Born in Rome, Giuseppe Bottai can be considered one of most influent politicians during the Fascist period. He was also a writer and journalist working on art history, cultural heritage and humanities. He has been considered not only a ‘critic Fascist’ but also an expert intellectual.
His father was a wine merchant. After having attended the “Liceo Classico” Tasso in Rome, Bottai studied at the Faculty of Law of the University “La Sapienza”. He jointed the Italian Army during World War I. After the conflict, he completed his studies and gained his degree in Laws joining also the Futurism movement. In 1919, he became journalist for the Popolo d’Italia and then, two years later, jointed the Fascist movement with Benito Mussolini. His career with the Partito Nazionale Fascista was brilliant and successful. In fact, he was Minister of Corporations between 1926 and 1929 and also Governor of Addis Abeba (1936).
However, Bottai obtained his most important role within the Fascist regime between 1936 and 1943 when he was Minister of National Education which was renamed by Mussolini; in fact, it was “of Public Education” before. As minister, he was in charge to manage all Italian cultural heritage (and culture) and promote the Fascist propaganda as well. Bottai certainly played a leading role in the safeguarding of antiquities during World War 2. After June 1940, he promulgated a variety of laws, guidelines, special decrees and exceptional measures to protect all cultural heritage in Italy.
Many of records relevant to SICILYWAR have been signed by Giuseppe Bottai, particularly special dispatches, laws and circulars. However, he represented the highest authority responsible to manage antiquities, archaeological sites and museums in Sicily. The ministry was crucial to provide funds to local bodies which were responsible to protect antiquities, for instance, installing scaffolding or other devices (see the sandbags, which we already discussed here). This, of course, means that all regional authorities and superintendents were directly connected with Bottai.
On the purpose of our project, Bottai is the key centre of all social networks identified by archival records. He is like the apical unit of a more complex and rooted connections starting from level 1 (state) and going towards the level 2 and 3 (regional and local).
What is the destiny of Bottai? The tribunal of the Social Republic condemned him to the death penalty, since he signed in favour of the fall of Mussolini in July 1943; but the penalty was cancelled after the end of the war. Thus, he was safe and was not punished for his role within the Fascist government. He also continued writing. On the whole, Bottai published many essays, books and articles on culture and art. We can mention: Il diritto della rivoluzione (1926), Mussolini costruttore dell’impero (1926), Politica Sociale (1929), Le corporazioni (1935), Italo Balbo (1943) and Fronte dell’arte (1943).