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328 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW Mussoliniand Fascism:The View [rom ,4merica.JOHNP. DIOOINS. Princeton, NJ, PrincetonUniversityPress[Toronto, Saunders], •97•. PP. xx, 524, illus. $•8.•5. This is a sprawling,vastlydetailedsurveyof the reactions to Italian fascism and the figureof Mussoliniheld by a varietyof Americans, from intellectuals to bankers and old-stock nativesto recentimmigrants from Italy itself.Diggins beginswith a subfiestatementof the contrasting imagesof Italy already crystallized by I9•o: the'romantic' visionof thehistoric centreof Western art and indeedof Westerncivilizationand civility, and the 'nativist'visionof contemporary Italiansat homeor in Americaasa 'colourful'but still lesser humanbreedwhenjudgedby Protestant-republican norms.The valueof this contrastis not seriously diminished by his apparentbeliefthat nativismis a peculiarlyAmericanphenomenon, nor the failure to makeclearthat writers likeHenryJames couldholdbothimages at thesame time. Diggins'sexcellentaccountof intellectualresponses (an earlierversionof which appearedas 'Flirtation with Fascism,' ,4roerican HistoricalReview, •.xx•,Jan. i966, 487-5o6) shows howthe fascist facadeof solidarity, discipline, and moral purpose couldappealto progressives disillusioned by the apparent declineinto privatistmaterialismat home. Perhapsmostoriginalis Part m, 'Fascism and War,' which rangesfrom a surveyof opinionpollsthroughan analysis of Hersey'snovel,4 Bell [or ,4danoand reactions to the murderof Carlo Trescato a perceptive brief treatmentof the intellectualindustryof studyingfascism. And many other topics;the book'sorganizational problems are severe,but its diffuseand sometimes kaleidoscopic characterdoesnot depriveit of greatinterest andutility. The principalvalue,however,doeslie in the denseand variedtextureof data rather than in the explanatoryhypotheses scatteredthroughthe book. Indeed,someof thesesweeping interpretivepassages raiseserious questions aboutthe stateof culturalhistoriography in the United States. A sample may illustrate:'Surelya morefruitfulapproach isto understand America's fascination with Mussolini not asconscious ideology but asa reflection of the social and cultural contextof the period and the psychicneedsof the American people'(p. 69). Earlier, Digginshad shownthe skillwith whichthe Italian government andits Americanagents andsympathizers manipulated the ItaloAmericanpressand somecommunalorganizations, as well as a numberof mainstream journalists and publishers. Why, then,jump from suchevidence, via a countof the articleson Mussolinias compared to Stalinlistedin the Reader'sGuide, to flat assertion of a national'fascination' and the needfor a psycho-cultural interpretation? Diggins isfondof group-mind interpretations of large classes-Italo-Americans, Americans, even 'America'-so that he summarizesobservers ' estimates of divisions of opinionwithin the Italian community ,but a fewpages awayoffers an absolutist psychological explanation of their pro-fascist sentiments which is undermined by the existence of large numbers of anti-fascist Italo-Americans. REVIEWS 329 It wouldbe unfair to ascribe thesedeficiencies of logicand evidence to a singleauthor, sincethe bookdisplays a styleof scholarship, dubbed'documentedimpressionism ' bya writerin theTimesLiterarySupplement years ago ('ImaginativeHistorians,' The AmericanImagination:a criticalsurveyof the Arts from the TimesLiterarySupplement(London •96o), eo3-•o) whichhas become increasingly familiarin American historiography. In Diggins's version, a varietyof data is followed(sometimes preceded)by a sweeping generalization , sometimes from one or two cases but at othersapparentlyfrom the author'sreadingin socialscience. This generalization about the attitudesor behaviour of a class is then explained in termsof culturaltensions, psychic needs,etc. The hastyrecourse to 'depth'analysis raisesthe question whether historians should not try to develop a logicalorderof explanatory hypotheses. Beforetaking the breathless plungeinto the assumed depthsof the collective psyche, wemightfirstseehowfar we cangowith morerational (and therefore probably moreverifiable)explanations. It istruethat thematerials of culturalhistoryare at the sametimesovaried, extensive yet fragmentary,and opento multipleinterpretation,that the field may neverbe ableto achieverigorous verification of its subtlerinsights. Our situationof interpretiveanarchyhasbeencreatedin part by the ambitionto explorenewdimensions of dataandmeaning,aswell asby the loss of faith in an objectively knowable worlddistinctfrom our ownperceptions and preferences . Paradoxically, the desireof historians to useexplanatory modelsfrom socialscience hashelpedto makethe field less'scientific' and more 'artistic,' that is,less dependent uponstrictpublicrulesof evidence and logic,andmore dependent on coherence, elegance, andthespontaneous feelingof illumination. Still, theremustremainthe obligation to apply commonsense and precise statement to our cherished gener/dizations, and to be awareof the line between whatcanbeprovedandwhatremains conjecture. Withal,Diggins's bookremains animpressive collation of dataandsuggestive insights, whichwill prove valuable to anystudent of twentieth century politics and culture. F.H. MATTHEWS York University UNITED STATES The Iroquoisin the AmericanRevolution.BAm•ARA O•.AVZaO•T. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press [Toronto, Bums& MacEachem], I97e. PP.xii, 343, illus.$13.95At firstglance thisbookappeared tobejustanother study of thepolitical and militarysideof the American Revolution-and a ratherfloridlyold-fashioned one at that, offeringsuchbitsof rhetoricas 'the Americans struggling to be ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 328-329
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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