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The Cult of the Duce - AHRC project

The Cult of the Duce: Mussolini and the Italians 1918-2005

This research project was awarded £482,500 by the AHRC, and ran from 2006-11. Principal Investigator: Prof Stephen Gundle (Warwick University); Co-Investigator: Christopher Duggan (Reading University); Co-Investigator: Dr Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway, University of London);

The cult of Mussolini is central to an understanding of twentieth century Italy and, more widely, to the role of charisma in modern history. Mussolini was the first political leader to harness systematically the techniques of theatre, the visual arts and the mass media to a personalised system of rule. The cult was vital to the way Italian Fascism became a regime, integrating the population in a system of consensus that appeared solid until it was undermined by the setbacks of World War Two. The aim of the project was to investigate the nature, purposes, functioning and impact of the cult in the period from 1918 until 1945. The aftermath of the cult between 1945 and the present was also studied.

The project team members curated an exhibition at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in 2010. This was entitled ‘Against Mussolini: Art and the Fall of a Dictator’. An interactive website featuring the exhibition and the gallery talks that were delivered during it can be visited at:

The project also made three documentary films under the collective title ‘Mussolini: The Story of A Personality Cult’. Copies of these (in English or Italian version) can be requested from Stephen Gundle (


Duce in Milan