Other History Topics

Matteotti Crisis

The murder of Giacomo Matteotti: a crisis for the Italian Fascists?

Giacomo Matteotti, an Italian socialist politician, was kidnapped and then murdered by members of the Fascist party on 10th June 1924.

Matteotti had been a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party but, following divisions in the party, he co-founded the Unitary Socialist Party in 1922. Matteotti became an outspoken critic of Mussolini and the Fascists, and publicly criticised the new political organisation’s use of violence in a pamphlet published in 1921.
Three years later, in 1924, Matteotti published a book that was highly critical of the new government called The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination.

On 30 May that year he made a particularly zealous speech in the Chamber of Deputies in which he criticised Mussolini and accused the Fascists of only winning the recent election due to their use of violence to intimidate the public.

Less than two weeks later, on June 10, Matteotti disappeared. His neighbours reported an unknown car’s registration plate to the police who quickly found the car with blood on the back seat. Although this didn’t directly link the car to Matteotti’s disappearance, Mussolini ordered the arrest of Amerigo Dumini and other members of his recently-created Ceka secret police.

Opposition deputies showed their opposition to the Fascists by moving from the Chamber in an event known as the Aventine secession. Matteotti’s body was later found following an extensive search, showing that he had been stabbed in the chest with a carpenter’s file.

Despite a significant loss of political support, and the suggestion that he was involved in ordering the murder, Mussolini successfully turned events to his advantage. A speech in January 1925 saw him begin the transition to dictatorship when he stated that he would bring stability to Italy, even if that meant using force.

The rise of Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini and the first Fascist cabinet in Italy

Mussolini, who was determined to restore the glory of the Roman Empire following the ‘mutilated victory’ of the First World War, had formed the precursor to the Fascist Party in 1919. His skill as an orator, the intimidating power of his Blackshirts, and the relative weaknesses of the existing liberal government all contributed to the speed at which the Fascists gained influence.

On 24 October 1922 Mussolini went on stage at the Fascist Congress in Naples to declare his willingness to use the power of the Fascist movement to overthrow the government of liberal Prime Minister Luigi Facta. Four days later approximately 30,000 Blackshirts from around the country gathered in the capital in an event known as the March on Rome. As they filled the streets and occupied public buildings, they called for Facta’s resignation.

The Prime Minister chose to oppose the attempted revolution, but King Victor Emmanuel III refused his request to declare martial law. Stunned by the King’s rejection of military action, Facta offered his resignation which was immediately accepted. Victor Emmanuel later invited Mussolini to form a government, whose cabinet was sworn in on 31 October in front of the King himself.

The establishment of Mussolini’s government was greeted by a victory march by tens of thousands of Blackshirts. In time the March on Rome would achieve mythical status among Fascists as a revolutionary seizure of power, but the reality is that Mussolini was granted power the King. Within a few years, however, he would transform the country into a dictatorship.

Overview of Britain 1750-1900: the first industrial nation?

An overview of the causes and consequences of the Industrial Revolution in Britain taken from the BBC’s History File programme. Most suitable for KS3 but provides a good background for GCSE.

what the industrial revolution did for us

Technology in the Industrial Revolution documentary clip

An extract from a BBC documentary “What the Industrial Revolution Did for Us” presented by Dan Cruickshank. This clip explores the ideas and inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shows how they changed the nature of working life.

Victorian child factory workers

Factory life in Britain during the Industrial Revolution

An episode of the BBC’s History File presenting an overview of life in factories during the Industrial Revolution. More appropriate for KS3 students, but could be useful for GCSE as a background.

what the industrial revolution did for us

Medical changes in the Industrial Revolution video clip

An extract from a BBC documentary “What the Industrial Revolution Did for Us” presented by Dan Cruickshank. This clip explores the changes in medicine that occurred during the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution: society in late Victorian cities

A video clip presenting some aspects of life in Victorian cities.

Viking raid on Lindisfarne

The Norse raid on Lindisfarne in 793: the beginning of the ‘Viking’ age in Britain?

Norse raiders attacked the holy island of Lindisfarne off the Northumbrian coast in an event that is generally accepted as the start of the ‘Viking’ period of British history.

The monastery on Lindisfarne had been established by Saint Aiden in the early 7th century, and grew to be an important centre of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon Britain. Although the attack on the Holy Island was not the first time that Vikings had targeted Britain, it is notable due to being an assault on the holiest site in the kingdom of Northumbria and, arguably, Anglo-Saxon Britain. The raiders laid waste to the island, slaughtering the monks that lived there, and stealing vast quantities of treasure.

The island was probably targeted due to being both remote and wealthy, although Christian commentators at the time proposed other explanations. Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar who was working as a tutor in the Frankish kingdom, wrote to both the bishop of Lindisfarne and the Northumbrian king. His letters expressed upset at the attack but also questioned whether it was ‘the outcome of the sins of those who live there’.

Although the religious community on Lindisfarne survived the attack of 793, Viking raids on monasteries and other religious sites in Britain continued for many years. Consequently some of the best examples of early medieval religious metalwork have been found in Scandinavian graves from the time.

From the middle of the 9th century the Norsemen began to see Britain as a place for colonisation rather than plunder. Within a few decades they had established an area of independent rule known as the Danelaw, the legacy of which can be seen in many place names in the North of England and the East Midlands.

Æthelstan: the first Anglo-Saxon ‘king of all Britain’

July 12th 927 is the closest we have to a foundation date for England, when all the kings of Britain met at Eamont Bridge, near Penrith in Cumbria, to swear an oath of peace under the overlordship of Æthelstan. Having previously been king of the Anglo-Saxons, Æthelstan’s key success in 927 was conquering Viking York which placed the kingdom of Northumbria under his control and secured the submission of the northern kings.

Æthelstan was the son of Edward the Elder, and grandson of Alfred the Great, and his ancestors had already carved large chunks from Viking lands as far north as the River Humber. As such they customarily referred to themselves as ‘king of the Saxons’ or ‘king of the Anglo-Saxons’. However, securing the submission of the other British kings meant that Æthelstan could go further. Coins minted soon after the 927 oath referred to him as rex totius Britanniae or ‘king of all Britain’.

Despite the oath, Æthelstan’s rule over the north of England was still fragile and in 937 he faced the combined forces of Scots, Vikings and Strathclyde Britons under the command of Olaf Guthfrithson, Constantine II, and Owen I respectively. An account of the ensuing Battle of Brunanburh was recorded in a contemporary poem of the same name and was preserved in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A further 52 other sources mention the battle, although realistically we know little about what happened other than Æthelstan and his army were victorious. This victory secured Anglo-Saxon control, and effectively laid out the map of the British Isles as we know them today.

Æthelred the Unready and the St Brice’s Day Massacre

On the 13th November 1002, the St Brice’s Day Massacre took place when king Æthelred the Unready “ordered slain all the Danish men who were in England”. Although it is believed that there was considerable loss of life, actual numbers of Danes who were killed following the order are unknown. However, recent archaeological excavations including two mass graves have begun to shed some light on the mystery.

Æthelred came to the throne when he was just 10 years old, following the assassination of his half-brother Edward the Martyr, who he succeeded. Suspicions over Æthelred’s involvement led to distrust of the new king, and meant that he did not secure the full loyalty of all his subjects. Danes already dominated large areas of northern and eastern England in what became known as the Danelaw, where Danes had practised self-rule since 878. However, they were able to exploit the divisions among Æthelred’s subjects by launching raids against coastal towns in southern England from 990 onwards. By 997 they were attacking Æthelred’s kingdom every year.

Æthelred paid significant amounts of silver and gold to the Danes as Danegeld, ‘Dane-payment’ in an attempt to stop the attacks but, in 1002 received information that the Danes planned to “beshrew him of his life, and afterwards all his council, and then have his kingdom without any resistance.” In response, Æthelred ordered the killing of all Danes in England, although it is unlikely that the killing extended into the Danelaw. For Æthelred, the massacre had little effect but to provoke a brutal retaliation by Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, who invaded the following year.