a convincing case for De Gasperi's probity and sagacity ... [his] thorough analysis of the Christian Democrat statesman's learned speeches, of his steely morals and democratic credentials, give you the wistful feeling that our predecessors were simply more serious, and competent, than our contemporaries

Tobias Jones, Observer

In this wise and penetrating book, Mark Gilbert demolishes the accepted view of postwar Italy as perpetually teetering on the edge of disaster and shows rather how it moved from the catastrophes of fascism and abject defeat in the Second World War to become a robust democracy which has lessons for the rest of us. A fascinating story wonderfully told.

Margaret MacMillan, Emeritus Professor of International History, University of Oxford

Magnificent ... A superb, concise and objective history of the country from unification in 1860 to the Second World War, describing well the delusions about the recreation of imperial Rome – after a mere 15 centuries – that led to the installation of Fascism. For anyone wishing to know why Italy is as it is today, this excellent book shows that whatever the failures of democracy, the system remains superior to the tried, and bloody, alternatives

Simon Heffer, Telegraph

This is an important book that, for the first time in the English language, provides a thoroughly researched and balanced overview of Italy’s transition from fascism to democracy. Well written, rigorous and engaging, Gilbert's work is distinguished from others on this critical period in Italy's history by his in-depth account, based on primary sources, of Christian Democrat leader Alcide De Gasperi’s decisive role in the country’s post-war democratization. Under his leadership, Italy was able to pursue a democratic path by aligning itself with the Western bloc, notwithstanding the Soviet-linked Communist Party's (PCI) growing influence in the early years of the Cold War.

Elena Aga Rossi, Professor of Contemporary History, Scuola Superiore di Pubblica Amministrazione in Rome; author of Stalin and Togliatti: Italy and the Origins of the Cold War

Writing with great flair, Gilbert tells the epic tale of Italy’s emergence from its darkest days under Fascism to its postwar democratic success. There is no better way to understand where Italy has come from than to read Italy Reborn.

David I. Kertzer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Pope and Mussolini