Jacopo Pili
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Appraisals of Britain's military strength and war propaganda

Chapter 3 challenges the notion that, despite some Anglophobic outbursts, Mussolini had a healthy respect for Britain’s global power, instead directing his contempt either towards France or onto some individual British leaders. In order to do so, the chapter utilises the reports compiled by Italian military attachés in Britain from the late 1920s to 1939, underlining how the perception of Britain in the eyes of military experts, who were not necessarily ideologues and had close contact with British reality changed as they absorbed fascist ideological biases. During the second half of the 1930s, military attachés had absorbed the equivalence that Fascist ideology sought to create between democracy and emasculated weakness and applied it to Britain. The chapter then examines the point of view of the military elites, as well as the war plans of the Chief of Staff. By doing so, and comparing it with the outlook of the attachés, it tries to determine whether the process of creating an ideological and unrealistic image of Britain as an emasculated, decaying power was a top-down, bottom-up or an osmotic process. The second half of the chapter addresses the subject of Fascist wartime propaganda, contesting the historiographic point of view that propaganda began as relatively moderate in its content, only shifting towards greater truculence as the conflict progressed.

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