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International conference to examine the rise of 20th century dictators

Posted on 22/10/2010

Modern dictators are the subject of international conference

From Adolf Hitler to Saddam Hussein, 20th Century dictators have had a major influence in shaping the world we live in today. But how influential were the ‘cults’ behind these leaders in them coming to and remaining in power?

'The Personality of Cults of Modern Dictators' conference, organised by  Royal Holloway, University of London, The University of Reading and The University of Warwick, brings together scholars from all over the world to London today and tomorrow (22- 23 October) to discuss how these powerful men compare with each other.

Almost all modern dictators are the subject of personality cults that are highly organised even if they often also rest on spontaneous contributions. By creating a unique story around an individual they harness support and help consolidate a regime.

Dictators often borrow heavily from one another in developing their cults. Hitler, for example, was a great admirer of Mussolini, and Saddam Hussein of Stalin. Sometimes, as in North Korea, the leader is invested with a strongly religious aura to fit in with popular belief patterns.

The conference will be looking at cults from many angles including political, religious, media, literary and artistic.

Dr Giuliana Pieri from the Department of Modern Languages at Royal Holloway said:  “This conference is the final part of a larger project and it focuses on comparing dictators from all over the world. The aim is to understand how dictators establish themselves and to explore patterns between them. As the first modern fascist leader in Europe Mussolini became almost a template for other dictators."

Among the themes that will be explored are Dictators and the mass media, Dictators and their publics, Masculinity and dictatorship and Dictators in film and literature.

Keynote addresses will be delivered on some of the key precursors of 20th century dictators: Maria Wyke (UCL) on Julius Caesar and his legacies, and Lucy Riall (Birkbeck College, London) on Garibaldi.




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