Published 13 Oct 2009
History remembers Benito Mussolini as a founder member of the original Axis of Evil, the Italian dictator who ruled his country with fear and forged a disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany. But a previously unknown area of Il Duce’s CV has come to light: his brief career as a British agent.
Archived documents have revealed that Mussolini got his start in politics in 1917 with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5.
For the British intelligence agency, it must have seemed like a good investment. Mussolini, then a 34-year-old journalist, was not just willing to ensure Italy continued to fight alongside the allies in the first world war by publishing propaganda in his paper. He was also willing to send in the boys to “persuade” peace protesters to stay at home.
Mussolini’s payments were authorised by Sir Samuel Hoare, an MP and MI5’s man in Rome, who ran a staff of 100 British intelligence officers in Italy at the time.