Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a historian and political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leaders, and propaganda. Her latest book, Strongmen: From Mussolini to The Present, will be published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2021. She has given over 150 interviews on threats to democracy in the United States and elsewhere and appears frequently on radio, podcasts, and television. She writes for CNN.com, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and many other news and analysis sites. She’s Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, an advisor to Protect Democracy, and has Board of Directors and academic administrator experience.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a historian and expert political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leaders, and propaganda — and the threats they present to democracies around the world. As author or editor of seven books with over 100 columns and op-eds in media outlets including CNN, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, she draws on historical perspective to provide a sharp analysis of current events. As an expert source and frequent commentator on television, radio, podcasts, and online events across the globe, she provides critical insight into the authoritarian playbook.
Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and her work has been supported by a Fulbright, Guggenheim, and other fellowships. Her ground-breaking interdisciplinary scholarship is continuously informed by newly uncovered materials from forgotten Fascist-era films to documents from the Vatican Secret Archives. Her books Fascist Modernities and Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema detail what happens to societies when authoritarian governments take hold, and explore the uniquely dangerous appeal of strongmen to collaborators and followers. Growing up in Pacific Palisades, California, where many intellectuals who fled Nazism resettled, sparked her interest in the subject.
Her op-eds frequently connect history to current political movements in a way that catalyzes action. The United States Army’s curriculum includes her 2016 op-ed for CNN on women and the draft, and her 2018 CNN column defining gender harassment in and out of the academy has become one of the essential readings of the #MeToo movement.
In 2017, she sparked an ongoing debate on the legacy and memory of Mussolini’s regime with a prescient New Yorker essay on the persistence of Fascist monuments in Italy. As an advisor to Protect Democracy, she was part of a 2019 Amicus Curiae brief in the context of PEN America’s lawsuit against the Trump administration’s attempts to stifle press freedoms. In 2018, “Trump and Putin: the pictures tell the story” was one of the top ten most read pieces on CNN and laid bare the posturing and competitiveness of strongmen through documentation of the Trump-Putin summit.
With Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present (Norton, November 10th, 2020), she offers a critical blueprint for understanding and resisting authoritarianism in the face of a historic 2020 American Presidential election.
FIELDS OF EXPERTISE
- World War Two
- Modern and Contemporary Europe
RECENT GRANTS, FELLOWSHIPS, & AWARDS
- Member, Institute for Advanced Study, spring 2020
- Edinburgh Gadda Prize for Best Book on Italian Culture, 2019, for Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema.
- Visiting Scholar, Center for Media at Risk, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania, Spring 2019.
- Visiting Scholar, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, spring 2019.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is an internationally renowned historian, speaker, and political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leaders, and propaganda on fascism, authoritarian leaders, and propaganda. She’s authored or edited nine books and dozens of scholarly articles, and her columns (CNN.com The Washington Post, The Atlantic) and media interviews bring knowledge of the past to bear on the analysis of threats to democracy in our world today. Her insights on authoritarian styles of leadership, fascism and its memory, and propaganda have made her a go-to source for journalists around the world and a frequent guest on television, radio, and podcasts.
Her award-winning work, which has been funded by Guggenheim, Fulbright, and other fellowships, has had lasting impact in the media and the academy. Her interdisciplinary scholarship on fascism, World War Two, and visual propaganda has introduced new approaches, broken with prevailing orthodoxies, and used newly available sources, from forgotten Fascist-era films and novels to documents from the Vatican Secret Archives. Her books Fascist Modernities and Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema look at what happens to societies when authoritarian governments take hold and why they appealed to so many.
Her dozens of essays and op-eds translate her vast knowledge of the logic of power and the authoritarian playbook into analyses of the operation and endgame of the global right today, including in Donald Trump’s America. Her 2016 CNN essay on women and the draft is part of the United States Army’s curriculum and her 2017 New Yorker essay on the persistence of Fascist monuments in Italy sparked an ongoing international debate on the legacy and memory of Mussolini’s regime. Her op-ed on photographs of the Trump-Putin summit was one of CNN’s “Top 10” for 2018, and her op-ed on gender harassment in and out of the academy figures in essential readings about the #MeToo phenomenon.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a compelling and lively speaker for professional organizations, media companies, think tanks, and universities on topics of vital interest today. She’s Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and Advisor to Protect Democracy, with Board of Directors and academic administrator experience.