Born in 1883 into a passionate socialist blacksmith’s family, Benito Mussolini was named after the Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez.  Although expelled from several schools for bullying and defying authority, he obtained a teaching certificate at age 18 and worked as a schoolmaster for a short time.

In 1902, after gaining a reputation for his socialist rhetoric in  Switzerland, he was expelled from the country. In 1904, after brief imprisonment in Italy for promoting socialism, he became editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti. After early opposition to Italy’s entrance into WWI, he reversed his position and joined the Italian army – bringing about his expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party. Wounded on the front lines, he was promoted to corporal and honorably discharged.

In 1919 Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party, (Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF) promising to increase employment, build public works and return Italy to the glory of ancient Rome. A paramilitary force of Black Shirts  (Voluntary Militia for National Security – MVSN), was organized to suppress opposition as Mussolini assumed increased power during a period of political chaos in Italy. In 1925 Mussolini declared himself Il Duce (leader).