Book Review: Galeazzo Ciano: The Fascist Pretender


by Tobias Hof

Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021. Pp. xii, 456. Illus., chron., notes, biblio., index. $85.00. ISBN: 1487507984

Mussolini’s Heir Apparent

Galeazzo Ciano (1903-1944), the son of Italian naval hero Costanzo Ciano, attained the heights of power in Fascist Italy, as Mussolini’s son-in-law and likely heir, before falling from grace and ending up executed by his father-in-law. In this excellent biography Dr. Hof (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich) takes an innovative approach to examining the man’s life and work, and offers a more nuanced picture of him than has generally been the case.

After an overview introduction, rather than give us a chronological look at Ciano’s life, Hof offers a thematic one. Each of his four chapters concentrates on one aspect of the man’s life,

  •       “The Family”
  •       “The Politician”
  •       “The Diplomat”
  •       “The Successor”

Of course in actuality these were interwoven threads of Chiano’s life, which makes Hof’s treatment a little confusing at times. But the approach has value, as we do get a clearer view of what the man was about.

Ciano is often portrayed as a lightweight who benefited from being the Duce’s son-in-law, but Hof shows us that he was rather able. He played an important role in the Spanish Civil War, Munich Pact, and other events. Although a committed fascist, he nevertheless did not support some of the actions of his father-in-law, resisting the anti-Semitism policies adopted in the late ‘30s, and, suspicious of Hitler, opposed entry into World War II, though he performed military service.

Ciano had a role in Mussolini’s ouster from power in July 1943, later to be executed after falling into the Duce’s hands.

An important read for anyone interested in Italian fascism or the Second World War in Europe.



Note: Galeazzo Ciano is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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