Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946)

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Kingdom of Italy
Regno d'Italia
Flag of the Kingdom of Italy Great coat of arms of Italy 1890–1929 / 44–46
flag coat of arms
Italy 1843–1870.png navigation Flag of Italy.svg
Flag of the Vatican City.svg
War flag of the Italian Social Republic.svg
Free Territory Trieste Flag.svg
Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992) .svg
State Flag of Greece (1863-1924 and 1935-1973) .svg
Constitution State constitution of the Kingdom of Italy
(Statuto Albertino)
Official language Italian
Capital Turin (1861–1864)
Florence (1864–1871)
Rome (1871–1946)
Form of government kingdom
Government system Parliamentary monarchy (1861–1925 and 1943–1946)
monarchical - fascist one-party dictatorship (1925–1943)
Head of state King :
Viktor Emanuel II. (1861–1878)
Umberto I (1878–1900)
Viktor Emanuel III. (1900–1946)
Umberto II. (1946)
Head of government Prime Minister
see President of the Council of Ministers
area 310,196 km² (1936)
Residents 42,994,000 (1936)
Population density 138.6 inhabitants / km² (1936)
currency Italian lira
founding March 17, 1861
( Victor Emmanuel II proclaimed King of Italy)
resolution June 3, 1946
(referendum on the form of government)
National anthem Marcia Reale
Time zone CET
Italian Colonial Empire (orthographic projection) .svg

Territories and colonies of the Kingdom of Italy 1941:

  • Kingdom of Italy
  • Italian colonies
  • Italian occupied territories and protectorates

The Kingdom of Italy ( Italian Regno d'Italia ) was a state in southern Europe , which existed from 1861 to 1946 on the territory of what is now the Italian Republic and parts of its neighboring states. During this period, Italy was (formally during the period of Italian fascism 1922-1943), a centrally organized, the monarchical principle aligned constitutionally - parliamentary monarchy .

The kingdom was founded in 1861 in the course of the Risorgimento movements , in the final phase of which with the proclamation of the Sardinian King Victor Emmanuel II as King of Italy on March 17, 1861 in Turin, the first modern Italian nation-state was established under the rule of the House of Savoy . In 1866 he declared war on the Austrian Empire and acquired Veneto with Friuli . In 1871 the Papal States followed with Rome, which ended the Italian Wars of Independence .

During a long liberal political phase increased the Kingdom of Italy under King I. Umberto 1878 to great power and took part in the 1880s on the colonial scramble for Africa , where there are several colonial wars in East Africa and from 1911 to 1912 to the later Italian Libya a Waged war against the Ottoman Empire . In 1882 the alliance of the Triple Alliance was concluded with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary . At the beginning of the 20th century Italy had changed from an agricultural state to, together with France and Austria-Hungary, the most important industrial country in the Mediterranean region . It came under Umberto's successor, Viktor Emanuel III. from 1900 in the large industrial centers of northern Italy for the rise of organized workers and the bourgeoisie as well as mass associations and parties. In the south , on the other hand, the economic upturn was slow to arrive.

With the beginning of World War I in 1914, Italy declared its neutrality . After the London Treaty of 1915 , in which extensive territorial concessions were agreed, the war entered the war on the side of the Entente in the same year . After the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in 1918, which contributed significantly to the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire, the kingdom was one of the main victorious powers and had a permanent seat in the League of Nations .

The end of the world war triggered a serious national crisis in 1919. In this, the National Fascist Party under Benito Mussolini took power with the March on Rome in 1922 and gradually undermined democracy by 1926. The Fascist regime began after a period of following the Western democracies and the internal consolidation, by an enormous economic recovery and ongoing since 1923 reconquest of Libya was marked, an aggressive foreign policy. After overcoming the global economic crisis of 1929, the Italian conquest of Ethiopia began in 1935 , to which the West responded with economic sanctions. Italy was internationally isolated.

From 1936 Italy turned to Nazi Germany . This in turn supported the desired Italian supremacy in the Mediterranean and on the Balkan Peninsula . In 1936 the later alliance of the Axis powers was founded and until 1939 both states intervened together in the Spanish civil war in favor of the putschists under Francisco Franco . This process went hand in hand with an increasing ideologization and radicalization of the regime. In 1937 the Italian Racial Laws for the colonies were enacted, which mainly disenfranchised the indigenous population in the colonies, and the forced Italianization of the ethnic minorities intensified. In 1938 the anti-Semitic racial laws followed .

After the annexation of Austria and the Munich Agreement in 1938, Italian troops occupied Albania in 1939 . Italy formed an important member of the Axis powers during World War II. After initial successes, the successive defeats in East Africa, North Africa and the Soviet Union from the summer of 1941 onwards led to a loss of support for the fascist regime and the monarchy among the population. The Allied landing on Sicily in 1943 brought about the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship in July and Italy left the Axis alliance in the Cassibile armistice . On October 13, 1943, the Allies entered the war again . The Wehrmacht then occupied the north of the country and established a puppet government with the Italian Social Republic , which existed under the formal leadership of the old fascist regime until the spring of 1945.

After the end of the Second World War, the Italian monarchy had to accept the loss of its colonial empire and the possessions in Istria and Dalmatia by Yugoslavia and overcome an economic crisis, which was caused by a significant decline in industrial production, food shortages and the destruction of large parts of the infrastructure in northern and northern Germany Central Italy had been raised. In May 1946 Viktor Emanuel III thanked him. in favor of his son Umberto II . This ruled only 40 days. On June 2, 1946, the monarchy was abolished after a referendum and the Italian Republic was proclaimed, which in 1947 gave up all claims to Istria and the former colonies, in 1948 legally abolished the Italian nobility and sent the Savoyans into exile.

Unification process (1848–1871)

Italian unification process

The establishment of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of the combined efforts of Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom on the Apennine Peninsula .

After the revolution of 1848/49 , the revolutionaries Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini initially established themselves as leaders of the Italian unification movement . In the world, Garibaldi was known mainly for his extremely loyal followers and his military achievements in South America . He strove for the unification of southern Italy into a constitutional republic , but this was in contrast to the northern Italian monarchy of the House of Savoy in the Kingdom of Sardinia , which had been the last important and militarily powerful Italian state after the Congress of Vienna . The Sardinian government under the leadership of Count Camillo Benso von Cavour also had ambitions to achieve a unified Italian state. Although the monarchy had no political, cultural or historical connection with Rome , it was nonetheless considered by Cavour to be the natural capital of Italy.

Compared to Garibaldi, the Kingdom of Sardinia had an important power-political advantage with the elimination of the influence of the Austrian Empire in the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 and the annexation of Lombardy to the Austrian crown land of Lombardy-Venetia . In addition, Cavour had secured his country with alliances with Great Britain and France , which should serve to improve the possibilities of the unification of Italy. In the Crimean War from 1853 to 1853, Sardinia underpinned this with the intervention of its own 15,000-man expeditionary force in favor of France and Great Britain against the Russian Empire . In addition, most of the insurgents and revolutionaries in the Italian states such as the Grand Duchy of Tuscany , the Duchy of Modena and the Duchy of Parma were loyal to Sardinia. In order to strengthen the foreign policy alliance, Sardinia ceded Savoy and the county of Nice in the Treaty of Turin in 1860 as a thank you to France , but this met with resistance in Cavour's government.

In the spring of 1860 Garibaldi's revolutionary movement gained strength in southern Italy. His irregulars (" Zug der Tausend ") succeeded in completely occupying the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in February 1861 , and they forced Francis II to flee. The Sardinian government wanted then the peripheral regions of the Papal States occupy, to forestall the revolutionaries. The project led to the annexation of some smaller peripheral areas. So Rome and its surroundings remained under the control of Pope Pius IX. Despite the setback and the ideological differences between the Sardinian royal family and Garibaldi, the latter gave in and resigned from his claim to leadership. Sardinia then occupied Umbria and the Marches , and southern Italy joined the north. The Sardinian Parliament then proclaimed the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy on February 18, 1861 (officially proclaimed on March 17, 1861). On March 17, 1861, King Victor Emanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont from the House of Savoy was proclaimed King of Italy in the first Italian parliament throughout Italy .

After the unification of Italy there was renewed tension between monarchists and republicans. In April 1861, Garibaldi called on Cavour to resign in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament . The reason for this was Cavour's uncompromising action against republican guerrillas in the brigands war in the south. When Cavour died on June 6, 1861, several political camps formed among his successors in the ensuing political instability. Garibaldi and the Republicans became increasingly revolutionary with their demands. Garibaldi's arrest after a skirmish between royal Italian troops and his supporters on August 29, 1862 on Aspromonte was the cause of worldwide controversy.

In 1866, the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck offered King Viktor Emmanuel II an alliance with the Kingdom of Prussia ( Prussian-Italian Alliance Agreement ). Italy accepted it and on June 20, 1866 declared war on the Austrian Empire in the Third Italian War of Independence . However, the new Royal Italian Army and Navy fared badly in this uncoordinated parallel war with Prussia. The attempts to conquer Veneto and Friuli failed. But since Prussia won its war against Austria, Italy was able to occupy the two areas and annex them on July 25, 1866. The main obstacle to Italian unity remained Rome.

Count Camillo Benso von Cavour , first President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of the Kingdom of Italy

In July 1870 the Franco-Prussian War broke out between Prussia and France . To keep the large and powerful Prussian army in check, the French Emperor Napoleon III. withdraw the French troops in Rome. Victor Emanuel II then had Rome attacked from September 11, 1870. On September 20, 1870, Rome and the rest of the Papal States were taken (so-called "Breccia di Porta Pia"). With the exception of the troops of the papal Swiss Guard, the company met with little resistance. With the proclamation of Rome as the capital on January 26, 1871 and the solemn entry of the king, the Italian unification ended. After that, the government moved its seat from Florence to the new capital.

Although the unification of the Kingdom of Italy was widely accepted by the Italians by 1871 and legitimized by referendums in the individual regions, the conditions for the construction of the new state were poor. The economic situation was catastrophic. There was no industry or transport, and extreme poverty (“mezzogiorno”) prevailed in the south . Because of the high illiteracy rate and the rule that the right to vote was linked to a certain income limit, only 2% of the total population had the right to vote in 1861. In the first parliamentary elections in January 1861, out of 26 million people, only 419,938 people could vote. In the end, the valid votes were reduced to 170,567 people, of whom around 70,000 were state employees, 85 princes, dukes and margraves, 28 officers, 78 lawyers, doctors and engineers.

The new state adopted the Sardinian-Piedmontese constitution of 1848, which established a constitutional-parliamentary monarchy. Italy received a very centralized administration and, like France, was divided into provinces .

After the conquest of Rome in 1870, relations between the Kingdom of Italy and the Vatican were at a low point for the next 60 years. The popes called themselves "prisoners in the Vatican". The Catholic Church often protested against actions and steps of the secular and partly anti-clerical influenced various Italian governments and refused any cooperation with emissaries of the king or the Italian state. It was not until 1929 that the so-called “ Roman question ” could be resolved with the signing of the Lateran Treaty .

Structure of the state

The Kingdom of Italy took over the state structures of the predecessor state of Sardinia in many areas , which were gradually transferred to the entire country. It was not until the late 1870s that these structures were cautiously abandoned, which (for example, by maintaining the constitution of 1848) essentially remained in place until the end of the monarchy in 1946.

A major challenge for the Prime Ministers of the new state was the integration of the political and administrative systems of the seven different predecessor states into a unified policy and the creation of a centralized, unified state based on the French model. The predecessor states were proud of their own historical patterns and there was a pronounced regionalism . The social, societal, economic and political predecessor structures could only be adapted with great difficulty. Prime Minister Cavour began planning a unification of the state before 1861, but died before it was fully developed. The easiest thing to do was to harmonize the administrative structure of the Italian regions . Practically all of them followed the Napoleonic administrative pattern of the first French Empire . The second challenge was to develop a stable and vibrant parliamentary system . Cavour and most of the Liberals admired the British system of parliamentary monarchy and carried it over to Italian politics. The harmonization of the Royal Army and Navy was much more complicated, largely because the systems of recruiting soldiers and selecting and promoting officers differed widely among states. This disorganization also led to the defeat of the Italian navy and army in the war of 1866 . The Sardinian military system could therefore only slowly be transferred to the Italian regions over several decades and the former predecessor armies integrated into the new royal army. Also in the education system and in the area of ​​law there were only a few connecting elements.


The Kingdom of Italy at the time of its greatest expansion in Europe, 1943

The Kingdom of Italy comprised the entire territory of what is now Italy and parts of its direct and indirect neighboring states France , Greece , Albania , Montenegro , Croatia , Slovenia , Tunisia and Libya . In the course of its history the country had several changing neighboring countries due to its European colonial territories: France in the west and northwest (1861-1946), Switzerland in the north (1861-1946), Austria-Hungary in the northeast (1861-1918), Austria in the North (1918–1938 and 1945–1946) the German Reich in the north (1938–1945), Yugoslavia in the east (1918–1941 and 1945–1946), Croatia , Serbia and Montenegro in the east (1941–1945), Greece in the southeast (1939–1945), Bulgaria in the southeast (1941–1945), French Tunisia in the southwest (1939–1942 and de jure 1943–1946), Egypt (1939–1943 and de jure 1943–1946) and French Algeria (1939 -1943).

The kingdom's territorial development continued until 1870 during the Italian Wars of Independence and the Risorgimento . This was followed by a long period of peace with only minor territorial acquisitions in Europe (1912 annexation of the Dodecanese islands, on October 30, 1914 occupation of the Albanian island of Sazan ). During this period, the Italian state did not own the Italian-populated areas of Trieste and Trentino - South Tyrol , both of which are now part of Italy. In irredentism , nationalists demanded additional areas to complete the unification of all Italians within Italy. The connection of Istria , Corsica , Nice , Savoy , Monaco , the Swiss cantons of Ticino , Wallis , Graubünden and Geneva , Dalmatia , Malta , San Marino , Montenegro and Albania was called for, which led to conflicts with neighboring countries, especially France , Austria-Hungary and Serbia (see also Greater Serbia ).

In the London Treaty of 1915 , France, Great Britain and the Russian Empire promised Italy Trentino, Tyrol to Brenner , Trieste, Gorizia and Gradisca d'Isonzo , Istria and northern Dalmatia (excluding Fiume ) and Albania. After the First World War , Italy was able to secure Trentino and South Tyrol from the territory of the collapsed Habsburg Monarchy in 1919 , plus the coastal region with parts of the Duchy of Carniola and some Dalmatian islands with the city of Zara . The claims to northern Dalmatia and most of the Dalmatian islands, which Italy had also been promised, the kingdom had in the Peace Treaty of Versailles 1919 under pressure from US President Woodrow Wilson , who propagated the right of self-determination of the peoples and on a compromise between Italy and the new kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes gave up. During the time of fascism a new phase of territorial expansion began with the aim of establishing a Greater Italy ( Italia Imperiale ). In 1924 with the Treaty of Rome Fiume, in 1939 after the Riconquista della Libia, northern Libya and Albania were annexed and declared an integral part of the Italian nation. In the course of the Second World War , parts of south-eastern France followed (see western campaign ), in 1941 most of Slovenia (summarized in the Province of Ljubljana (Italian Provincia di Lubiana )) and Dalmatia (summarized in the Governorate of Dalmatia (Italian Governatorato di Dalmazia )) and the Greek Ionian Islands (Italian Isole Ionie ) and 1942 Tunisia (combined with Libya to form the fourth coast (Italian Quarta Sponda )). After World War II, the Kingdom of Italy had to surrender all of these territories and was re-established de jure within the 1938 borders, with parts of its territory under the partial or full control of Greece, Yugoslavia, France and Great Britain.

The Kingdom of Italy also owned several non-European colonies , protectorates , puppet states and militarily occupied areas such as Italian Eritrea (gradually occupied from 1882, merged into a colony in 1890), Italian Somaliland (gradually occupied from 1888, initially an indirect rule), Italian Libya (1911 by the Ottoman Empire acquired and united in 1934 after the reconquest of Libya), Antalya and region (1919-1923 occupied ), Ethiopia ( occupied from 1936 to 1941 and part of Italian East Africa ), Albania (1917-1920 and since 1925 de facto Italian protectorate (see Albanian Kingdom ), 1939 occupied ), British Somaliland (1940 occupied until 1941 and annexed to Italian East Africa), the Hellenic State (1941-1943 occupied , de facto protectorate (see history of Greece ) the Independent State of Croatia (Italian Stato Indipendente di Croazia ) (Italian protectorate from 1941 to 1 943, along with Hitler's Germany occupied ), Kosovo part of Italian-Albania from 1941), the ( Independent State of Montenegro (Italian Stato Indipendente del Montenegro occupied) 1941-1943, Protectorate) and a small 46-hectare concession in the Chinese city of Tianjin .

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 and in the subsequent peace treaty of February 10, 1947, the Italian Republic had to renounce all colonies and protectorates, with the exception of Italian Somaliland, which was under Italian control as a UN trust territory until 1960 and then became part of the state of Somalia .

Political system

The Kingdom of Italy was theoretically a constitutional monarchy . The executive power belonged to the monarch and he alone appointed and dismissed all ministers and they were theoretically responsible to him alone. In practice, however, no Italian government has been in office without the support of Parliament . From 1876/78 at the latest, the Kingdom of Italy was de facto a parliamentary monarchy based on the British model.

The right to vote , initially restricted to selected citizens, was gradually expanded. In 1911, the government of Giovanni Giolitti introduced universal suffrage for male citizens. At the beginning of the 20th century, many observers saw Italy as a modern and largely stable parliamentary democracy compared to other countries.

Between 1925 and 1943 Italy was virtually de jure a fascist dictatorship , as the constitution remained in force officially without being changed by the fascists, however, during the fascist period from 1922 to 1943, many laws were passed that were constitutional .


The constitution of the kingdom, officially the state constitution of the kingdom of Italy (Italian Legge organica del Regno d'Italia ), was based on the fundamental statute of March 4, 1848 , the constitution given to the kingdom of Sardinia by King Charles Albert . According to this, the form of government was the representative monarchical one. Individual freedom was guaranteed; the apartment was inviolable; the press was free ; the right of assembly was recognized. Every citizen had the right to petition Parliament.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s the constitution was changed a few times and its interpretation was liberalized so that the king hardly interfered in daily politics and all governments needed the support of parliament. However, the monarch was still regarded as a “guarantor of stability and continuity” and he still had a strong position in foreign and military policy and in times of crisis . The constitution remained formally in force during the fascist rule and was only replaced by the current constitution of the Italian Republic in 1948 .


Royal and Imperial Standards

The King of Italy held state authority, but could only exercise the right to legislate in association with the national parliament. According to Salian law, the throne was inherited from the male line of the royal house of Savoy . The king committed himself to the Roman Catholic Church with his house . He was awarded the age of 18 years of age and placed on his throne in the presence of both chambers an oath to the Constitution from. According to the law of March 17, 1861, his title was: " By God's grace and by the will of the nation King of Italy and King of Albania (only from 1939–1943) and Emperor of Ethiopia (only from 1936–1943)”. He bestowed the five orders of knighthood of Savoy and exercised constitutional sovereignty. He was in command of land, sea and air power; He declared wars, concluded peace, alliance, trade and other treaties, of which only those which involved a financial burden or a change in the area required the approval of the chambers to be effective. The king appointed to all state offices, sanctioned and promulgated the laws, which as well as the government acts had to be countersigned by the responsible ministers , and issued the decrees and regulations necessary for the implementation of the laws . The judiciary was administered in his name; he alone was entitled to the pardon and the mitigation of sentences.

# image Name
(life data)
Domination coat of arms
Beginning The End
1 Ritratto di SM Vittorio Emanuele II.jpg Victor Emanuel II (Father of the Fatherland)
March 17, 1861 January 9, 1878 1861-1870   1870-1878
2 Ritratto di Umberto I.jpg Umberto I (the good)
January 9, 1878 July 29, 1900 1878-1890   1890-1900
3 Vittorio Emanuele III (c. 1924-1934) .jpg Victor Emmanuel III (the soldier king)
July 29, 1900 May 9, 1946 1900-1929   1929-1944
4th Umberto II Italia.jpg Umberto II (the May King)
May 9, 1946 June 12, 1946 1946

Government and ministries

The executive power was exercised by the king through the responsible ministers, who met in the Council of Ministers (unofficially in use Royal Italian Government (ital. Gouverno italiano reale)). In addition to this, there was a State Council , which had consultative powers and decided on conflicts of competence between administrative authorities and courts as well as on disputes between the state and its creditors. It consisted of a President, three Section Presidents, 24 Councilors of State and the service staff and was appointed by the King on the proposal of the Council of Ministers. The highest state administration was divided among the following ministries, with the seat in Rome:

Due to the war, a number of other short-lived ministries were created during the First and Second World Wars .

The Court of Auditors of the Kingdom had an independent position .

houses of Parliament

The representative body of the Kingdom of Italy consisted of two chambers, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies . The Senate consisted of the royal princes and members who were appointed by the king for life from certain categories of citizens (holders of certain offices and dignities, men and persons who earned 3000 lire annually in direct taxes ) and were at least 40 years old were appointed. The second chamber was the Chamber of Deputies and had 508 members who were directly elected in 135 constituencies (2–5 members in each district) through the list scrutinium for a period of five years. Voters were all Italians who enjoyed civil and political rights, had reached the age of 21, could read and write, and paid 20 lire direct taxes or were entitled to vote by virtue of certain personal status or qualifications. The women's suffrage was introduced 1946th All voters over 30 years of age were eligible as deputies. Pastoral care chaplains, state officials (with the exception of ministers, general secretaries, senior officers, university professors, but even these only in a maximum number of 40), Sindaci , provincial deputies and persons who received salaries or remuneration from subsidized companies were not eligible . The King called the Chambers together every year; the meetings were public . The Presidium of the Senate was appointed by the King, that of the Chamber of Deputies was elected by the King. The latter had ministerial indictment rights , in which case the Senate acted as the court. The provinces had self-government, the exercise of which was entrusted to the provincial council elected by the local electors for five years and the provincial deputation appointed by it. The municipal organs were the municipal council elected for five years, the Munizipalgiunta elected from among the municipal council and the Sindaco, the head of the municipal administration.

After a short multinominal experiment under Prime Minister Agostino Depretis in the elections in 1882, large, regional and multi-sensory constituencies were introduced after the First World War. The socialists won a majority in the 1919 and 1921 elections but were unable to run the government. In November 1923, Mussolini replaced this system with the Acerbo Act , an electoral reform that gave the party with the highest vote two-thirds of the seats in parliament, provided it received at least 25% of the vote.

Political parties

Election poster of the Partito Socialista Italiano for the parliamentary elections in 1897

From the founding of the state up to the 1890s, Italy was dominated by the two most important groups of the historical right (ital. Destra storica ) and left (ital. Sinistra storica ). These did not form actual political parties, but rather collective movements for a group of prominent politicians with similar political ideas. These two factions were considered to be the two poles of the beginning liberal era. To the left of the spectrum were the republicans (ital. Estrema Sinistra Storica ), who represented the extreme parliamentary left until 1892 and only organized into a real party in 1895.

With the establishment of the Socialist Party (Italian Partito Socialista ) in 1892, the Kingdom of Italy had a remarkable experience, rich in political and democratic practices, from 1890 to 1946.

The political landscape was dominated at the turn of the century by three political groups, the Liberals, the Republicans and the Socialists, who always saw themselves as direct heirs of the Risorgimento currents. Each group felt associated with a particular personality of the Risorgimento: the Liberals with Cavour, the Republicans with Mazzini and the Socialists with Garibaldi .

The Italian Socialists appeared from the beginning as a mass party and opened up to the general public. After 1900 the Catholics followed, first with the Democrazia Cristiana Italiana by Romolo Murri , then with the Partito Popolare Italiano by Luigi Sturzo . Both the Socialists and the Christian Democrats achieved considerable electoral successes up to the establishment of the fascist dictatorship and were decisive for the loss of the strength and authority of the two old collective movements of the liberal ruling class, which could no longer give their concerns any weight by founding a new party.

In December 1914, Benito Mussolini and Alceste de Ambris founded the movement Fascio d'azione rivoluzionaria , which campaigned for Italy to enter the war. After achieving this goal, it dissolved again in 1915. In 1919 the fighting alliances Fasci Italiani di combattimento followed , from which in 1921 the National Fascist Party emerged . In the same year, the split between the socialists gave rise to the Communist Party of Italy (Italian Partito Comunista Italiano ). At the time of its inception, the PCI was no different from other European communist parties. In terms of share of the vote and number of members, it was much smaller than the socialists or social democrats. These newly emerging extreme currents supplemented the previous party landscape and sealed the insignificance of the old liberal parties. The three new movements, Catholic, Fascist and Communist, emerged in the short period between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the era of Italian fascism and can be seen as the second generation of Italian parties. The then common name for these three large mass parties was derived from their party colors and was white for the Christian Democrats, black for the fascists and the red for the socialists and communists.

With the dissolution of the Partito Nazionale Fascista following the fall of Mussolini in 1943, only the Christian Democrats and Communists achieved the importance of the pre-war period in the parliamentary elections of June 2, 1946 after the end of the Second World War . The communists particularly benefited from their key role in the resistance against the German occupation regime in northern Italy from 1943 to 1945. Even after the end of the monarchy, the Democrazia Cristiana remained the dominant force in Italy until 1994.

State symbols

The kingdom's first national coat of arms was adopted from Sardinia-Piedmont. In the middle it contained the coat of arms of the House of Savoy and four Italian flags, which date from 1848. On May 4, 1870, two lions in gold , which now bore the heraldic shield , a crowned knight's helmet , which around its collar the Military Order of Savoy , the Order of the Crown of Italy , the Knightly Order of St. Mauritius and Lazarus and the Order of Annunciations . The motto FERT was deleted. The lions wielded lances that held the national flag. From the helmet fell a royal cloak, which was supposed to protect the nation. Above the coat of arms was the star of Italy (Italian Stella d'Italia ).

The newly adopted state coat of arms of January 1, 1890 removed the fur coat and the lances and the crown on the helmet was replaced by the iron crown of the Lombards . The whole group stood under a canopy crowned with the Italian royal crown, over which was the banner of Italy. A golden, crowned eagle carried the flagstick .

On April 11, 1929, Mussolini replaced the two Savoy Lions with bundles of lictors . Only after his dismissal in 1944 was the old coat of arms from 1890 restored.

The national colors of the monarchy were green , white and red in vertical stripes. In the middle was the Savoy coat of arms . This flag was first used in 1848 as the war flag of the army of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. On April 15, 1861, this flag was declared the flag of the new state. This formed the first Italian national flag and was the flag of Italy for a total of 85 years until the founding of the republic in 1946 .

In 1926 the fascist government tried to redesign the national flag by adding a bundle of lictors. However, this attempt met with strong opposition , mainly from the old elites and the army. As a compromise, the fascists' black flag was officially hoisted next to the national flag at home, but this was not of any greater importance.

Administrative organization

The Kingdom of Italy adopted the so-called Rattazzi Law (also called Savoy State Law ), which was enacted by the then Sardinian Interior Minister Urbano Rattazzi on October 23, 1859 and was based on the administrative structure of France . It prescribed the organization of the territory into provinces , districts, counties and parishes . The representatives of the local authorities should be elected by the people for a certain period of time. The first elections were held on January 15, 1860, before the state was founded. In 1929 local elections were abolished and only reintroduced in April 1944.

The Kingdom of Italy was administratively divided into provinces, counties ( circondari ), districts ( mandamenti , these only for the administration of justice) and municipalities. Each province was headed by a prefect. It represented the executive power and had the prefectural council at its side for its support , which consisted of a number of councilors, secretaries and subordinate officials. In each district a sub-prefecture was set up, the board of which, the sub-prefect, took care of the administrative business of the district under the direction of the prefect. By 1914 there were 69 prefectures, 137 sub-prefectures and 78 district commissariats throughout Italy. Under the prefects and sub-prefects (district commissioners), the community leaders (Sindaci, see above) acted as government officials. The security police were led by the prefects, sub-prefects (or district commissioners) with attached inspectors and delegates, in twelve large cities by quaestors (with inspectors). In each province there was a medical council, a school council, a post office, a finance department and a building office; 9 telegraph offices, 34 forest departments and 8 mining offices were used for larger areas. As far as the supervision of the provinces and municipalities by the state was concerned, the prefects had to examine the protocols and resolutions of the municipal and provincial councils, and the provincial council was responsible for overseeing the municipalities' budgets and the like Appeal possible. The king could dissolve the municipal and provincial councils, in urgent cases even the highest provincial official. However, a new election had to be ordered within three months of the dissolution. When the provincial council was dissolved, the prefect and the prefectural council came in, and when the municipal council was dissolved, a royal commissioner took office.

In contrast to today's Italian republic, which partly includes federal structures, the Kingdom of Italy was a very centralized state. There were no autonomous or independent regions . Today's Italian regions only existed as a summary of the provinces for statistical purposes and economic planning. This repeatedly led to uprisings and revolts, such as the brigade war in southern Italy (1861–1868) or the movement of the Fasci Siciliani (1891–1894).

The island of Sicily received its first statute of autonomy by the royal decree 15th of May 15, 1946 from Umberto II.


Army war flag

The King of Italy was Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Italian Army from 1861 to 1940 and 1943 to 1946. The monarch had extensive powers in the military. A parliamentary control took place only through the approval of the financial means. The king had the right to determine the strength of the presence, to determine the garrisons, to build fortresses and to ensure uniform organization and formation, armament and command as well as the training of the men and the qualifications of the officers.

The highest military rank in the Royal Italian Army was First Marshal of the Empire (Italian Primo maresciallo dell'Impero) , which only King Victor Emmanuel III. (1938), Benito Mussolini (1938) and Pietro Badoglio (1943, de facto).

The Royal Italian Army was divided into three branches:

Demographics and Society

After unification and throughout the liberal period, Italian society was heavily divided into classical, linguistic, regional and social lines. Common cultural traits in Italy at the time were socially conservative in nature, including a strong belief in the family as an institution and patriarchal values. Aristocrats and medium-sized families were very common in Italy at the time. The honor was strongly emphasized. After the unification, the number of nobles had increased to around 7,400 noble families , with the nobility divided into the loyal "whites" (Italian Nobiltà bianca ) and the increasingly insignificant pope-loyal "black nobility" (Italian nobiltà nera ). Many wealthy landowners (especially in the south) held feudal control over "their" farmers.

Population development of the Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) :

year 1861 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1946
Population in millions 22,182 25.766 28,437 30.947 32,475 34.565 37.837 40.703 43.787 45.380
Dialects and languages ​​in Italy and the surrounding area according to Clemente Merlo ( Lingue e dialetti d'Italia , Milano 1937, p. 4)
  • Tuscan
  • southern Italian
  • northern Italian
  • Corsican
  • Sardinian
  • gaskognisch
  • Franco-Provencal
  • Catalan
  • Romansh
  • Romanian
  • German
  • Slavic languages
  • Albanian
  • Griko
  • Mass Emigration by Region from Italy, 1876-1915

    The economy of southern Italy suffered greatly after Italian unification. The process of industrialization took place there only hesitantly and only at the turn of the 20th century there was a slight economic upturn. The poor economic situation in the south fueled poverty and organized crime . The Italian governments believed they could counter this with repression . The poor social conditions led to the rise of the brigands , who in the 1860s waged a guerrilla war of almost a decade in the south against the central government in Rome . This and the ruthless approach of the army destroyed a large part of the existing infrastructure in the south. This sparked massive Italian emigration that resulted in a worldwide Italian diaspora (especially in the United States and South America ). Many southern Italians also settled in the northern industrial cities, such as Genoa , Milan and Turin . Politically, too, the south was often at odds with the north, for example in the referendum on the form of government in 1946, when the majority of the population in the south voted for the preservation of the monarchy.

    After the end of the liberal era, from 1922 onwards, the fascists pursued the concept of a totalitarian unitary state, which should include all social classes. Italy became a one-party dictatorship . Mussolini and the fascist regime oriented Italian culture and society on ancient Rome and on some futuristic aspects of some intellectuals and artists. Under fascism, the definition of Italian citizenship was based on a militaristic attitude and an idealized “ new people ” ideal. Personal individualism had to subordinate itself to the state and the community. In 1932 the fascists presented their ideology in the La dottrina del fascismo : Features were extreme nationalism , a world power position for Italy aimed at through war , the emphasis on the “will to power” ( Friedrich Nietzsche ), the authoritarian leader principle ( Vilfredo Pareto ), the "Direct action" as a "creative design principle" ( Georges Sorel ) and a merger of the state and the sole ruling party. The prescribed uniform organization of workers and entrepreneurs in cooperation should prevent class struggle . In order to gain not only power but also hegemony in the sense of Antonio Gramsci , the state also took over the sports movement. This was intended to promote body cult, the glorification of strength , masculinity and the demonstration of Italian superiority in body-related activities such as sports , the World Cup and the Olympic Games . The Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano was nationalized. and top-class sport made internationally efficient with state amateurs . The women were encouraged to motherhood and prohibited from participating in public affairs.

    Initially, Italian fascism was not anti - Semitic . Mussolini repeatedly distanced himself publicly from the racism and anti-Semitism of the National Socialists . It was not until 1936 that there was anti-Semitic agitation as a result of Mussolini's alliance with the German Reich , which then culminated in the enactment of the anti-Semitic race laws in 1938 .

    The fascist “New Order” in Italy differed significantly from the Nazi regime in terms of its statism , in that Mussolini's strong state incorporated the old elites. However, several attempts to integrate the old elites and officers into the party failed. The influx came mainly from the civil service. The military leadership again remained strongly monarchist and traditionalist. The Italian fascist party therefore never achieved dominance over all areas of society such as the NSDAP in Germany or the CPSU in the Soviet Union . In the endeavors to create a new culture, too, the efforts of fascist Italy did not prove to be as successful in comparison to other one-party states such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

    Mussolini's propaganda stylized him as the “savior of the nation”. The fascist regime tried to make his person omnipresent in Italian society. Much of the appeal of fascism in Italy was based on the personality cult around Mussolini and his popularity. Mussolini's passionate eloquence at large rallies and parades served as a model for Adolf Hitler. The fascists spread their propaganda through the newsreels , the radio and a couple of feature films . In 1926 a law was passed which made it mandatory to show propaganda shows in cinemas before every feature film. Fascist propaganda glorified war and promoted its romanticization in art. However, the artists, writers and publishers were not subject to strict controls. They were only censored if they had blatantly opposed the state.

    In 1860 Italy had no established national language. The Tuscan dialect , on which the modern standard Italian language is based, was only spoken around Florence , while regional languages ​​or dialects dominated in the other parts of the country . Only two percent of the population spoke Italian as a written language. King Viktor Emmanuel II also spoke almost only Piedmontese and French . The illiteracy was high: in 1871 were 61.9 percent of Italian men and 75.7 percent of women are illiterate. This illiteracy rate was far higher than that of Western European countries over the same period. Due to the variety of regional dialects, no national popular press was initially possible.

    Italy had few public schools after unification . The Italian governments during the liberal era tried to improve literacy by creating state-funded schools where only the official Italian language was taught.

    The fascist government supported a strict education policy in Italy with the aim of finally eliminating illiteracy and strengthening the loyalty of the population to the state. The first education minister of the fascist government from 1922 to 1924, Giovanni Gentile , directed educational policy towards indoctrination of students towards fascism. The fascists educated youth to obedience and respect towards the authority . In 1929 the fascist government took control of the admission of all textbooks and forced all high school teachers to swear allegiance to fascism. In 1933 all university professors were obliged to join the National Fascist Party. In the 1930s to 1940s, the Italian education system increasingly focused on the subject of history, which tried to portray Italy as an important force in civilization . In fascist Italy, intellectual talents were rewarded and promoted in the Accademia d'Italia, founded in 1926 .

    The standard of living of the Italians improved continuously after unification, but remained - especially in the south - below the Western European average. Various diseases such as malaria and some epidemics have broken out in southern Italy . The death rate was 30 people per 1,000 people in 1871, but could be reduced to 24.2 per 1,000 by the 1890s. The child mortality rate was also very high. In 1871, 22.7 percent of all children born that year died, while the number of children who died before their fifth birthday was 50 percent. The proportion of children who died in the first year after birth fell between 1891 and 1900 to an average of 17.6 percent. An effective social policy was lacking in Italy during the liberal era. State social security was only introduced in 1912 . In 1919 an unemployment insurance was created . Italian social policy achieved great successes in fascist Italy. In April 1925 the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND) was founded. The OND was the largest state recreational organization for adults. The organization was so popular that it owned a clubhouse in every Italian city by the 1930s. The OND was responsible for the construction of 11,000 sports fields, 6,400 libraries, 800 cinemas, 1,200 theaters and more than 2,000 orchestras. Membership was voluntary and apolitical. The enormous success of the organization led to the founding of the organization Kraft durch Freude in Germany in November 1933 , which adopted its model.

    Another organization was the youth organization Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB), founded in 1926 , which gave young people cheap access to clubs, dance events, sports facilities, radios, concerts, theaters, circuses and hikes or organized them for young people.

    On September 20, 1870, the Royal Italian Army occupied the Papal States and the city of Rome. The following year the capital was moved from Florence to Rome. For the next 59 years after 1870 the Catholic Church refused to recognize the legitimacy of Italian royal rule in Rome and with the Bull Non expedit the Pope forbade Italian Catholics to participate in elections of the new state in 1874. This was followed less and less by the Catholic lay people, which is why it was relaxed in 1909 and finally abolished in 1919, when the state and the church came closer again after the First World War. The Partito Popolare Italiano emerged as a Catholic party, which immediately became one of the most important political forces in the country and can be considered a forerunner of Christian Democracy .

    Liberal governments have generally followed a policy of limiting the role of the Catholic Church and its clergy. Church land was seized en masse, processions and Catholic festivities were partially prohibited and otherwise required state approval, which was often refused. The leading politicians of the kingdom were secular and anti-clerical , many were positivists or members of the Freemasons' League . Other religious communities such as Protestants or Jews were legally equated with Catholics; as in other European countries, new religious and non-religious movements such as socialism and anarchism emerged . However, Catholicism remained the religion of the vast majority of Italians. Relations with the Catholic Church improved significantly during Mussolini's regime. Mussolini, once an opponent of the Catholic Church, entered into an alliance with the Catholic Partito Popolare Italiano after 1922 . In 1929 Mussolini and Pope Pius XI. an agreement that ended the stalemate. This process of reconciliation had already begun under the government of Vittorio Emanuele Orlando during the First World War.

    Mussolini and the leading fascists were not devout Christians, but they recognized the opportunity to build better relationships with the influential church and to stage it propagandistically as allies in the fight against liberalism and communism. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 recognized the Pope as ruler of the small state of Vatican City within Rome and made the Vatican a more important hub of world diplomacy. A nationwide referendum in March 1929 confirmed the Lateran Treaty. Almost 9 million Italians, or 90 percent of registered voters, voted yes and only 136,000 voted no. The treaties are still in force today.

    The 1929 Concordat declared Catholicism the state religion , obliged the Italian state to pay the salaries of priests and bishops, to recognize church marriages and to reintroduce religious instruction in public schools. Again the bishops swore allegiance to the Italian state, which was granted a veto right when they were selected . A third agreement resulted in the payment of 1.75 billion lira (approx. 100 million US dollars ) for the incursions of church property since 1860. The church was not officially obliged to support the fascist regime, but above all it supported the aggressive foreign policy, like the support for the coup plotters of Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War and the conquest of Ethiopia . Conflicts persisted, especially around the youth network of the Catholic Action , which Mussolini wanted to merge with the fascist youth group. In 1931 Pope Pius XI. the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno (“We have no need”), in which the Church criticized the decades-long persecution of the Church by the Italian state and the “pagan worship of the state” among the fascists.


    Golden Italian lira with the portrait of King Victor Emmanuel III. (1931)
    Degree of industrialization of the Italian provinces in 1871 according to Banca d'Italia (average 1.0).
  • over 1.4
  • between 1.1 and 1.4
  • between 0.9 and 1.1
  • below 0.9
  • In the entire period from 1861 to 1940 Italy experienced a considerable economic boom , despite several economic crises and the First World War. In contrast to most modern nations, where this industrial boom was due to large corporations , industrial growth in Italy was due to mostly small to medium-sized family businesses.

    Political unification did not automatically lead to economic integration , because Italy faced serious economic problems in 1861 and the different economic systems and different economic developments of the predecessor states led to sharp contradictions at the political, social and regional level. During the liberal period, Italy managed to industrialize strongly in several steps, although the country was the most backward country among the great powers after the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan and remained very dependent on foreign trade and international prices for coal and grain .

    After unification, Italy had a predominantly agricultural society, with 60 percent of the labor force working in agriculture. Advances in technology increased export opportunities for Italian agricultural products after a period of crisis in the 1880s. As a result of industrialization, the share of those employed in the agricultural sector fell to below 50% at the turn of the century. However, not all benefited from these developments, as southern agriculture in particular suffered from hot summers and the arid climate , while the presence of malaria in the north prevented the cultivation of low-lying areas on the Italian Adriatic coast .

    The overwhelming attention to foreign and military policy in the early years of the state led to the neglect of Italian agriculture, which had been in decline since 1873. Both radical and conservative forces in the Italian parliament demanded that the government examine ways of improving the agricultural situation in Italy. The investigation, initiated in 1877, lasted eight years and showed that agriculture was not improving due to the lack of mechanization and modernization and that the landowners did nothing to develop their lands. In addition, most of the workers on the agricultural land were not farmers, but inexperienced short-term workers ( braccianti ) who were employed for a year at best. Peasants without a steady income were forced to live on poor food. Disease spread rapidly and a major cholera epidemic broke out, killing at least 55,000 people. Most of the Italian governments could not deal effectively with the precarious situation due to the strong position of the big landowners in politics and economy. This fact was confirmed in 1910 by a new commission of inquiry in the south.

    Around 1890 there was also a crisis in the Italian wine-growing industry - almost the only successful sector in agriculture. Italy suffered from overproduction of grapes . In the 1870s and 1880s, viticulture in France suffered from a crop failure caused by insects. As a result, Italy became the largest exporter of wine in Europe. After the recovery of France in 1888, Italian wine exports collapsed and there was even greater unemployment and numerous bankruptcies of Italian winegrowers.

    From the 1870s onwards, Italy invested heavily in the development of railroads, and from 1870 to 1890 the existing route network more than doubled.

    During the fascist dictatorship, enormous sums of money were invested in new technological achievements, particularly in military technology. Large sums of money were also spent on prestige projects such as the construction of the new Italian ocean liner SS Rex , which set a transatlantic sea ​​voyage record of four days in 1933, and the development of the Macchi-Castoldi MC72 seaplane , which was the fastest seaplane in the world in 1933. In 1933 Italo Balbo took a seaplane flight across the Atlantic to the Chicago World's Fair . The flight symbolized the power of the fascist leadership and the industrial and technological progress of the state which it had made under the fascists.

    Gross domestic product of the Kingdom of Italy according to Angus Maddison (1861–1946) :

    year 1861 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1945
    Gross domestic product in billion US dollars (1990) 37,995 41,814 46,690 52,863 60.114 85.285 96,757 119.014 155.424 114,422

    Il Mezzogiorno in southern Italy

    The per capita income of northern and southern Italy since 1861 in comparison

    Southern Italy remained more or less an economic and political problem area throughout the time of the Kingdom of Italy. There were repeated uprisings and revolts, the economy remained rather backward compared to the north and the population suffered from a high rate of illiteracy and organized crime. Most of the inhabitants of southern Italy were farmers or farm workers. The 1881 census found that over 1 million day laborers in the south were chronically underemployed and were likely to become seasonal emigrants in order to secure themselves economically. The southern farmers as well as the small landowners were often in conflict with them.

    The unification of Italy created a growing economic divide between the northern provinces and the southern half of Italy. In the first decades of the new kingdom, the lack of effective land reform , heavy taxes, and other economic measures imposed on the south, along with the elimination of protectionist tariffs on agricultural goods imposed to promote northern industry, led to a tremendous one Decline in production of southern Italian agricultural goods. Many farmers, small businessmen and landowners emigrated, especially from 1892 to 1921 there was a strong wave of emigration. From the 1870s onwards, this fact preoccupied numerous intellectuals, scholars and politicians who wanted to investigate the economic and social conditions in southern Italy ( Il Mezzogiorno ). This group ( meridionalismo ) gained increasing influence from 1900 under Giovanni Giolitti .

    The rise of the brigands and the mafia led to widespread violence, corruption and illegality. Prime Minister Giolitti once admitted that there were places where the law would not work at all. After the rise of Benito Mussolini, the "iron prefect" Cesare Mori tried to fight the already powerful criminal organizations in the south with some success. However, when connections between the mafia and the fascists became known, Mori was deposed and the fascist propaganda declared the so-called "battle against the mafia" over and won.

    There was also a major economic boom in the south under the fascists. Economically, the fascist policy was aimed at the creation of an Italian world empire and weighted the strategically important southern Italian ports, which were to become the starting point for the colonial expansion of Italy, higher than the previous governments of the liberal era. There was an economic and demographic boom in Naples in particular , but this was mainly due to the personal interest of King Victor Emmanuel III, who was born there.

    Early years

    The new Italian nation-state faced major domestic and foreign policy problems in its early years. Therefore the establishment of the state began slowly and hesitantly. These early years from 1861 to 1876 were determined by mostly short-term governments of the conservative- monarchist party historical right (“ Destra Storica ”). This won most of the elections from 1861 to 1874 and formed nine of the eleven governments up to 1876. Its members were mostly large landowners and industrialists as well as military officials ( Bettino Ricasoli , Quintino Sella , Marco Minghetti , Silvio Spaventa , Giovanni Lanza , Alfonso La Marmora , Emilio Visconti -Venosta ) from northern Italy.

    In the interior of the kingdom, the state-driven secularization intensified the conflict with the Catholic Church from 1867/68, the war with the brigands in the south reached its climax in 1864/65, and centralism, which ruthlessly suppressed centuries-old regionalisms and linguistic differences, led to it separatist tendencies in the south and a severe crisis in agriculture . In terms of foreign policy, the new nation was initially isolated . The young nation-state only maintained good relations with the Second French Empire . In the case of Great Britain , Italy had discredited itself by ceding Nice and Savoy to France.

    Military postcard of the "reggimento lancieri di Montebello" to commemorate the fight against the brigands (around 1861–1863)

    Nevertheless, Cavour's successors managed to calm the situation down. The brigant war ("brigantaggio") overshadowed the structure again and again. It was carried by several thousands of insurgents organized in gangs and supported by the majority of the population in the mountainous regions of southern Italy. They were initially also supported by the Papal States and destroyed and looted the new state institutions. They also succeeded in attacking entire army battalions and police forces. The reasons were the lack of improvement in conditions in the south (in the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ), where there was no reform of the state administration and an increase in taxes.

    Marco Minghetti

    The Royal Italian Army, numbering around 100,000 men, did not succeed in eliminating the guerrilla fighters for the time being . At the height of the war they ruled several important cities and entire regions of the south. The state therefore proceeded with the utmost severity. Exceptions and martial law were imposed, shootings under court martial law , the destruction of villages and fatal collective arrests with a total of 130,000 dead. On August 15, 1863, the government of Marco Minghetti imposed the so-called Pica Law , which provided for the suspension of constitutional rights in the provinces affected by robbery. The war lasted from 1861 to 1865 and 1866 to 1870.

    In 1865, under Prime Minister Alfonso La Marmora, civil and commercial law and the code of criminal procedure were standardized . To a criminal unification did not occur until 1889. In foreign policy, guaranteed Italy and France with the September agreement of 15 September 1864, the integrity of the remaining Papal States. The treaty provided for the withdrawal of French troops from Rome within two years. In return, Italy undertook to support the Papal States in times of crisis, to enable the establishment of a corps of volunteers and to take on a share of the papal national debt. An initially secret additional protocol regulated the change of the capital of Italy within six months. First, the capital should be moved from Turin to Naples . Florence was later chosen , despite protests from King Victor Emmanuel II and bloodied demonstrations in Turin. The relationship between king and pope remained tense. Also because the Italian state banned all religious orders in May 1874 and confiscated their property.

    A treaty with the German Customs Union followed in 1865 and a secret alliance with Prussia on April 6, 1866, which led Italy out of isolation. The monarchy remained de facto dependent on France until 1871.

    The new state also faced a difficult financial situation. The financing of the Risorgimento had exhausted the finances of the Sardinian state (creation of a modern army by Cavour and Alberto La Marmora ), in addition to the costs of the military ventures in Italy and the Sardinian participation in the Crimean War. Despite the tax burden from Lire 82 million in 1850 to Lire 145 million in 1858, the Sardinian government did not have sufficient funds. The public debt grew from 420 million lire in 1850 to 725 million in 1858. In 1866 the budget deficit had risen rapidly to 721 million lira. In order to prevent bankruptcy, the convertibility of notes to gold was suspended after the German War in 1866 and a state-fixed rate of the lira was introduced through the “Corso forzoso”. From 1868 onwards there were massive tax increases and the sale of some state monopolies, which led to violent social protests. However, the decision to introduce general conscription in 1872 made the situation much worse.

    In order to rehabilitate the ailing state finances, King Viktor Emanuel II reappointed Minghetti as Prime Minister on July 10, 1873. In his second term in office, he pursued a strict accounting policy, which in 1876 led to the budget balancing . He also wanted the state to act as a “key set” in laying the foundations for economic modernization. He mainly relied on the construction of the railways , which by 1879 had grown to around 8,000 kilometers of track. However, due to insufficient investment in education and because private or foreign investments in the still young industry largely failed to materialize, state expenditure could not be compensated and there were tax increases in the consumer sector and lower real wages in state-owned companies. After all, Italy was at times the country with the highest consumption taxes and the lowest wages in Central and Western Europe. At the same time, the increasing importation of foreign agricultural products triggered a crisis in agriculture. There was a rural exodus to the big cities and emigration to overseas increased. Therefore, after its proclamation as the capital, Rome was extensively redesigned.

    Liberal Era (1876-1922)

    The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan . A building constructed by Giuseppe Mengoni from 1865 to 1877, named after King Victor Emmanuel II.

    After the death of King Victor Emmanuel II in 1878, Italy developed under his successors Umberto I and Victor Emmanuel III. to a de facto parliamentary monarchy based on the British model. The next four decades of the new nation-state were marked by a long liberal period, which in domestic and foreign policy was marked to a large extent by the actions of individuals, not parties, who were unable to develop any politicizing and nation-building power due to the extreme census suffrage . The time is divided into three phases: From 1876 to 1887 the left-wing liberal Agostino Depretis began the reform of the state, which paved the way for Italy to become the sixth European great power . In the following time, his successor Francesco Crispi tried to strengthen the state and until his overthrow in 1896 pursued an aggressive and militaristic foreign policy, which was aimed at the conquest of East Africa and Italian supremacy in the Mediterranean . From 1900 Giovanni Giolitti largely dominated political events and initiated a gradual democratization of the class system.

    The early years of the liberal era were marked by the economic crisis of the 1880s, which ruined southern Italy economically, unemployment and an increasing wave of emigration. These problems put a great strain on the relationship between state and society and led to the formation of two major opposition groups: the socialist-anarchist and the Catholic. The socialists and republicans succeeded in gradually getting into parliament as early as the 1880s, while the Catholics organized themselves into non-political organizations.

    The beginning of Italian imperialism from 1887, with which the various Italian governments wanted to redirect emigration to their own colonies (social imperialism ), went hand in hand with the high industrialization in northern Italy, which was driven forward at the same time , which made the country one of the world's leading countries by the turn of the century Industrial nations rose. Nationalism and irredentism, which grew stronger around the turn of the century, increasingly strained relations with the allies in the Triple Alliance and led to the conquest of Ottoman Libya in 1911 .

    The First World War and the subsequent national crisis finally ended the liberal era with the fascist march on Rome in 1922.

    The left in power

    On March 18, 1876, in a vote in parliament, the opposition overthrew the Minghetti government. The reason for this was the attempt to nationalize the Italian railways that were sold to private companies in 1865.

    The king feared a minority government and commissioned the left-liberal opposition leader Agostino Depretis on March 25, 1876 to form a government. Depretis was the undisputed leader of the party of the historical left (" Sinistra Storica ") and had a lot of political experience. It was also the first time in the new Kingdom of Italy that a government was led only by left-wing men.

    The party that came to government was, however, at odds. The ideological matrix of the group was progressive- liberal, but was also influenced by the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini and Garibaldi. Depretis therefore formed a government that, in addition to the support of the left, could also count on the support of part of the right that had contributed to the overthrow of the Minghetti government. In his reign, Depretis always sought broad approval for individual problems with parts of the opposition, which led to the phenomenon of " trasformismo " (transformation). Despotic and corrupt acts, which were reflected in authoritarian measures such as the prohibition of public gatherings and the banishment of individuals classified as "dangerous" to remote penal islands throughout Italy, however, also shaped the reign of Depretis.

    The elections of November 1876 confirmed Depretis' stabilization and détente policy and were a success: 414 members of the left were elected, while only 94 of the right were elected.

    Rise to a great power and a new foreign policy

    The rulers of the Triple Alliance Umberto I , Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph I.

    In foreign policy, Depretis cautiously pushed through a rapprochement with the new German Reich in his first government in order to counteract the current French policy of restoring the power of the Church and of ultra-montanism under President Patrice de Mac-Mahon . This Francophobic attitude deepened in May 1877 when the government of Albert de Broglie was formed in Paris , which favored clerical positions. The political crisis in France and the uncertainty in the Balkans due to the Russo-Turkish War prompted him to send the President of the Chamber of Deputies ( Camera dei deputati ) Francesco Crispi on a fact- finding mission to London, Berlin, Paris and Vienna to find new allies for Italy to win. The mission was unsuccessful and a new German-Italian alliance against Austria-Hungary also failed due to the resistance of the German Chancellor Bismarck .

    The slow domestic stabilization of Italy, the small economic boom and the expansion of the Royal Italian Army into a powerful armed force soon enabled Italy to rise to become one of the major European powers . This appreciation was confirmed at the Berlin Congress from June 13, 1878 to July 13, 1878. Still, Italy remained isolated and could not acquire Ottoman Albania , Tunisia or Libya . Instead, the kingdom had to accept the administration of Austria-Hungary over occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina , the new British rule over Cyprus and guarantees for France over Tunisia. A failed assassination attempt by the anarchist Giovanni Passannante on Umberto I in Naples provided the opportunity to overthrow the first Cairoli government on December 19, 1878 on charges of weakness.

    Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Italy and the German Empire in 1899

    Depretis returned to his post on December 19, 1878, and because of Italy's still sensitive international position, he also took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite the slow consolidation of alliances in Europe ( three-emperor agreement , three emperor's union , two-emperor ), he did not pursue a clear strategy in relations with other countries. However, because of the mostly short terms of office, it was difficult to take a lasting direction in foreign policy.

    Italy's foreign policy situation deteriorated when France seized Tunisia in 1881, in which Italy was also interested. The so-called blow of Tunis (“schiaffo di Tunisi”) was the last act in a series of foreign policy failures of the second Cairoli government (in office since July 14, 1879), whose open irredentism cooled relations with the Habsburg Empire and relations with France were tense because of the competition between the two powers for Tunisia. Despite promises by French Prime Minister Jules Ferry not to annex Tunisia, French troops marched into Tunisia on May 1, 1881, and made Tunisia a French protectorate on May 12 in the Bardo Treaty . The Cairoli government, overwhelmed by public criticism and outrage in Italy, resigned on May 29. The king commissioned Quintino Sella to form the new government, but resorted to Depretis after unsuccessful attempts. In his fourth term in office, he prioritized foreign policy and now adopted a strict and consistent direction. Indeed, after the dispute at the Berlin Congress and the blow in Tunis, he decided to resolve the question of alliances. In this regard, King Umberto I was inclined to come to an understanding with Austria-Hungary and Germany that would strengthen the monarchy in a conservative manner. In October 1881 he and the monarch went to Vienna, where the first attempts to get closer were made.

    The rapprochement with the later Central Powers was unpopular in large parts of the population because of the earlier wars with Austria. Contrary to the king's expectations, Depretis also tended to form an alliance with Paris. He believed that the consequences of the occupation of Tunisia would not threaten Italy and argued with the 400,000 Italian immigrants living in France around 1880. However, the foreign minister chosen by Depretis, Pasquale Stanislao Mancini , was in favor of an alliance with Germany, which was growing economically and militarily. However, Bismarck did not trust Depreti's government because it was close to the ideas of the new revisionist French Prime Minister Léon Gambetta . Instead, he first convinced inside the monarchy at the beginning of 1882 that an alliance would be useful if it did not mean war with France. On May 20, 1882, the Treaty of the Triple Alliance was signed in Vienna , which broke the isolation of Italy and enabled the country to be integrated into the European balance of power . The alliance determined Italian foreign policy for the next 20 years and initially protected Austria-Hungary from Italian territorial claims.

    A few months later, however, there was a first crisis within the alliance. The trigger was the execution of the Italian Guglielmo Oberdan on December 20, 1882 in Trieste , who was accused of an assassination attempt on Emperor and King Franz Joseph I. In Italy, the execution sparked protests and the Triple Alliance continued to decline in popularity.

    Depreti's government had to cope with a wave of anti-Austrian feelings among the people, which resulted in violent demonstrations and attacks on Austrian offices and consulates in Rome, and behaved neutrally. But despite the government's best efforts to achieve reconciliation, the death of Oberdan opened up a large rift between Italy and Austria. Relations with the Austrian ally remained difficult. Also because Austria-Hungary was preferred by Germany and the two powers did not recognize Italy as an equal partner.

    Domestic reforms

    Agostino Depretis

    The long reign of Depretis made numerous reforms possible. On July 15, 1877, the Minister of the Interior, Michele Coppino, presented a law that stipulated two years of free compulsory and secular basic education and six to nine years of voluntary schooling for children. Compulsory religion classes ended for what demonstrated the violent anti-clericalism of the left. However, the reform led to criticism because of its high cost. In December 1877, Depretis threatened to be overthrown by his more radical internal party rival Cairoli. King Victor Emmanuel II supported Deperti's program and kept him in office. It was the last important political act of the monarch, who died on January 9 of the next year. The new second government, in which Crispi, who was ready for more reforms, became Minister of the Interior, pushed through the abolition of the Ministry of Agriculture. Promoted industry and trade, and established the Treasury Department to gain better control over government spending. Such decisions and decrees were, however, taken without the parliamentary participation that was actually required. The moderation of the hated flour tax on June 24, 1879 was approved by the Senate . After the elections of May 16, 1880, in which his party melted from 414 to 218 seats, Depretis was dependent on the support of parliament in all matters and continued his reform policy as interior minister and prime minister in personal union. In January 1882 he expanded the right to vote . All men who were at least 21 years old, who had attended two years of elementary school or who could raise an annual tax of more than 19.80 lire had the right to vote. Under this law, the proportion of eligible voters grew from 2.2% of the population in 1879, 621,896, to 2,049,461, or 6.9%. That is more than a quarter of the adult male population at the time.

    With the approach of the first major elections, which were held from October 29 to November 5, 1882, the rise of the extreme left (" Estrema sinistra ") accelerated the disintegration of the traditional political parties. The two old political parties reacted to such upheavals by decreasing ideological conflicts and overcoming their differences. As a result, the concept of trasformismo prevailed, in which Depretis knew how to bind parts of the moderate opposition to himself and to be able to control the progressive advances of the radicals and republicans in parliament through a new, moderately reformist, centrist political camp.

    This concept had provoked great tension within the left. When Depretis threatened to overthrow in May 1883, the leader of the right-wing Minghetti decided to give Depretis special support in order to slow down the extreme wings of parliament and thus to slow down the rise of popular sovereignty in fear of anarchy and despotism . Nevertheless, from 1885 Depreti's term of office was drawing to a close. The elections of May 1886 brought Depretis only a small gain in votes and several right-wing MPs refused to support him after Marco Minghetti's death in December 1886. This was followed by the agricultural crisis, which led to the abolition of the grinding tax in 1884.

    Economic modernization

    Economically, Depretis pursued a protectionist policy, pushed the industrialization of Italy and the modernization of the Royal Italian Army and Navy. In 1878 he made the import of raw materials easier than finished products in the customs tariff and in 1883 abolished the mandatory rate for the lira. The protectionist measures should serve as preparation for the adaptation to the climate of the international competition and brought an increase of the industrialization in the north, especially in the textile and steel industry . The years of Depreti's government were also marked by a significant increase in the road and rail network, which at the end of the 1880s comprised a route network of 12,000 km. In 1882 the Gotthard tunnel was opened with Switzerland .

    Agriculture fell into a severe crisis during the same period due to the remarkably strong growth in American grain production. Italy's annual production of corn and wheat fell by a fifth from 1880 to 1890, and prices fell by a third. Instead, there was a significant increase in grain imports. As a result, agriculture collapsed in the south. The crisis led to a wave of emigration that led to the emigration of 3.6 million Italians by the end of the First World War. Nevertheless, he relied on the conservative southern landowners and their anachronistic latifundia economy . Modernization proposals such as those presented by the parliamentary commission set up in 1877 under Stefano Jacini in 1884 were not followed. Instead, the expansion of the army, the navy and the creation of heavy industry were promoted. For this purpose, numerous large companies were founded in the north by mostly private companies. Because of the backward situation and the lack of raw materials and capital, a rapid upswing was only possible with state help, and this immediately resulted in a close alliance between political power and organized capitalism . The merger of the Rubattino shipping company with the Florio company to form the Navigazione generale Italiana in 1882 had already been supported with state subsidies. The large railway companies received a similar contribution from the state. In 1884 the entrepreneur Vincenzo Stefano Breda founded the steel works in Terni . The group was able to gain control of the large shipyards in Genoa and Livorno and remained the main supplier to the Italian navy until the First World War . Iron production rose from 95,000 tons (1881) to 176,000 (1888), and steel production in the same period from 3,600 to 158,000 tons. A building boom in the big cities accompanied this upswing. The profits, however, only benefited a small class of society and without an effective social policy , class differences were only exacerbated. The increased protectionist tariff of July 1887 triggered a ten-year tariff and trade war with France. The crisis in agriculture, which lost large markets and from then on had to buy expensive domestic machines for production, triggered increased intervention by the state in economic life and led to further national debt.

    Beginnings of colonial politics

    In the two decades after unification, Italy began its own colonial policy . Initially, this was directed towards the few free Asian territories, especially Thailand , Burma , the Sultanate of Aceh , the Andaman and Nicobar Islands . In 1880 the Italian government wanted to establish a penal colony in Sabah , the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo , but decided to give Great Britain a free hand, which was also interested, and established the Federated Malay States colony .

    Battle of Dogali (painting by Michele Cammarano)

    The origins of the Italian colonial policy were as early as 1861. Shortly before his death, Cavour tried to create a small colony to keep up with the powers France and Great Britain, initially on the coast of Nigeria and on the Portuguese island of Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea . In 1869, the researcher Emilio Cerruti was sent to New Guinea by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish relationships with the local population. The researcher returned to Italy with good results for the creation of a trading colony and / or penal colony and presented to the government in Florence draft treaties signed by the Sultans of the Aru Islands and Kei Islands . Cerruti even took possession of some areas on the north coast and west of New Guinea on behalf of Italy. In 1883 Italy asked William Ewart Gladstone's British government through diplomatic channels to accept an Italian colony in New Guinea. British refusal and Dutch resistance forced Italy to abandon colonization in the Pacific Ocean and Asia .

    In 1884 General Cesare Ricotti-Magnani was tasked with setting up an expeditionary force for a possible occupation of Turkish Libya in the event of a French action in Morocco. But Italy's attention was focused further south. On February 5, 1885 October, his troops occupied the Eritrean Massaua . As early as 1882, the Italian government had acquired Assab from the Rubattino shipping company , which became the first colony in Italy. From 1885 to 1890 Italy established itself in East Africa . In 1885 the entire coast between Massawa and Assab was conquered and some Sudanese outskirts were occupied. In the Mediterranean, they contented themselves with the status quo and concluded an agreement with Great Britain on February 12 with the Mediterranean Entente. Austria-Hungary joined on March 24, 1887 and Spain on May 4 .

    In 1886 Italy declared war on the Abyssinian Empire . The so-called Eritrea War (Guerra d'Eritrea) began with some Italian victories. But out of inexperience and superficiality, the Italian troops suffered a decisive defeat in the decisive battle of Dogali from January 25 to January 26, 1887. These and the high costs of the war led to criticism from large parts of parliament and marked the end of the Depretis era. On April 4, 1887, he formed his eighth and last government.

    Crispi and the "Politics of National Prestige"

    Francesco Crispi

    After the death of Depretis on July 29, 1887, King Umberto I appointed Francesco Crispi first as Foreign Minister and on August 7 as Prime Minister. The king sympathized with his positions in support of the Triple Alliance and for his conviction to found a strong army.

    From 1887 to 1896, Crispi decisively determined Italian domestic and foreign policy. He admired Bismarck and stood for an authoritarian domestic policy and an imperialist “big” foreign policy, which was supposed to deal with Italy's internal problems and would make the country “more important” and more active internationally. His term of office (“era of Crispi”) was also marked by the regular violation of the constitutional powers of the head of government (so-called “democratic dictatorship”) and heightened the internal contradictions of the nation, which led to heavy labor disputes.

    Reinforcement of militarism

    In his new cabinet, Crispi was both interior and foreign minister. With this concentration of strength, he arrived on September 30, 1887 for an inaugural visit to Bismarck in Friedrichsruh . The Chancellor and Prime Minister spoke out in favor of maintaining the international balance of power and rapprochement with the Ottoman Empire . A separate German-Italian military convention was also decided on for the Triple Alliance, which should be activated in the event of war and Germany assured Italy of support in a possible establishment in North Africa , while Italy would help the German Empire in a war against France. In East Africa the Chancellor supported Crispi's policy, which was aimed at ending the Eritrea war with Ethiopia, and suggested that Great Britain be used as a mediator.

    The trip was of considerable political value: Italy's position among the great powers was strengthened, but it caused great irritation for the Russian Empire and France. In Italy, however, King Umberto I was enthusiastic about the prospect of a military plan with Germany.

    A French cartoon on the alleged weakness of the Triple Alliance. The German and Austro-Hungarian allies must come to the aid of ailing Italy

    After the meeting in Friedrichsruh, Bismarck asked the British government to put pressure on Ethiopia's Emperor Yohannes IV and persuade him to make peace with Italy. British Prime Minister Salisbury obtained some concessions from Ethiopia, and by the spring of 1888 Crispi was able to announce that his policies in Africa were aimed at securing peace. This enabled the consolidation of the forces of the Royal Italian Army, which could now largely remain in Europe, and a comprehensive modernization, which was to be achieved with the expansion of heavy industry and the massive expansion of the Italian road and rail network.

    On December 12, 1887, at the suggestion of Bismarck, Italy, Great Britain and Austria-Hungary signed a second Mediterranean Agreement in which Crispi and the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Gustav Kálnoky undertook to maintain the status quo in Eastern Europe and the Balkans Austria-Hungary guaranteed compensation to Italy for every change in the Balkans.

    The increasing nationalism in Italy, which Crispi heated up and used for his irredentist ideas against France, which aimed at regaining Nice and Savoy and expanding the Italian national territory to the Rhone , Corsica and Tunisia, led to strong resentments with France. But Bismarck demanded that Italy maintain peace in Europe as a condition of the German-Italian military agreement of January 28, 1888. Nevertheless, in the event of a conflict with France, Crispi assured the German Reich that it would send a 200,000-strong expeditionary force to the Rhine to support the German army .

    France began to prepare for the worst and step up its activity in the Mediterranean. Crispi, who knew the limits of the Italian fleet in relation to the French, tried successfully to persuade Austria-Hungary to provide political support. In return, Crispi was able to persuade the Kingdom of Romania to formally recognize Hungarian sovereignty over Transylvania . The conflict with France finally put both countries on the verge of war in 1888–1890. When the outbreak could still be prevented again and again, during this period Crispi began to push ahead with increasing Italian military spending in order to prepare the army and fleet for a possible preventive war. The visit of the new German Emperor Wilhelm II to Rome in 1888, which was of great symbolic importance for the international recognition as the Italian capital, had strengthened him in his endeavor. In December of the same year, he presented a bill in parliament that would increase military spending to a third of government spending. Crispi referred to the exceptional nature of the situation in Europe and the fact that all nations were arming. The law was passed but led to growing social tensions in the country. Finally, he had to force the unpopular finance minister Agostino Magliani to resign and replaced him with Costantino Perazzi , who announced tax increases in February 1889. Representatives from the right and far left banded together to oppose the new measures and the prime minister, who also had to sack his new finance minister on February 28. Crispi decided to undertake a comprehensive government reshuffle and could count on the support of the king, who renewed his confidence in the next government, of heavy industry and the irredist movement. In parliament, too, the Prime Minister was able to rely on a broader basis and continue his aggressive foreign policy and militaristic course.

    After the minor government crisis, Crispi accompanied King Umberto I on his state visit to Wilhelm II in Berlin in May 1889. At a meeting with Bismarck and the Chief of the General Staff Alfred von Waldersee , Crispi confessed that the German army was not prepared for a war against France. Crispi then decided to end his aggressive foreign policy towards France and to concentrate on Africa again.

    Reform of administrative and social policy

    Crispi and his ministers at an audience with the king in the Quirinal Palace in 1888. In addition to Crispi, the then finance minister Agostino Magliani ; behind him Minister of War Ettore Bertolè Viale

    Crispi also achieved considerable success in the interior of Italy. On December 9, 1887, his law on the "reorganization of the central administration of the state" was passed in the Chamber of Deputies and two months later in the Senate. It strengthened the role of the head of government and established the ultimate role of the executive vis-à-vis parliament. At the same time it gave her the right to decide on the number and functions of the ministries. However, she always had to obtain the king's approval for this. Another point regulated the appointment of parliamentary undersecretaries in every ministry, who were supposed to strengthen the political character of the government. As early as September 4, 1887, a secretariat had been set up for the Prime Minister to review his draft laws and statutes before they were to be presented to parliament and to keep him informed about the state of the nation. In 1888 the penal code was liberalized , abolishing the death penalty and formally legalizing the right to strike. The "Zanardelli Code" named after the Minister of Justice Giuseppe Zanardelli was based on the Piedmontese criminal law of 1859, but softened its class character and reduced the penalties for property crimes. Another liberal reform in the same year was the expansion of the franchise at local and provincial levels. It was passed in July 1888 and nearly doubled the number of local voters. It also enables municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and in all state capitals, as well as those of counties and districts, to elect their mayors themselves and introduced administrative courts. This expansion of regional powers was, however, associated with a strengthening of the powers of the state at supraregional level and the heads of the administrative provincial councils . This reform was approved by the Senate in December 1888 and came into effect in February 1889.

    In order to improve the social conditions of the majority of the population, Crispi passed a law in 1888, with which a state health and hygiene policy began. Under the principle that the state is responsible for the health of its citizens, he set up a directorate for public health in the Ministry of the Interior, in which doctors were also involved in decision-making. Medical visits and controls became mandatory for all social histories. This was preceded by the outbreak of a cholera epidemic between 1884 and 1885 in southern Italy, which killed between 18,000 and 55,000 people.

    In March 1889, Crispi passed a law to protect citizens against state violations. It regulated the creation of a new post in the Council of Ministers, which should mediate or resolve disputes between affected citizens and the bureaucracy.

    In order to finally put the state on a secure footing, Crispi reformed the state budget and the education system from 1891 onwards. When it came to balancing the balance sheet, however, only tax increases could be addressed. Because of the banking crisis that began in 1890, the corso forzoso was temporarily introduced and the competencies of the state bank Banca d'Italia , founded in 1893, were expanded, the credit system was reorganized and the Banca mista modeled on the German universal banks . In the school system, Minister of Education Paolo Boselli relied on its standardization and greater inclusion of technical education in teaching.

    Increase in internal tension

    Crispi's authoritarian policies intensified internal conflicts in Italy. A scandal surrounding the Banca Romana exposed the corruption of the ruling classes and discredited them in the eyes of the Italian people. The radicalizing anti-clericalism of Crispis led to the legal suppression of the Catholic Church in the field of social welfare and the expropriation of its last foundations, but secured the state monopoly in this area. He reacted to the rise of organized labor and escalating labor disputes with exceptional laws and increased repression measures.

    Following the example of German social democracy, the lawyer
    Filippo Turati pushed the merger of various socialist currents into the unified Partito Socialista Italiano party in 1892

    In 1889 there was a first major wave of repression. Above all, activists of the Italian Workers' Party ( Partito Operaio Italiano ), which had been banned since 1896 and now active underground, were arrested. In 1890, Crispi required all parishes to care for their local poor and charities and to accept financial donations only with the approval of the state government, and completely eliminated the influence of the church. Pope Leo XIII. condemned this policy in December 1899 as anti-religious and strengthened the devout Italian Catholics in their defensive attitude towards the Italian state. However, the elections of November 23, 1890 were an extraordinary success for Crispi's politics. Of 508 MPs, 405 belonged to his political camp. But in January 1891 the situation worsened because of the high budget deficit. On January 31, Crispi was finally forced to resign.

    The fall of Crispi brought two short-term governments to power. The first right-wing government of Antonio Starabba di Rudinì was unstable and could only enforce the extension of the Triple Alliance in 1891. In May 1892 this was supported and on May 15 Giovanni Giolitti was the new Prime Minister. However, the first Giolitti government could only rely on a slim majority and was embroiled in the Banca Romana scandal in December 1892 . Giolitti was accused of acquiring ill-gotten gains. The king was also compromised and Crispi's return seemed inevitable. After a judicial investigation by the Banca Romana exonerated him and the financial crisis escalated dangerously in October 1893, Umberto I called him back into office on November 25th. Giolitti had already announced his resignation the day before.

    On December 15th, Crispi presented his new government. He also headed the Ministry of the Interior. He was confronted above all with the rise of the Italian socialist party ( Partito Socialista Italiano (PIS)) founded in September 1893 , which took up the fight against the bourgeois nation-state, the anarchism widespread in Italy and the Catholic opposition that was organized. The willingness of the workers to fight, which had particularly severe effects on the island of Sicily , forced him to deal primarily with domestic politics during his second term in office.

    The uprising movement of the " Fasci Siciliani ", to which agricultural and mining workers from all over Sicily belonged, forced Crispi, as Prime Minister, to restore state order on the island. On January 2, 1894, he declared the state of siege on the island. An army of 40,000 soldiers was dispatched under the command of General Roberto Morra di Lavriano . It established military courts, banned public gatherings, confiscated weapons, introduced press censorship, massacres of sympathetic farmers, students and teachers, and denied entry to the island for all suspected citizens.

    Initially, Crispi's measures received significant support in parliament. Parliamentary support began to wane in February and Crispi tried to legitimize the action by invoking the defense of national unity; When it became known that the rioters were openly showing separatist intentions, he was able to prevail and the movement was disbanded that year and its leaders arrested.

    The fight against the insurgents was a heavy burden on the state budget. In February 1894, Treasury Secretary Sidney Sonnino found a deficit of 155 million lire. Public spending was cut by almost 27 million lire because Crispi did not want to make savings in military policy. Then he and Sonnino demanded tax increases, but wanted to burden both the wealthy with an income and property tax and the poor with an increase in salt tax . The proposals of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance met with stiff parliamentary opposition. The blockade policy forced Sonnino to give up his ministerial post on July 4th. Crispi followed on June 5 and announced the resignation of the entire government.

    The king returned the commission to form a government to Crispi on June 14th. This made Paolo Boselli the new finance minister in place of Sonnino and announced that he would abandon the introduction of a tax on land. His improved political position and a failed assassination attempt by the young anarchist Paolo Lega, who fired a bullet at Crispi from very close range in Rome on June 16, 1894, enabled the prime minister to quickly push his financial policy through parliament. This also favored the adoption of the law on the tax of 20% on interest on government bonds , the main provision of the law of the Minister of Finance Sonnino. Under his successor Boselli there were also tariff increases and an increase in taxes on electricity, sugar, cotton and town gas . It slowly led Italy out of the crisis and paved the way for a full economic recovery, but made the government increasingly unpopular.

    With the solution to the financial problems, Crispi devoted himself to fighting the growing opposition. On July 10th and 11th, 1894, two laws were passed which, among other things, made it possible to arrest people who opposed the social order and restricted the work of the extreme left. Almost 800,000 left-wing votes were deleted from the electoral roll for the 1895 elections.

    In 1894 Giovanni Giolitti submitted a few documents to parliament in order to discredit Crispi. But it was the papers of a loan taken out at the Banca Romana by Crispi and his wife. The documents were examined by a parliamentary commission of inquiry and their exonerating result was published on December 15th. This led to unrest in parliament and Crispi submitted a decree to the king to dissolve parliament. Giolitti then had to flee to Berlin because his parliamentary immunity had expired and he was in danger of being arrested because of Crispi's lawsuit. On January 13, 1895 the parliament was dissolved.

    Entry into overseas imperialism

    To underpin Italy's position among the great powers of the late 19th century , Italian colonialism gained a new dynamic under Crispi. Although Italy was rather weak in military and economic resources compared to Great Britain, France or the German Empire, Crispi managed to consolidate and expand the previous Italian possessions. However, it proved difficult to pursue an effective colonial policy because of the great internal resistance, the high military costs and the low economic value of the spheres of influence.

    Italy was supported in its colonial ventures by Great Britain, which wanted to curb French influence in Africa, and by the Triple Alliance. This provided Crispi with the necessary foreign policy support to win the support of the Italian nationalists, some of whom were striving to establish a new Roman Empire . Also because of the long-established large Italian communities in Alexandria , Cairo and Tunis or the sending of missionaries to unpopulated areas to be “prepared” for a possible Italian colonization, the Italian government felt strengthened in its endeavor with the king.

    Italian possessions and zones of influence at their height in East Africa (1896)

    Crispi turned his attention to East Africa, where the Abyssinian Empire under John IV was threatened by the Mahdists from Sudan . John IV refused to end the Eritrean War with Italy , which had lasted since 1885 , and was killed by Mahdists in March 1889. Already at the end of 1888 Crispi instructed the Minister of War Ettore Bertolè Viale to go on the offensive and occupy Asmara . The occupation was preceded by the Uccialli Treaty of May 2, 1889, which King Umberto I concluded with the new Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II . In the treaty Abyssinia ceded sovereignty over the city and a large part of the Eritrean plateau and initially also accepted the establishment of an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia, in exchange for the continuation of Italian development and military aid to stabilize Menelik's empire.

    Crispi did not consider it necessary to submit the treaty to parliament as Italy was still at war and the king was constitutionally free to act. But some MPs from the extreme left and right questioned colonial policy and threatened to stop it at the turn of the decade. But Crispi relied on the rapidly spreading enthusiasm for expansion in Africa in the country and was able to persuade prominent opponents of colonialism such as Giovanni Giolitti to change their attitude. Asmara was finally conquered in August 1889 and the first major Italian colony, Eritrea , was officially established in 1890. The possession of the ports of Massawa and Assab closed Ethiopia from access to the Red Sea and made the country de facto economically dependent on Italy. Trade between the two powers was encouraged by low tariffs. Italy exported finished products to Ethiopia, importing coffee , beeswax and animal hides for them .

    Italian (colonial) troops in Africa (painting by Quinto Cenni)

    From 1888, the Italian conquest of Somalia began . Italy gained protectorates over the Hobyo and Majerteen sultanates through agreements between the Italian consul in Aden and several sultans . In 1892 the private Italian trading company Filonardi leased the ports of the Banaadir region (including Mogadishu and Baraawe ) from the Sultanate of Zanzibar . It served the Kingdom of Italy as a starting point for expeditions into the mouth of the Juba and the establishment of a protectorate over the city of Lugh . In the same year the Italian government forced Zanzibar, Merka and Warsheikh to lease and later sell to Italy. The city of Kismayo , acquired in 1887, was sold to the British and attached to British East Africa .

    In the summer of 1894, the Mahdists tried to invade Eritrea, but were stopped in Agordat . The regional military commander, General Oreste Baratieri , moved his troops to the Sudanese border and on July 16, 1894 ordered an attack on the Sudanese Kassala , which was taken after a short battle. The city should serve as a springboard for a campaign against the Mahdi Empire and expand the Italian sphere of influence. The British, who supported the Italians, refused to receive Italian aid for fear that Italy would annex all of Sudan. The Italian garrison in Kassala was withdrawn in December 1897 and the city returned to the new Anglo-Egyptian Sudan . The Mahdi uprising finally ended with the Battle of Omdurman on September 2, 1898.

    After the successful intervention in Sudan, Crispi directed the Italian colonial efforts back to Ethiopia. General Baratieri advanced on Ethiopian territory in December 1894 and conquered the Ethiopian landscape of Tigray by January 1895 . In March, Barattieri also occupied Adigrat and moved towards Adua . At this point, Crispi suspended the Italian advance because of the high military costs of over nine million lire.

    The results of the elections of May 26, 1895 brought Crispi one last high election victory. In mid-1895, however, Crispi was confronted with serious difficulties in colonial policy: France and the Russian Empire supplied Menelik with considerable amounts of modern weapons, and Germany and Great Britain had no intention of helping Italy militarily. Bismarck's withdrawal from political life in 1890 had weakened Crispi's international position for many years, and by the fall of 1895 it became clear that the Ethiopians were preparing a major offensive against the Italians. Abyssinia terminated the Uccialli treaty that same year and continued to refuse to follow Italian foreign policy. Crispi used this renunciation as a reason to subjugate the whole of Ethiopia and received a tailwind against the reluctant opposition from the now overflowing Italian militarism and nationalism.

    The troops of the United Eight States on a Japanese drawing (Italy is shown on the far left)

    In December 1895, when an Italian outpost on Mount Amba Alagi was attacked by the Ethiopian army , Crispi replaced Baratieri with Antonio Baldissera and prepared to send another 25,000 men into the crisis area. This increased the cost of the war by an additional 20 million lire and forced the Italians to go on the defensive for the time being. But when another Italian outpost at Mek'elē was encircled and then captured by the Ethiopian army on January 7, 1896 , the Royal Italian Army resumed the offensive.

    On February 8th, Crispi tasked Baratieri with planning a decisive strike against Ethiopia and provided him with command of another 10,000 soldiers sent to Eritrea. This first suggested the opening of a second front, and decided on February 28th to attack Menelik's forces at Adua. The battle that followed on March 1, 1896 ended in a heavy Italian defeat. The small Italian army had been overwhelmed by the numerically far superior Ethiopian army and Italy was forced to retreat to Eritrea. The failed Ethiopian campaign was an international embarrassment for Italy, as it had been decisively defeated as a great power by a developing country .

    When the news of the defeat reached Italy, serious unrest broke out, especially in Lombardy . On March 4, 1896, Crispi appeared before his cabinet and announced his resignation. The next day it was publicly accepted by Umberto I.

    One - for the time being last - colonial acquisition succeeded Italy in 1900 in China . After an occupation of the Chinese province of Zhejiang failed under diplomatic pressure from other great powers in March / April 1899 , Italy participated in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion from November 2, 1899 to September 7, 1901 as part of the United Eight States Alliance . On September 7, 1901, the ruling Qing dynasty gave it a concession in Tianjin . On June 7, 1902, it was officially taken over by an Italian consul.

    Politics at the turn of the century

    The end of the Crispi era eased domestic and foreign political tensions. His successor Antonio Starabba di Rudinì from the historical right, appointed by Umberto I on March 10, 1896, ended the first Italo-Ethiopian war under pressure from the socialist party in the Peace of Addis Ababa (October 25, 1896) and inevitably recognized the sovereignty of Ethiopia . He issued a general amnesty for all prisoners of the Fasci Siciliani movement and gave impetus for a humanization of the world of work. Under him the process of integrating the lower classes into the state began. This laid the foundation for an effective social policy and social legislation , which began with the emergence of old-age and disability insurance , as well as the obligation of health insurance for industrial workers.

    In terms of foreign and colonial policy, Starabba di Rudinì and his foreign minister Emilio Visconti-Venosta began a process of détente with France, which after the overthrow of Crispis again campaigned for Italy. The Italian government did not want to support the increasing alienation between Great Britain and the Wilhelmine German Empire. Social contrasts also warned against this: only the conservatives around Umberto I supported the Triple Alliance, while the more liberal, irredentist and ultra-nationalist social groups under his son Crown Prince Viktor Emanuel were more pro-French or British. In 1896 Italy therefore concluded a trade agreement with Tunisia in which it recognized the French protectorate, contrary to the interests of the Italian settlers there. In 1898 a trade treaty with France followed and, despite strong opposition from the Italian colonial movement, the city of Kassala was returned to the British-occupied Khedivat Egypt , which led to improved relations with Great Britain.

    Italy's financial difficulties after the Ethiopian War had plunged the unified state into such a severe crisis that reached unprecedented proportions and even endangered the monarchy. To end this, Starabba di Rudinì tried to decentralize the state. His policy was rejected by the majority of the chamber, whereupon the parliament was dissolved in early 1897. However, the elections of March 1897 gave the socialist and left-wing extremist opposition a boost. The forces that had supported Crispi were also strengthened and wanted a continuation of his authoritarian politics. Sidney Sonnino even pleaded for a return to the constitutional monarchy based on the German and Austro-Hungarian models.

    The domestic political situation worsened in the summer of 1898. In May, violent unrest broke out in the south and the industrial centers of the north. A state of siege was declared in Milan , Naples , Florence and Livorno . The crisis reached its peak in Milan. A general strike was proclaimed, which turned into an open uprising. Starabba di Rudinì, however, quickly put down the revolt from May 7th to 8th by regular army units under the command of Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris . About 100 people were killed in the Bava Beccaris massacre . After that, all regional trade unions and socialist organizations there were disbanded and hundreds of arrests took place. The massacre in Milan withdrew Starabba di Rudinì's parliamentary support. He asked King Umberto I to call new elections and announced his resignation on June 29th. The king initially refused to accept the resignation, but in June 1898 commissioned General Luigi Pelloux to form a new government.

    The very conservative Luigi Pelloux saw his only tasks as restoring normal conditions and defending state institutions. Pelloux wanted an end to parliamentary democracy and the establishment of a reactionary regime that would take decisive action against the socialist opposition. In order to implement this, as Minister of the Interior he passed a series of laws in 1899, which again restricted the work of the opposition and restricted or prohibited freedom of speech , press and assembly as well as strikes (the latter only in the public service). In view of this reactionary turn, a broad opposition developed, which ranged from the socialist to the bourgeois liberal around Giuseppe Zanardelli and Giolitti, who preferred a democratic and reformist political opening.

    When Pelloux tried to submit a law by which he could have enacted laws without parliamentary approval, the Italian Constitutional Court overturned it and declared the practice illegal. The great Milanese industry, which had been loyal up to that point and viewed this as too dangerous a reactionary attempt, also offered resistance. Finally, Pelloux resigned prematurely in May 1899, but then only reshuffled the cabinet. In June 1900 he called new elections and resigned on June 24th, after the election results had significantly strengthened the Socialists, Radicals and Republicans.

    Victor Emmanuel III taking the constitutional oath in parliament (1900)

    King Umberto I gave the old Senator Giuseppe Saracco the task of forming a government . On July 29, 1900, the monarch was murdered during a visit to the city of Monza by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci , who saw the act as revenge for the massacre in Milan. Umberto I followed his son as Viktor Emanuel III. , who took the oath on the constitution before the two houses of the Italian parliament on August 11th.

    The young king and Saracco tried to normalize political life. Saracco succeeded in completely normalizing relations with France in December 1900. The Prime Minister reached an agreement with the French government under Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau on claims to Morocco and Libya , the borders of which were first outlined as an Italian colony. Domestically, however, he failed shortly afterwards due to a general strike in Genoa in December 1900 and resigned on February 15, 1901.

    Victor Emanuel III, who was more inclined to the more liberal views of his grandfather than to the conservative views of his father, appointed the left-liberal and reform-minded Giuseppe Zanardelli , who elected Giolitti as interior minister. Because of his relatively poor health, Zanardelli largely left day-to-day politics to Giolitti, who soon turned out to be the real head of the cabinet. The Zanardelli / Giolitti government continued the aborted process of slow integration of the workers into the state and initiated a turnaround in foreign policy. Although the Triple Alliance was extended in June 1902, it had lost much of its importance for Italy since the turn of the century. Instead, a rapprochement with the more liberal states France and Great Britain was initiated. In June 1902, Italy and France signed a secret agreement in which both states agreed to benevolent neutrality between the two alliances (Triple Alliance and French-Russian Alliance ) in the event of war .

    Giolitti era and the Belle Époque

    Giovanni Giolitti

    On November 3, 1903, Giovanni Giolitti returned from the party of the historical left to head the government. Despite the reactionary wave of the century and the fierce social protests of the 1890s, he became the first Prime Minister to offer the Socialists participation in the government. Although the party leadership of the socialists around Filippo Turati and the majority of the members of parliament agreed, the “maximalist” revolutionary direction of the internal party opposition prevailed. Nevertheless, Giolitti recognized the party as the spokeswoman for the workers.

    Giolitti was Prime Minister from 1903 to 1905, again from 1906 to 1909 and from 1911 to 1914. The short-lived governments of Alessandro Fortis (1905/06), Luigi Luzzatti (1910/11) and Sidney Sonnino (1906, 1910/11) fell into the intervals . Giolitti based his government on employers and workers in the north, where he wanted to achieve a balance of interests between these groups, and in the south on agrarian MPs, whom he was able to get behind him by securing their privileges and interests. His reign is known as the "Era Giolitti" (ital. Età giolittiana ) and was the longest in Italian history after that of Benito Mussolini .

    During Giolitti's reign there was a cultural boom in Italy. Its economic and social programs and the relative political stability led to an economic boom that lasted until the First World War. The average annual income per inhabitant rose from 324 lire (1891–1896) to 523 lire (1911–1916). The lack of coal was compensated for by the electrical energy from the hydropower plants on the Adda and in the canton of Ticino . In northern Italy, the large industrial centers around Milan ( textile industry ), Genoa (port), Turin ( automotive industry ), Florence and Venice (port) emerged. But there was also an economic upswing in Rome and Naples . The Simplon Tunnel was opened in 1906 . In 1914 the Italian railroad had around 17,000 km of railroads. By expanding the food industry with modern means, Italy succeeded in making southern Italian grain marketable again and becoming one of the global leaders in grain export.

    At the same time, emigration increased from 165,000 willing emigrants in 1880 to 540,000 in 1901 and to 872,000 in 1913. Over 80% of these people were men. First there was a temporary emigration to neighboring European countries such as Switzerland , the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and France. These emigrants were mostly miners or day laborers . Every year they sent their money home to their families and then came back. But there was also permanent emigration to Tunisia , eastern Algeria , Libya , Egypt , the northeastern United States and California , Mexico , Brazil and Argentina . Around two million Italians settled in the United States between 1906 and 1910. This emigration helped to alleviate the population pressure, but led to a severe population loss. Giolitti tried to counter this with renewed colonial expansion. In 1911 he ordered the occupation of Ottoman Libya . While the Italian socialists oppose colonial policy, intellectuals and writers like Gabriele D'Annunzio and Giovanni Papini , the futurists around Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and the nationalists Enrico Corradini and Giuseppe Prezzolini support it. All these artists and intellectuals were marked by a strong nationalism and propagated the struggle of the “young proletarian and chosen Italian nation” against the “old democratic plutocratic nations”. The war was hailed as a cleansing bath for humanity , which had become decadent . In 1909 Marinetti called for a radical break with cultural traditions in his Futurist Manifesto . After that there was a spread of rationalism. In 1910, after a congress of all nationalist groups, movements and parties, the Associazione Nazionalista Italiana was formed , which advocated a colonial but also an expansion of Italy in Europe, with which social problems should be solved more quickly.

    "Attempted" compromise with the opposition

    The Giolitti government wanted to bind the opposition to itself through an integrating social policy of small steps by which the workers were to be convinced that the representation of their interests and social progress would be ensured even under a liberal monarchy . In this context, the first labor standards have been adopted to protect the working population (especially for children and women). Old-age, invalidity and accident insurance (extended to all workers in the industry) were expanded. The prefects showed greater tolerance of strikes provided they did not threaten public order, and Catholic and socialist cooperatives and unions were allowed. This openness towards the socialists developed into an important trademark of the "Giolitti era". Giolitti was also convinced that only an increase in workers' wages would improve living conditions in the long term.

    For a compromise with the socialists to succeed, two conditions were required: First, Giolitti wanted the socialists to renounce their revolutionary program. As a second condition, he demanded the recognition of the privileges of the nobility , who should, however, also take part in the reforms. The internal split in the socialist party, divided into a maximalist revolutionary and a reformist camp around Turati, made it difficult for Giolitti to implement his program. His government was mostly dependent on the direction that prevailed among the socialists. But Giolitti managed to isolate the extremist forces of the left and socialists for a time and to bind Turati's camp to himself without it belonging to the government. As early as 1901, the socialists had agreed to vote with the government on a case-by-case basis. However, in 1903 and 1911 his attempts to involve the socialists in his government failed.

    Giolitti also began to campaign for the Catholic opposition, which had made progress in the 1904 elections. However, he considered a comprehensive understanding with the Catholics impossible, especially because of the cultural anti-modernism of Pope Pius X. The Prime Minister saw most Catholics as loyal citizens of the state and offered them and the Pope a say in Italian politics. Finally, in 1912/13 the Pope softened the non-expedit and the first political Catholic associations and parties emerged. Giolitti declared, despite his attempts at compensation, to adhere to the secular church policy, which had been practiced by the Italian governments since 1870, including the separation of church and state and freedom of religion .

    High phase of industrialization

    Automobile factory in Turin (1898)
    Postcard from Fiat (1905)

    The domestic political détente was facilitated by a positive economic development. From 1895/96 the industrial revolution began in Italy , which lasted until 1912/13 and reached its climax under Giolitti. The steel works in Piombino were established in 1897, those in Elba in 1898 and Giovanni Agnelli founded the Fiat works in 1899 . In 1902 the ILVA group built the first steelworks in southern Italy with government aid, namely in Bagnoli near Naples. The backwardness of the South remained a central problem for the state. Proposals for solutions to the so-called southern question, such as those made by Francesco Saverio Nitti , Gaetano Salvemini and Sidney Sonnino, were tackled, but the government limited itself to particular problem areas such as Naples. In 1911, 55.4% of the Italian population worked in agriculture and 26.9% in industry .

    In the financial sector, Giolitti was mainly concerned with increasing pensions and restructuring the state budget . Both were done with great caution. The government secured the support of large companies and banks. Most of the criticism the project received came from the Conservatives, with a majority of the public applauding it and considering it to be of great symbolic value for a real and lasting consolidation of public finances. The national budget, which from 1900 onwards had an annual income of around 50 million lire, was to be additionally strengthened by the nationalization of the railways. Much public opinion now was in favor. At the beginning of 1905 there were numerous workers' unrest among railroad workers. Shortly afterwards, in March 1905, Giolitti resigned from his post as Prime Minister due to illness. He suggested his party friend Alessandro Fortis to the king as his successor. On March 28, Victor Emmanuel III appointed Fortis as the new Prime Minister, who thus became the first Jewish head of government worldwide. With Law 137 of April 22, 1905, he sanctioned the nationalization of the railway through a public recruitment process under the control of the Court of Auditors and the supervision of the Ministries for Public Works and Finance. Telephone operations were nationalized at the same time . The Fortis government remained in office until early 1906. It was followed from February 8 to May 29 by a brief government under Sidney Sonnino , who was also of Jewish faith . Eventually Giolitti began his third term. In this he mainly dealt with the economic situation in southern Italy, where there was a massive deterioration in the population , partly due to demographic and economic factors or natural disasters, such as the eruption of Vesuvius in 1906 and the earthquake and tsunami in Messina , Reggio Calabria and Palmi in 1908 Situation came, entire villages were depopulated and centuries-old regional cultures disappeared. Nevertheless, there was then a slight economic upturn in the south. The government, which had initially bureaucratically and financially obstructed migration in order not to have to raise prices on the labor market , has now given its approval to encouraging the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Italians from the south. The fear of increasing social pressure and possible effects on the now reliable monetary stability were decisive factors.

    In 1906 the government lowered the national interest tax rate from 5% to 3.75%. This step relieved the required finances of the state, reduced panic among the state's creditors, and favored the growth of heavy industry . The subsequent budget surplus made it possible to finance larger government employment programs, such as the completion of the Simplon Tunnel in 1906, which massively reduced unemployment . The Italian lira , which was settled by gold , was also revalued internationally and was able to attain a higher monetary value than the British pound sterling at times .

    In addition to the now completed nationalization of the railways, the planned nationalization of insurance companies was tackled and the trade war with France that had been going on since 1887 was ended. Giolitti interrupted the pro-German foreign policy of Crispi and thus enabled the export of fruit, vegetables and wine to France. He also boosted the cultivation of sugar beet and its processing on the Po Valley and encouraged heavy industry to gain a foothold in the south as well. The latter, however, showed little success. In 1908, with the support of the Socialist MPs, some laws limiting working hours for women and children up to 12 years of age to 12 hours were passed. Special laws followed for the disadvantaged regions of the south. However, their implementation mostly failed due to the resistance of the large landowners. Nevertheless, there was a clear improvement in the economic situation of small farmers.

    Introduction of universal male suffrage

    In the elections of 1909 Giolitti received a stable government majority. Nevertheless, it was not Giolitti who was appointed head of government, but the more conservative Sidney Sonnino was appointed prime minister. Sonnino's government failed after only three months and was replaced by a cabinet under the leadership of Luigi Luzzatti , which tended more towards Giolitti's liberal positions than those of his predecessor. Meanwhile, the political debate about extending the right to vote to wider sections of the population intensified . The Socialists, Radicals and Republicans have long called for universal male suffrage to be introduced . The Luzzatti government developed a moderate proposal for this, which, under certain conditions (certain age, reading skills, writing skills and annual tax payments) should enable a gradual expansion of the electoral base, but without achieving full equal voting rights for men. Giolitti, together with the opposition, opposed this proposal and agreed to the introduction of universal male suffrage. This intention should provoke the overthrow of the minister, usher in a new political turning point and finally bring about a parliamentary cooperation with the socialists.

    The election law of 1912 finally introduced universal suffrage under Giolitti. This applied to all men who were older than 30 years and who had done military service. The new electoral law increased the eligible population from 3.3 million to 8.6 million (at that time around 24% of the total population) and, contrary to Giolitti's calculations, initially destabilized the entire political environment. The old, experienced small parties had problems integrating the new voters and were increasingly ousted by the new, inexperienced but popular mass parties (including later the National Fascist Party ). But Giolitti was convinced that Italy could not develop economically and socially without increasing the number of those who were supposed to participate in politics. The socialists Claudio Treves and Turati and Sonnino later suggested extending the right to vote to women . For the time being, however, this should only affect possessing women at the local level. Giolitti refused, on the grounds that too broad a voter base would be a “leap into the dark”. A provisional law was then drawn up which gave women the right to vote in local elections. Its implementation was postponed for an indefinite period in view of the Italo-Turkish War and the fall of the government.

    Giolitti's move strengthened the left in particular during these years. Concerned to prevent a left takeover of power, the Prime Minister agreed the Gentiloni Pact with the Catholics , an agreement in which the Catholic parties and organizations Giolitti discreetly pledged their support against the socialists. In return, he undertook to take action against the abolition of the traditional divorce law , which was proposed by Zanardelli, to guarantee Catholics the same rights as his government partners and to defend their remaining religious schools.

    The fourth and last Giolitti government within the Giolitti era was formed on March 30, 1911 with the approval of the Catholics and remained in office until March 21, 1914. During this cabinet too, Giolitti tried again to involve the socialists in his government policy, but this time with more success. In part, he adapted his program to that of the socialists. It included more political and social freedoms for the population and the nationalization of life insurance . This marked a central attack by the state on the private sector. State social insurance was introduced in 1912 .

    The Prime Minister also pushed through that parliamentarians should receive financial compensation for their work. Until then, it was only an honorary position and the MPs were not allowed to do any side work. The poorer MPs were barely able to fulfill their mandate. As a result of the reform, they too were now able to live on a parliamentary mandate.

    The war in Libya

    Overview of battles and operations in the Mediterranean (1911/12)
    Italian artillery of the 149 mm model 1877 off Tripoli (1911)
    Italian airships bomb Ottoman positions in Libya (1911)

    In terms of foreign policy, Giolitti initially acted cautiously, which earned him criticism, especially from right-wing and nationalist circles. Already after the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, they asked him to occupy Ottoman Albania. He and his foreign minister, Tommaso Tittoni, concentrated on Libya and sought rapprochement with France, the Russian Empire and Great Britain. In 1906, at the Algeciras Conference , Italy supported France's efforts to annex Morocco. In 1909 a secret agreement was signed with Russia.

    After France occupied Morocco militarily in April 1911, Italy began planning military operations against Ottoman Libya. Pushed by a wave of chauvinism and nationalism that rose in the summer of 1911 , which was primarily carried by the bourgeoisie and industry, Giolitti had the Ottoman Empire attacked during the summer recess of parliament . On September 29, 1911, King Victor Emmanuel III signed declared war and ordered the Royal Italian Army to conquer the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania , Kyrenaica and Fezzan in North Africa.

    Italy cited the bad treatment of the Italian citizens in Tripoli as the reason for the war. On September 27, 1911, it issued an ultimatum to the Ottoman Empire in which it was to cede Libya to Italy within 48 hours. The other great powers France and Great Britain pledged their support to Italy. The war finally began on September 29, 1911 and ended on October 18, 1912. In this Italy used its most modern weapons, including airships , which were used for the first time in history for military purposes, area bombing , the dropping of aerial bombs , reconnaissance flights and its modern fleet of ships and artillery. The war thus formed a model for the First World War .

    At the beginning of the war, the Italian fleet sank a number of Ottoman warships in the Adriatic Sea and opened fire on Tripoli on September 30th. The poorly armed Ottomans could not withstand the attack of the outnumbered attackers. The city was captured by Italian troops on October 5th, while the remaining Ottoman soldiers retreated inland. A Turkish offensive against the Italians in October 1911 also failed. Reinforcements did not come because Great Britain refused to allow the Ottoman troops to march through Egypt. Initially, the local population did not support the Ottoman army. However, Enver Pascha and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were able to mobilize parts of the Arab population against the Christian occupiers. The Italians holed up along the coast and were only able to penetrate slowly inland due to the resistance. In 1912 the 100,000 Italians faced 25,000 Ottoman soldiers. Italy then used its superior fleet and captured the Dodecanese in 1912 . The Ottoman fortresses in Beirut and on the Dardanelles were under fire and the rebels there against the Ottomans were given massive support in Yemen .

    During the peace negotiations in Lausanne on October 18, 1912, the Ottoman Empire had to cede the provinces of Tripoli, Cyrenaica and Fessan in the Peace of Ouchy to Tripoli. Italy later combined these to form its colony Italian North Africa . As compensation for the Ottomans, Italy was originally supposed to cede the occupied Dodecanese back to the Ottoman Empire, but Italy did not adhere to this and with the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 the island group was also awarded to Italy under international law . A total of 20,000 soldiers were killed in the war, including around 1,500 Italian and 18,500 Ottoman soldiers and Arab fighters. The Ottoman Empire was further weakened by the war, which strengthened the newly formed Balkan Federation in its plan to drive the Ottomans out of the remaining areas of the Balkans.

    The so-called Libyan War (Italian: Guerra di Libia ) was intended to strengthen Giolitti's integration policy, but failed to achieve this goal. Instead, almost half a million men had to be called to arms and the cost of the war exceeded the government's calculations. He also created a climate of militant mobilization that gave rise to an Italian radical nationalism whose followers sought the conquest of Dalmatia and Greece . The conflict also destabilized the already fragile political balance: the Socialist Party split and the radical wing around journalist Benito Mussolini prevailed. The collaboration between the reformists and Giolitti ended abruptly.

    The October 26, 1913 elections dropped Giolitti's government majority from 370 to 307 seats. The again opposition Socialists doubled their seats and got 52 seats. The Right received an excellent result too, increasing their mandate from 51 to 73 seats.

    Giolitti's smaller government majority consisted mainly of right-wing liberal ministers who made pacts with the nationalists. The prime minister became increasingly isolated. He achieved one last success on March 4, 1914, when parliament granted him the necessary financial means to promote the economic development of the new colony in North Africa. Weakened, Giolitti resigned on March 21, 1914 and proposed Antonio Salandra to the king as his successor.

    First World War

    Italy's participation in the First World War (also known as the "Fourth War of Independence") began on May 24, 1915, about ten months after the start of the conflict, in which the country experienced major political and economic changes. Giolitti's reform and integration policy came to an end and an imperialist and expansionist foreign policy and a nationalist domestic policy based only on the war economy were established. The domestic political problems of Italy initially faded into the background and in 1917 the right and left supporters of the war joined together in parliament to form a single bloc ( Fascio parlamentare di difesa ), which with two thirds of the MPs had a majority in both chambers. During the war Italy had three governments. Antonio Salandra led the country to war in 1915 and, after the lack of success, had to resign on June 18, 1916. He was followed by Paolo Boselli , who only held office for a short time until October 29, 1917, and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando , who took office on October 30, 1917 and remained head of government after the war until his resignation on June 23, 1919.

    The Kingdom of Italy was the only major European power to remain neutral at the start of the fighting and, at the same time, began negotiations on territorial compensation with the two warring sides of the Triple Entente and the Central Powers . During this long period of negotiation, the public played an important role in deciding whether and on which side to enter the war. The masses shared the interventionists (ital. Interventisti ) and Neutralists (ital. Neutralisti ). At the end of the negotiations, the Kingdom of Italy left the Triple Alliance and declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23, 1915. The war was waged in the Eastern Alps , from the Swiss border to today's Slovenia to the coast of the Adriatic. At the same time, Italy took part in the fighting in the Balkans , the Middle East and North Africa, and East Africa . The war required unprecedented efforts from Italy; Huge crowds were mobilized both domestically and at the front, where soldiers had to adapt to the hard life in the trenches , material deprivation and the constant threat of death. The struggles inflicted enormous collective psychological consequences on those affected and made it difficult to reintegrate into society.

    After a long series of inconclusive battles , the Austro-Hungarian and German troops had an unexpected victory in the Battle of Caporetto in October / November 1917 , which pushed the Italians to the banks of the Piave River , where the Italian resistance then met consolidated. The decisive counter-offensive in Vittorio Veneto led to the armistice at Villa Giusti on November 3, 1918 and the end of hostilities.

    The end of the war sparked with the signing of the final peace treaties, under which Italy had to forego important areas - it received neither Dalmatia nor Albania and was also left empty with the former German colonies, which only divided France and Great Britain among themselves - in unrest among the population and great dissatisfaction with the new peace order.

    Prelude to war, international dilemma

    Antonio Salandra

    On March 21, 1914 Antonio Salandra was appointed new Prime Minister. He had already held several ministerial posts under the previous governments and belonged to the right wing of the Liberal Union (Italian Unione Liberale ) party founded in 1913 . Due to his inexperience in foreign policy, he kept Giolitti's Foreign Minister Antonino Paternò-Castello , a confidante of King Victor Emanuel III. and experienced foreign policy makers, in office. The Salandra government had to contend with a rapidly growing revolutionary left in its first few months. Salandra therefore also took over the Ministry of the Interior. In Emilia-Romagna , the “ Red Week ” (Italian: Settimana rossa ) in June 1914 led to an uprising among farmers and workers, which was reminiscent of the violent unrest of 1898. Salandra reacted with harshness and at the same time tried to maintain Giolitti's balancing act with the socialists and Catholics. Salandra's position was strengthened with the defeat of the Socialists in the local elections in June and July 1914.

    In the lead up to World War I , the Kingdom of Italy faced a number of short-term and long-term problems in choosing its allies and territorial goals. Italy's most recent success in the Libyan War once again sparked tensions with its Triple Alliance partners in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary because both countries had sought closer ties with the Ottoman Empire. But Italy's relations with France and Great Britain also continued to be strained, despite the unofficial support in the Libyan War. In France, because of Italy's support for Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, people still felt "betrayed" and relations remained tense because of the rivalry between the two countries in the Mediterranean region . Anglo-Italian relations were also affected when Italy demanded that Great Britain recognize its great power and interests in North and East Africa . At the same time, the conflict between Italy and the Kingdom of Greece intensified when Italy annexed the Greek- settled Dodecanese islands. Italian nationalists called for the incorporation of other Greek islands such as those of Crete or the Ionian Islands , where a small Italian minority lived. From 1898 to 1913, the Cretan state existed as an Italian-British-French-Russian protectorate, with Italy as a neighboring state having a political and economic monopoly among the four powers. Italy and Greece were also in open competition over the desire to militarily occupy the still young Principality of Albania , whose independence and unity Italy had guaranteed at the London Ambassadors' Conference (1912–1913) . King Victor Emmanuel III himself was concerned about possible colonial adventures and instead forced the annexation of the Italian-populated areas of Austria-Hungary (so-called “completion of the Risorgimento”).

    After the assassination attempt in Sarajevo on July 28, 1914, Foreign Minister Antonino Paternò-Castello declared on July 8, protected by Articles 1, 3, 4 and 7, that Italy had no alliance obligations in the event of an Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia.

    The Triple Alliance was last renewed on December 5, 1912, with the addition of a special protocol on the Balkans. In this context, Austria-Hungary had already prepared a military operation against the Kingdom of Serbia in 1913 , but this was rejected by Italy's opposition and the relationship with both monarchies deteriorated further. Even during the July crisis , the Austro-Hungarian diplomacy failed to adequately inform Italy about its actions. It was not until July 22, 1914 that the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador Kajetan Mérey met with Paternò-Castello at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome. On July 24th, the German Hans von Flotow presented the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia to Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and Paternò-Castello. Again, the government in Vienna did not inform Rome in order to avoid the foreseeable negative reactions and in an effort to prevent any form of formal protest or a transfer to Serbia. Serbia rejected the document, and on July 28, the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary marked the beginning of the First World War. Italy held back for the time being and has not yet proclaimed its neutrality.

    On July 3, 1914, the Chief of Staff of the Royal Italian Army presented his report on the state of the army to General Alberto Pollio . In this he called for an increase in personnel in order to keep up with the other great powers. He mentioned the many technical deficiencies that plagued the armed forces, including the poor training of the troops and the lack of preparation for war. General Pollio's report was presented to the Minister of War, Domenico Grandi , who requested a 400 million lire budget for the army. His successor Vittorio Italico Zupelli and General Carlo Porro , who was to take over from Pollio, made this funding a necessary prerequisite for entering the war. Salandra's offer of 190 million did not go far enough for them. Only General Count Luigi Cadorna was willing to compromise and was appointed the new chief of staff. When hostilities broke out, Luigi Cadorna campaigned for the proclamation of neutrality and saw in it an opportunity to reorganize and modernize the army. In September 1914, Cardona assured the government that in the spring of 1915 he could set up a force of four armies with 14 corps , 35 infantry and four cavalry divisions .

    The preparations for a military strike against Austria-Hungary, which his predecessor had already begun, consolidated Cadorna and adapted it to the standards of the time. His “summary of a possible offensive in the direction of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy during the current European conflagration” (Italian: Memoria riassuntiva circa un eventuale azione offensiva verso la Monarchia austro-ungarica durante l'attuale conflagrazione europea) presented to the government on August 21, 1914 ) envisaged immediate mobilization , full and rapid use of all railways, an offensive in the direction of the open border with Gorizia and Trieste , but a defensive tactic in Trentino . Studies on the mobilization of the army since August 1914 predicted that moving the army to the border would take at least a month and would be so conspicuous that the enemy would not be surprised and could take countermeasures. This fact led to the adoption of a new mobilization system, which was defined as red mobilization (ital. Mobilitazione rossa ). This envisaged calling each person individually to arms and not the public.

    In order to upgrade the army's clout, the production of weapons was massively increased. New, larger artillery pieces, such as the 75/27 Mod. 1911 cannon, which resembled the French Canon de 75 mm modèle 1897 , were developed, production of the Italian model of the German 15 cm heavy field howitzer 13 was cranked up and a light measuring team was set up. The railway network was again massively expanded for high mobility, which should make a war of movement possible. In the 10 months of Italian neutrality (see below) it was finally possible to eliminate many deficits within the army and to increase its combat strength considerably. In July 1915, the Royal Army had mobilized 31,000 officers, 1,250,000 soldiers and 216,000 civilians who were serving in the army. In the meantime, the fighting strength of the Austro-Hungarian troops had decreased due to the heavy losses on the Eastern Front as well as in the Balkans .

    Italian neutrality

    Caricature on Italian neutrality in the tug of war between the Entente and the Central Powers (1914)

    The official and final decision on Italian neutrality was made on August 2, 1914 by the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Antonio Salandra declared: Italy was in a state of peace with all the powers involved in the war and the Royal Italian Government, the authorities and citizens are obliged to maintain neutrality in accordance with the applicable laws and the principles of international law .

    Neutrality was initially maintained unanimously, but the halt in the German offensive on the Marne in September 1914 led to a discussion about the alleged German invincibility. Interventionist movements began to form in the fall of 1914 and gradually gain influence. Foreign Minister Paternò-Castello had already called for entry into the war in August 1914. They viewed the geopolitical situation as favorable and demanded entry into the war on the side of the Triple Entente . The nationalists, sections of the republicans and the radical left, the reformist socialists, anarcho-syndicalists and gradually also the conservative and liberal right, who long adhered to the Triple Alliance, called for intervention on the side of the Entente . Above all, the left-wing liberals around their leader Giovanni Giolitti, many Catholic believers and the socialists spoke out against entering the war. The majority of the population and parties opposed the war. The liberal advocates of intervention were strongly influenced by the ideals of democracy and propagated the struggle against the autocratic monarchies and the liberation of Trento and Trieste. The nationalists spoke of new possessions in Dalmatia, rule over the Adriatic, a protectorate over Albania and colonial compensations in Africa . All groups pointed to a possible loss of the Italian great power position if it remained a passive spectator. The war was also intended to avenge all past Italian defeats from the battle of Custozza and the sea ​​battle of Lissa in 1866 against Austria to Adua against Ethiopia in 1896 and to conclude its unification with the annexation of unredeemed territories. The neutralists argued that Italy was still a “young and fragile nation” and that state finances had been shattered by the war in Libya and that entering into the war would entail unforeseeable risks. Despite their majority, the neutralists gradually lost their influence in parliament and in government. For example, on May 20, 1915, the majority of the socialists voted against the party leadership, one of four large groups that wanted to maintain neutrality, in favor of the government's war loans. The reason for this was the change in public opinion that occurred in the last 10 months from August 1914 to May 1915. The interventionists dominated the media, which could mobilize the masses. The neutralists had state organs and political institutions on their side, but they remained passive. The interventionists organized so-called journalistic debates, where the press verbally promoted entry into the war and filled entire theaters, halls and conference rooms with crowds. Numerous new newspapers and magazines were also founded to promote entry into the war. The neutralists lacked such an organization. The socialists, Catholics and Giolitti failed to organize joint projects and meeting points, while the interventionist application acted as a single block.

    Another decisive factor in the victory of the interventionists was the inner indecision of the two strongest neutras, the socialists and the liberals. The former acted most vehemently against the war, but inside the party there was a kind of “ diaspora ” whose members secretly supported the interventionists. Characteristic in this regard was the activity of the Austro-Hungarian socialist MP Cesare Battisti , who fled to Italy in 1914 and campaigned throughout Italy for entry into the war to join Trento to Italy and argued that socialism could not ignore national roots and identity . Another example was Benito Mussolini, who campaigned for the war in 1914 and was subsequently expelled from the Socialist Party, but could count on the support of the Milan wing of the party. On November 10, 1914, Mussolini declared the old anti- patriotism course of the socialists dead and five days later the first edition of his new newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia (People of Italy) appeared, where he repeatedly promoted entry into the war. These positions contributed to a significant change of direction for the socialists, even if some members pursued different goals and many saw the war as the only way to fundamentally change Italian politics and politics in Europe. This “democratic or revolutionary interventionism ” also had the goal of triggering a social revolution . The syndicalist Filippo Corridoni wrote on December 5, 1914, that a social revolution would be prepared with the war and the last remnants of feudal rule would be removed.

    Prime Minister Salandra took advantage of the strong public pressure on parliament and the internal quarrels of the neutralists. This initially pursued a domestic and foreign policy, which was based on that of Giolitti. He based his government on a large majority and appointed politicians from almost every camp to be ministers. The only minister whom he took over from Giolitti was Foreign Minister Paternò-Castello. But at the same time Salandra had the ambition to bind the left wing of the Liberal Union around Giolitti to herself and to isolate and eliminate them as a competitor. This attempted and ultimately successful shift in the equilibrium was shown with the appointment of Sidney Sonnino as Foreign Minister, who belonged to the left wing of the conservatives and succeeded the late Paternò-Castello in November 1914. Sonnino only pleaded for neutrality in return for territorial compensations, as he expected from Austria-Hungary. Sonnino eventually began a series of secret negotiations with the Entente, which Italy made great territorial concessions. On April 26, 1915, negotiations with the Entente were concluded and the secret treaty of London signed, with which Italy undertook to enter the war within a month. On May 3, 1915, the Triple Alliance was terminated by Italy.

    While politics in the months of neutrality occupied itself with calculating the strengths and chances of a country entering the war, the intellectuals increasingly played an important role in the decision to enter the war. Many idealized the situation and sought new territorial gains and political hegemony in the Mediterranean for Italy. The intellectuals were divided into “reformers” and “revolutionaries” (the latter meaning meant continuing the “revolution of the fathers”). The reformers called for the collapse of the old monarchies and the unification of the "free peoples of Europe". The spokesman for this group was Gaetano Salvemini , a critic of Giolitti who saw the war as the only way to defeat the old anachronistic monarchies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The idealist Benedetto Croce praised the liberal system of Italy in writing through his cultural magazine La Critica and called for war against the Central Powers because of the values ​​of progress and freedom. Renato Serra and Giovanni Gentile, on the other hand, praised the aesthetics of blood and violence in La Critica . The later fascist ideologue Alfredo Rocco proclaimed proletarian nationalism, which should not only use the war as a foreign policy of territorial expansion, but also, from a strategic perspective, should enable a new composition of the social classes into a broad social and political bloc. This idea was picked up and adopted by many similarly thinking nationalist intellectuals such as Enrico Corradini , Francis Coppola , Luigi Federzoni , Maffeo Pantaleoni and Gabriele D'Annunzio .

    "Radiant May" and the entry into the war in 1915

    Achille Beltrame : Gabriele D'Annunzio speaks against "Giolittism" in 1915

    The termination of the Triple Alliance sparked an unexpectedly strong response in Italy in May 1915. These days were called Radiant May (Italian maggio radioso). There were demonstrations and strikes for or against the war across the country . The strong public mobilization led to street fighting and civil war-like conditions.

    One day after the denunciation of the Triple Alliance, a large demonstration took place in Genoa on May 5, 1915, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Garibaldi Train of Thousands . About 20,000 people took part in this demonstration. Gabriele D'Annunzio was the speaker. He preached the holiness of the Italian nation, idealized heroism and again called for Italy to enter the war.

    The speech and the demonstration sparked a government crisis. On May 9th, Giolitti traveled to Rome and, supported by a joint commitment by the German and Austro-Hungarian authorities for further territorial assignments, again campaigned for neutrality in the Chamber of Deputies. With this he contradicted the Salandra government and the king. Giolitti and his supporters prepared a vote of no confidence in the government. However, this failed because of the socialists. But to prevent Giolitti from taking power again, the interventionists organized demonstrations and protests for the war across the country, with the help of the major newspapers and intellectuals, especially D'Annunzio. With this increased pressure from the street, parliament was effectively disempowered and robbed of its representative function. The government and Salandra finally resigned on May 13 because of these tensions. Victor Emmanuel III did not accept Salandra's resignation and instead reiterated his support for her course.

    The Italian Chamber of Deputies decides to enter the war (picture from a newspaper, May 20, 1915)

    On May 20, 1915, the Parliament issued powers of attorney to the government regarding the war. Until then, no Italian government had had so much power. Then there were demonstrations for neutrality in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, which ended in violent clashes, and in Turin , where the neutralists organized a general strike against the war. Most of the time, however, the interventionist demonstrations were more numerous and more evenly distributed across the entire peninsula, including southern Italy, where the population had remained largely passive until then. In May, several thousand people demonstrated in support of the war in the cities of Parma , Padua , Venice , Genoa , Milan , Catania , Palermo and Rome . The center of the demonstrations was Rome, where the situation was particularly tense.

    General Mobilization Order (May 23, 1915)

    Pushed by the strong interventionist agitation of Mussolini and D'Annunzio and the nationalist campaigns and demonstrations, for fear of a conflict between the crown and parliament and the consequences for foreign relations, the neutralists in parliament gave way. Giolliti left Rome and on May 20th Parliament ratified the decision to intervene and provided the necessary financial resources. The nationwide general mobilization followed. On May 23, Austria-Hungary was presented with the declaration of war . On May 24th Italy officially entered the Great War. On August 21, 1915, it declared war on the Ottoman Empire and on October 19 on Tsarist Bulgaria . Italy initially maintained its diplomatic relations with Germany, with which the Salandra government hoped not to have to break completely.

    The enforcement of the entry into the war constituted a violation of the rules of the parliamentary system as it had ruled since 1878. Although the King had a lot of power in foreign and military policy in the constitution, up until this point in time, within the framework of the democratic parliamentary tradition, governments alone had declared wars with the consent of parliament. This case occurred again in 1922 when Victor Emanuel III. appointed Benito Mussolini Prime Minister without parliamentary support.

    Italy's war effort

    Generalissimo Luigi Cadorna, Chief of Staff from 1914 to 1917, in conversation with British officers

    At the beginning of its military campaign against Austria-Hungary, Italy initially saw itself at an advantage: Austria-Hungary's army had to wage a two-front war against Serbia and Russia and the Royal Italian Army was numerically far superior to the enemy. However, this advantage was not fully used because the Italian military commander Luigi Cadorna insisted on a dangerous frontal attack against Austria-Hungary in order to march over the Slovenian plateau and occupy Ljubljana , from where the Austro-Hungarian capital of Vienna could easily have been occupied. Only after eleven offensives had failed with enormous losses of life and material did the Italian campaign to take Vienna collapse. The geographical location was also a problem for the Italian troops, as the border with Austria-Hungary ran in mountainous terrain . The border was 650 km long and stretched from the Swiss border over the Stilfser Joch to the Adriatic Sea.

    The fighting between Italy and Austria-Hungary began with the first shots on the enemy positions in the municipality of Cervignano del Friuli on May 24, 1915, which was taken by Italian troops on the same day. On the same day, the Austro-Hungarian fleet bombed the cities of Manfredonia and Ancona in a surprise attack . Italy initially remained defensive in the sea ​​battles between the Royal Italian Army and the Austro-Hungarian Navy in the Adriatic Sea. In most battles, Italy's warships proved inferior to the Austro-Hungarian fleet due to a lack of organization and coordination, or a stalemate arose. The French Navy and the British Royal Navy did not send the Entente allies to the Adriatic. Their respective governments considered the Adriatic to be far too dangerous due to the concentration of the Austro-Hungarian fleet.

    In the first months of the war, Italy launched the following offensives:

    In these first four battles, the Italian army suffered 60,000 deaths and more than 150,000 wounded, which was about a quarter of the forces mobilized at the time. In May 1915 the Italian troops numbered 400,000 men and were four times superior to the Austrians and Germans. But the Austrian defense remained strong, despite understaffing, and was able to hold all four Italian offensives. The fighting with the Austro-Hungarian army along the foothills of the Alps developed into a trench war with little progress soon after the start of the war . It was fought at an altitude of over 3000 meters. The Italian army suffered from a severe shortage of ammunition, as a result of which the offensives were mostly abandoned. In the first year of the war, these poor conditions on the battlefield and an outbreak of cholera resulted in large numbers of deaths on the Italian side. Despite these serious problems, Cadorna forbade troops to withdraw on grounds of prestige.

    The situation for Italy was critical in its African colonies. Italian Somaliland in East Africa was not pacified and was threatened by the uprising of Somali Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Hassan . In Libya, North Africa, the Italian military presence was limited to a few separate cities and points on the coast. In the provinces of Tripolitania and Fessan , the Italian army initially went on the offensive. In August 1914, while the country was still neutral, the Italian armed forces advanced deep into the Libyan hinterland as far as Ghat . This advance ended in April 1915. In August 1915, the Italians were pushed back to the Libyan coast by the local tribal leaders of the Sanūsīya . This situation lasted until 1922/23. Only then was the conquest of all of Libya resumed.

    The morale among Italian soldiers had since the war began badly. They were forced to lead a boring life, so they were forbidden to go to theaters or bars, even during their vacation. However, they were allowed to drink alcohol prior to battle to reduce tension before the battle. In order to maintain morale, the Italian military leadership gave propaganda lectures on the importance of the war for Italy and the promised extensive territorial gains. Some of these lectures were also given by popular nationalist war advocates such as Gabriele D'Annunzio. D'Annunzio himself fought in the ranks of the navy and the air force during the war and undertook a number of propaganda-enhanced endeavors, including the flight over Vienna at the end of the war. Benito Mussolini has been banned from giving lectures by the government, probably because of his revolutionary socialist past.

    Italian occupation troops in Albanian Vlora (ca.1916)

    In autumn 1915 the Italian government was confronted with the increasingly passive attitude of the Serbian army. The Kingdom of Serbia had not launched a serious offensive against Austria-Hungary for several months. Salandra blamed the Serbian military for the fact that the Austrians would raise their armies against Italy. Cadorna accused Serbia of secretly negotiating with Austria about Serbia's entry into the war and addressed this to Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino, who claimed that Serbia was an "unreliable ally". Relations between the two allies cooled so much that the Entente members abandoned their idea of ​​forming a united Balkan front against Austria-Hungary. In the negotiations on territories, Sonnino Serbia was entitled to Bosnia and Herzegovina , but refused to negotiate Dalmatia, which was disputed between Serbian and Italian nationalists . When Serbia was overrun and occupied by the Central Powers in a campaign in October 1915 , Cadorna proposed sending 60,000 men to Thessaloniki to support the Serbs, who now had their headquarters in exile in the city . The Serbs, however, feared an Italian establishment in the principality of Albania , which was also claimed by Serbia, and rejected the proposal. Italian troops, however, played an important role in the defense of this against Austria-Hungary. From 1916 the Italian 35th Division fought on the Salonika Front as part of the Allied Army of the Orient. The Italian XVI. Corps (a unit independent from the Army of the Orient) took part in actions against Austro-Hungarian forces in Albania. In 1917 an Italian protectorate was established over Albania and it was not until 1920 that the Italian troops withdrew.

    In 1916 the situation for Italy worsened dramatically. The stalemate dragged on for the whole of 1916. In May Austria-Hungary succeeded in its South Tyrol offensive in recapturing the outskirts of Trentino that had been conquered by Italy . On March 11, 1916, Cadorna started the Fifth Battle of the Isonzo . This attempt was also fruitless. In June it was possible an Austro-Hungarian punitive expedition , the Asiago Plateau to occupy. However, the Italian army managed to stop the offensive and force the enemy to retreat into the Carso countryside . On August 4th, the sixth battle of the Isonzo began , which five days after its beginning led to the Italian conquest of the county of Gorizia , at the cost of 20,000 dead and 50,000 wounded. The year ended with three new offensives:

    The price was an additional 37,000 dead and 88,000 wounded on the side of the Italians without a notable conquest. At the end of 1916 the Italian army advanced a few kilometers into Trentino, while the situation on the Isonzo front remained stable throughout the winter of 1916/17.

    Italian propaganda poster that was dropped over Vienna in 1918

    With the war year 1916, the Italian military leadership was also confronted with an increasing shortage of warships, the number of which was reduced due to increased attacks by submarines , and had to contend with steadily rising freight costs for imported food, raw materials and military equipment. In order to finance these costs, there were tax increases and austerity measures in other areas by the government. After minor successes by the Austro-Hungarian and German troops in northern Italian territory, Chief of Staff Cadorna finally pursued a more defensive approach from November 1916. In 1917, France, Great Britain, and the United States who entered the war offered troops in support of Italy to organize a new offensive against the Central Powers. The Italian government under Prime Minister Paolo Boselli , who had succeeded Salandra in June 1916, refused because it saw a loss of the Italian great power. Instead, Italy sent smaller contingents of troops to support the British in the fight against the Ottomans on the Palestine Front to safeguard its interests in the Middle East . Italy eventually became a party to the Sykes-Picot Agreement to partition the Ottoman Empire. Foreign Minister Sonnino, meanwhile, propagated isolationism as a brave alternative. Italy also pursued this strategy with regard to the entry into the war of the Kingdom of Greece in 1917, which could have relieved Italy and the other allies in the fight against Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Italy wanted to prevent this in order to have a free hand in the occupation of Albania, which Greece also claimed. In Greece, however, the Venetian direction prevailed under Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos , which made no claims on Albania.

    The war turned for Italy after the collapse of the Russian Empire with the February Revolution in 1917 . In October, the October Revolution was followed by the seizure of power by the Communist Bolsheviks under Vladimir Ilyich Lenin . The new Russian government stopped fighting on the Eastern Front and concluded the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty in 1918 . The resulting marginalization of the Eastern Front made it possible for the Austro-Hungarian and German troops to withdraw and for new units to be transferred to the front against Italy. Internal dissent against the war grew increasingly as economic and social conditions deteriorated due to the stress of the war. From 1917 many pacifists and internationalist socialists advocated peace negotiations with the workers in the German Reich and Austria-Hungary and a communist revolution. Protests broke out in Turin in August 1917. In Milan in May 1917 there was an uprising organized by communist revolutionaries, which the Italian army had to suppress with tanks and machine guns by May 23, 1917.

    On May 12, 1917, Italy launched the tenth battle of the Isonzo . The aim of the Italian offensive was again to break through to Trieste. The battle of Monte Ortigara (June 10-25 ) was an attempt by Cadorna to conquer some new territories in Trentino. However, there were no land gains and Italy only managed to conquer the village of Doberdò del Lago for a short time . On August 18, 1917, the most important Italian offensive, the eleventh Battle of the Isonzo, began . The Royal Italian Army had deployed the largest armed force to date and made some important advances, such as conquering the now Slovenian Banjšice Plateau southeast of Tolmino . The offensive had to be canceled due to supply shortages. The attack was completely abandoned on September 12, 1917. Instead, the Austrians and Germans, who had previously been harassed, went on the offensive. On October 24, 1917, the troops of the Central Powers broke through the Italian lines in the upper Isonzo near Caporetto and advanced to the Piave . The 2nd Italian Army was effectively wiped out. Although the Italian army commanders were informed of a likely enemy attack, they had underestimated it and did not realize the danger caused by the infiltration tactics developed by the Germans . The defeat of Caporetto led to the disintegration of the entire Italian front on the Isonzo. In total, Italy had 700,000 dead, wounded and prisoners. Cadorna, who had tried to attribute the causes of the catastrophes to a low morale and cowardice of the troops, was deposed as chief of staff and replaced on November 8, 1917 by Armando Diaz . Prime Minister Paolo Boselli resigned on October 29, 1917 and was replaced by his Interior Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando on October 30 . Orlando abandoned the previous isolationist approach to the war and advocated greater coordination with the Allies. France, Great Britain and the United States then sent troops in support of Italy. In November Italy managed to repel another German-Austrian advance in the First Battle of the Piave .

    Members of the Arditi battalions (1918). By the spring of 1918 Italy had lost 650,000 soldiers

    From the spring of 1918 onwards, some Italian divisions were assigned to support the Entente on the western front. Her main engagement on this front was her role in the Second Battle of the Marne .

    The Italians were able to withstand the renewed offensive of the Central Powers during the Second Battle of the Piave in June 1918. The failure of the offensive marked a turning point on the Italian front. The Central Powers ultimately proved incapable of sustaining the war effort on the Italian front, while the multi-ethnic Austrian-Hungarian units were on the verge of rebellion. The Italians have set their planned counter-offensive of 1919 for October 1918 in order to benefit from the Austro-Hungarian crisis. The Italian attack, supported by a small contingent of French, British, Czechoslovak and US troops, began in Vittorio Veneto on October 24th . The fighting lasted for four days, but then the Italians managed to cross the Piave and form a bridgehead . On October 29th, Austria-Hungary, which was in the process of dissolution, applied for an armistice . The armistice was signed on November 3rd in the Villa Giusti near Padua.

    Inner development

    A woman says goodbye to a soldier

    After Italy entered the conflict, the parliament granted the government powers that made the government de facto independent of the control of the Italian Court of Auditors and the parliament. There was a growing autonomy of the bureaucracy and the introduction of strict censorship of the press and regular police checks. The only institution that enjoyed autonomy from the government was the military organization, where Cadorna received unlimited powers. In view of the war effort, new ministries and bodies were established, such as the State Secretariat for Armaments and Ammunition (from 1917 separate ministry), the Ministries for Maritime and Rail Transport, Purchasing and Consumption, Assistance and War Pensions, and a number of secretariats with the participation of industrialists Sector, created. However, due to their overlapping responsibilities, these new structures proved ineffective and rivalries arose among the ministries. Neither Salandra nor Boselli's government managed to get these problems under control. Only under the Orlando government was there a rationalization and a clear distribution of areas of responsibility. The number of employees in public administration continued to rise. Between 1915 and 1921, the number of people employed in the public sector rose from 339,000 to 519,000, including railroad workers, police and financial police . The Ministry of Industry under Giannetto Cavasola formed seven (later 11) regional committees to coordinate arms and ammunition production. The military, civil servants and industrialists entered into closer cooperation. Although the Italian Navy had long cooperated with the private sector, the army and the young air force , which both had lower material requirements, could not fall back on the private sector. Only with the outbreak of war did a change come about. The newly created committees provided companies with the materials and raw materials they needed in Italy and abroad, helped with the conclusion of contracts and coordinated labor administration (schedules, wages, security, vocational training, support and social security). The number of industrial plants involved rose from 125 companies with 115,000 workers in 1976 to 1976 companies with more than 900,000 workers in 1918, which were mainly located in Lombardy , Piedmont , Liguria and the area around Naples, both large and small Factories supplying all kinds of weapons to the army and navy included.

    Postcard from the front (1918)

    The increased consumption of resources led to the depletion of the resource reserves that had been saved by Italy during the years of peace, so that the war effort could only be continued at the expense of the living standards of the civilian population. The situation of the population worsened significantly in the second half of 1916, almost simultaneously in all countries involved in the conflict. As the war continued, the lack of food imports and the lack of agricultural labor had a negative impact on the supply situation for the population. The result was considerable price increases and supply shortages. It was only insufficiently possible to master this through management measures. The soldiers' bread rations were reduced from 750 to 600 grams a day until the summer of 1916, while it was now impossible for the citizens to get things like coffee , cocoa , sugar or grain . In order to reduce the specific fuel consumption, certain foods were not sold on certain days. For example, meat was not available on Thursday and Friday, and sweets were not available for three consecutive days a week. To reduce the consumption of paper, newspapers had to reduce their content to four or two pages. The reduction in coal imports , which increasingly represented a financial burden, was threatening and with consequences . Imports of this fuel were in the immediate vicinity of one million tons per month, dropped to 720,000 tons in the second half of 1916 and remained to just 420,000 tons for all of 1917. The Department of Industry and Transportation reached an agreement with Great Britain , which set a maximum price of 29 to 30 shillings per ton of coal, while freight rates were set at 59 shillings and 6 pence per ton. This maximum price of freight rates was due to the lack of ships and the high security costs to protect the ships from enemy attacks. When the Central Powers unleashed the unrestricted submarine war in February 1917 , insurance premiums were added to the freight costs to cover the resulting risks. Many ships could not bear these high costs and stayed in their ports. The difficulties in eliminating or compensating for the shortage of coal posed great challenges for the population and industry. The Italian government was looking for alternatives. Whole mountains were eventually deforested , gas supplies to cities were reduced, and many trains were canceled as around 25,000 rail vehicles were needed to move coal from France to Italy.

    Propaganda poster for the technology company Ansaldo (1918)

    Between 1916 and 1917 these circumstances led to much unrest against the war. Protests in Turin from August 21-25, 1917 against the lack of bread resulted in 37 deaths. In the surrounding area and in other provinces, the events led to hundreds of other demonstrations, with the active participation of women. Between January and March 1916 women demonstrated against the war in Florence. The Directorate-General for Public Security estimated that there were about 500 demonstrations in the four and a half months from December 1, 1916 to April 15, 1917, attended by tens of thousands of women. The protests were mostly organized by rural women in the cities. The peasant classes comprised farmers, tenants and a large number of employees and made up a total of around ten million people whose economic conditions and legal status were very different. The changes due to the conflict led to a labor shortage but to rising real incomes , so that the economic gap between landowners and farmers narrowed. But the great concern of the Italian peasants was the absence of the millions of men who now mostly served in the army. Instead, the government forced the rest of the family to work to make up for the skilled labor shortage. This also increasingly affected industry, which employed several million people in its factories. For this reason, mostly young people aged 15 and over, who were not yet of military age, and women were used. The work in the factories had to be carried out with severe disciplinary measures and sometimes even with military drill, while in the other countries the factory discipline of the pre-war period was maintained without militarization. Although wages rose here too, the increasing inflation led to the devaluation of money. The government printed paper money to face the cost of the war. Despite the labor shortage, the war years meant prosperity and increased production for Italian industry.

    The armaments industry benefited most from the war . In 1914, the Italian steel mills produced only 900,000 tons per year compared to the 17.6 million tons in the German Empire or the 7.8 million in Great Britain. This deficiency did not initially make it possible to cope with the high demands placed on weapons and ammunition by the army. It was only through increased imports of raw materials and resources that it was possible to compensate for the shortage and to achieve the technical level of the other great powers. The achievements of the Italian industry proved to be extensive. Ship and aircraft construction flourished and Italy was soon able to produce more than 16,000 pistols , 37,000 machine guns, 3.2 million rifles and 70 million artillery shells annually. At Ansaldo , the capital increases went from the equivalent of £ 30 million in 1916 to £ 500 million in 1918, while the number of workers rose from 6,000 (1916) to 56,000 (1919). The steel company Ilva also managed to increase production to around 2.1 million tons of steel per year. The automaker Fiat monopolized its position in the construction of military vehicles, but also built aircraft, machine guns and marine engines and grew from 4,000 to 40,500 employees. The latter company not only had military orders, so that it also managed to continue its industrial growth in the post-war period, while Ansaldo and Ilva quickly collapsed without military orders. The war represented a great opportunity for the good development of Italian industry.

    Working women in a post office in Lombardy during the war

    The First World War led to a slow and unusual form of emancipation for women in Italy . Even before the war, some prominent women expressed their opinion about entering the war: the anarchist Maria Rygier gave patriotic speeches, the republican Margherita Sarfatti supported Mussolini and the socialist Anna Kuliscioff the neutral course of her partner Filippo Turati . Many nobles served as Red Cross sisters and were involved in caring for the soldiers and the poor. Women's contribution to the war effort grew steadily during the war: between 180,000 and 200,000 women were employed in the war industry in 1917, while hundreds of thousands were still employed in other industries, including accountants , typists and archivists . The entry of women into working life initially raised some concerns. The increasing shortage of men led to a rethink. The wages of women were very low compared to those of men.

    The war aroused the government's interest in the media, which should be used as a weapon for propaganda . The massive and successful media campaign between 1914 and 1915 in favor of entry into the war had impressed the Italian governments. During the war, the interventionist wings of business, business and finance, heavy industry and the big banks increased their investments in the press to mobilize the population. The government's intervention in the propaganda was initially sporadic. It was not until the Boselli government that two ministers without a portfolio were commissioned to implement a propaganda campaign: the liberal Senator Vittorio Scialoja was supposed to promote Italy's territorial goals and economic support for the country abroad. The interventionist Republican Ubaldo Comandini was given responsibility for internal propaganda in July 1917, and in February 1918 he helped found the General Commission on Public Service and Internal Propaganda.

    In order to compensate for the state deficiencies in the propaganda area, numerous private associations support the state. In the summer of 1917 the United Companies were founded. They comprised numerous associations with 80 provincial secretaries and 4,500 commissioners and were intended to bring patriotic propaganda to the civilian population.

    A useful element for the government to control public opinion has been newspaper censorship. The war correspondents were forced to write and publish articles that were partially falsified. This always optimistic image of the war was intended to prevent civil unrest and panic among the population.

    End of war and Italian territorial gains

    The Big Four : Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (2nd from left) in the negotiations in Versailles with David Lloyd George , Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson (from left)
    Areas promised to Italy in the Treaty of London (light green) and areas promised to Serbia by the Entente (dark green)
    Italian zone of influence in Turkey (green)

    During the war the Royal Italian Army increased from 500,000 men in 1914 to 5 million in 1918. By the end of the war Italy had lost 700,000 soldiers and had a budget deficit of 12 billion lire. The government deficit was so large that only 30% of expenditure could be met by income. By 1921 the lira sank to a fifth of its 1913 value. The government responded with massive tax increases. The iron and steel industry struggled with overproduction.

    With the signing of the armistice of Villa Giusti near Padua from 3rd / 4th November 1918 Italy was given a free hand by the collapsed Austria-Hungary. The Italian head of the delegation, General Pietro Badoglio , forced the representatives of Austria and Hungary to evacuate Tyrol to the Brenner , to give the entire navy and the Italian troops freedom of movement in the defeated country. 350,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers surrendered and Italian troops advanced as far as Innsbruck and occupied Vienna, from where they did not withdraw until 1924.

    Shortly after the armistice, Italian soldiers marched in South Tyrol, in Trentino and in the direction of Istria to Gorizia (November 7th), Trieste (November 3rd), Koper (November 4th), Poreč (November 5th), Rovinj (November 5th), Pula (November 5th) and Zadar and Šibenik (November 4th), which became the capital of the new Italian military administration in Dalmatia, occupied the suburbs of Ljubljana, but were stopped in the city by Serbian troops. On November 5th, Italian troops landed on the Dalmatian island of Lissa .

    When the war ended with the Compiègne Armistice in November 1918 , Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando negotiated with British Prime Minister David Lloyd George , Prime Minister of France Georges Clemenceau and President of the United States Woodrow Wilson at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference about the new borders of Europe and Italy. As one of the main victorious powers, Italy was a member of the Council of Four , which played a decisive role in shaping the new peace order in Europe. At the peace conference, the representatives of Italy Orlando and his foreign minister Sidney Sonnino insisted on full compliance with the Treaty of London and on the annexation of the city of Rijeka , where 62% of the population were Italians.

    The Italian government was angry about Wilson's 14-point program , which called for the peoples' full right to self-determination but was in opposition to the London Treaty. In the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the nationalists condemned the fourteen points, while the socialists defended them and saw the Treaty of London as an attack on the rights of the Slavs, Greeks and Albanians.

    US President Wilson, who had not signed the London Agreement, granted Italy in point 9 the correction of its borders according to the clearly identifiable delimitations of nationality, but called for safe and free access to the sea for Serbia in point 11. This was mainly about Dalmatia and the port city of Rijeka. Italy rejected the proposal to create a state Rijeka with a free port .

    Orlando left Paris in January 1919 and did not return until May 7th. This protest did not have the desired effect. It weakened Italy's position among the four main victorious powers and isolated the country. Orlando resigned on June 21. Francesco Saverio Nitti of the Partito Radicale Italiano was appointed his successor on June 23 . Tommaso Tittoni became the new foreign minister . On September 10, 1919, Nitti signed the Treaty of Saint-Germain , which defined the new Italian-Austrian border, but not the one in the east. Instead, the Allies demanded that Italy and the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes define their borders together and alone. Immediately afterwards, on September 12th, some nationalist militants and former Italian soldiers, led by Gabriele D'Annunzio, militarily occupied the city of Rijeka to demand its annexation to Italy. His popularity among nationalists earned him the title "Il Duce" (the leader) and he used black-clad paramilitary groups. The use of the title Duce and the black uniforms later became synonymous with the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini. The Italian reign on the Quarnero proclaimed by D'Annunzio remained without international recognition. The Yugoslav-Italian negotiations over these and Istria and Dalmatia began in May 1920. In order to normalize the tense relations since the First World War, the new Foreign Minister Carlo Sforza, who wanted to achieve a reconciliation with Yugoslavia, ordered the evacuation of the Italian occupation troops in Albania where it in Vlora had come to an uprising. In July 1920 Sforza agreed to the creation of an independent state from Rijeka, but called for Istria and Dalmatia. The latter was a central part of Italian foreign policy in the first post-war years. On the other hand, the leadership of the Royal Italian Army had little sympathy for an annexation of Dalmatia, which would be difficult to defend in the war and was isolated from the Italian motherland. This internal resistance and that of the United States made annexation of Dalmatia virtually impossible. In the Rapallo border treaty in December 1920, Italy and the SHS state agreed on a compromise: Italy received all of Istria, some Dalmatian islands and the city of Zadar , while Yugoslavia received northern Dalmatia, which was actually assigned to Italy in 1915. Rijeka became the Free State of Fiume .

    After initially successful efforts, the country had to forego the colonial compensations that Italy had made. While the Treaty of Versailles was being drawn up , Italian diplomacy called for the annexation of the previously German colony of Cameroon , Togos , French Chad , Portuguese Angola , Belgian Congo , Georgia and parts of the Ottoman Empire. The other victorious powers refused to accept Italy's claims. Cameroon was added to France. Italy later only received the Aouzou strip from Chad . In Angola, Italy ultimately limited itself to demanding agricultural concessions from Portugal to the Italian emigrants. The establishment of the “ Colonial Society for West Africa ”, supported by the 11 most important Italian banks, was intended to emphasize these demands. However, this project met with strong opposition from Great Britain, France and Portugal.

    For Georgia in 1919 King Viktor Emanuel III. with the support of Lloyd George an Italian contingent of 85,000 men under General Giuseppe Pennella , which should secure the independence of the country under the Italian protectorate and the Italian interests in the Russian civil war . The exact date for the invasion was not set, however, and the Nitti government decided in order not to endanger the new relations between Italy and the emerging Soviet Union to call off the company. Only Mussolini took up the idea of ​​an Italian protectorate over Georgia again with the German-Soviet War in 1941.

    After the armistice of Moudros on October 30, 1918 and the occupation of Istanbul , the Italian government sent an expeditionary force to Antalya in March 1919 and occupied the Turkish landscapes of the Mediterranean and Aegean from there . This show of force led to fierce resistance from the Greek government. On May 15, Greek troops landed in Izmir and occupied the area around the city to stop the Italian advance northwards to Istanbul. The dispute over the Turkish territories could only be settled in a secret agreement, which was signed on July 29, 1919 by Tittoni and the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. Italy should withdraw from Antalya and Greece from southern Albania, which was granted to Italy. However, this agreement was terminated by the next Italian foreign minister, Carlo Sforza, in June 1920. With the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) concluded with the Ottoman Empire , Antalya and its surroundings were recognized as an Italian zone of influence. In the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), the Turkish patriots under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were militarily supported by Italy, which armed and trained the troops from Antalya. Italy withdrew from its zone of influence in April to autumn 1922 after the victory of the Turks. With the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the Italian occupation was annulled, but the Italian possession of the Dodecanese and Libya were recognized under international law.

    Nationalist gathering in Rijeka to demand union with Italy (1920)

    As a result of the peace treaties from 1918 to 1923, Italy annexed areas that were not only ethnically mixed, but were in part exclusively populated by Slovene , German , Croatian or Greek people. In the former Austrian coastal region around a third of the population were Slovenes, which corresponded to a quarter of the total Slovenian population at the time. The Slavic and German populations were later subjected to a ruthless policy of Italianization during Italian fascism . Under the Treaty of Rapallo, over half a million Slavs lived within Italy while only a few thousand Italians lived in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

    Fascist regime and World War II

    Benito Mussolini

    In 1921 Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF) . On 1st / 2nd In October 1922 a few hundred fascists marched on Bolzano ; in October 1922 the PNF organized a star march on Rome with around 26,000 fascist supporters. It became known as the March on Rome (Marcia su Roma) . This ended on October 28 at the gates of Rome and Mussolini traveled in a sleeping car from Milan . Thereupon King Viktor Emanuel III appointed. Mussolini became prime minister and the fascists marched into Rome with a victory march.

    Just six months later, the new Legge Acerbo electoral law of July 1923 considerably restricted the influence of the opposition (see also the political system of Italy ). Mussolini then began to build the fascist dictatorship and in 1926 all opposition parties were finally banned. For the elections of 1928 only candidates who were approved by the PNF were allowed to stand and with the establishment of the " Fascist Grand Council " (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo) a body was created which combined party and state functions. This completed the transformation of Italy into a fascist dictatorship. This was followed by a rigorous policy of Italianization , to which ethnic minorities such as Franco-Provençals , Slovenes , Croats , Hungarians and South Tyroleans fell victim.

    The end of Mussolini's rule and the progress of the war

    Situation of the Italian Social Republic

    On July 25, 1943, shortly after the Allies landed in Sicily , the fascist Grand Council deposed Mussolini by a simple majority out of disappointment over the defeats in World War II and Mussolini was arrested. King Victor Emmanuel III took over the supreme command of the armed forces and commissioned Marshal Pietro Badoglio to form a military government. This dissolved the National Fascist Party and signed the Cassibile armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943 .

    The German side was prepared for a change of front from Italy and triggered the " Axis case ". In central and northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic , which was occupied by the Germans, the war lasted for another year and a half. On April 29, 1945, Army Group C of the Wehrmacht surrendered unconditionally (on May 2). This ended the Second World War for the Kingdom of Italy.

    End of war and end of the monarchy

    Map of the results of the 1946 referendum on the form of government

    King Victor Emmanuel III abdicated on May 9, 1946 in favor of his son Umberto II . He had been discredited by his actions since October 1922 (e.g. Mussolini's appointment as prime minister and the signing of the Italian racial laws ).

    On June 2 and 3, 1946, at the same time as the election for the constituent assembly, a referendum on the future form of government took place; 54.3 percent of those who voted voted for the republic. As a result, the members of the House of Savoy had to leave Italy on June 18; the republican constitution came into effect on January 1, 1948. Umberto II went into exile in Portugal , where he considered himself the legitimate king of Italy until his death on March 18, 1983. The Italian constitution did not allow him to return to Italy.

    Since then, smaller conservative parties in particular have been fighting for the re-establishment of the monarchy in Italy . After the constitutional amendment of 2007, his son Victor Emanuel of Savoy was able to return from exile with his family; he announced an action for damages against the republic for alleged injustice in exile, from which the other members of the House of Savoy distanced themselves. In return, the Italian Republic announced a lawsuit for damages because of the involvement of the house in the time of fascism.

    See also

    Individual evidence

    1. According to one interpretation: Foedere Et Religione Tenemur lat. "We are bound by contract and religion"
    2. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 274.
    3. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 310.
    4. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 316.
    5. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 322.
    6. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 324.
    7. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 325.
    8. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 328.
    9. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 329.
    10. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 332.
    11. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 334.
    12. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 330.
    13. ^ Aram Mattioli: The forgotten colonial crimes of fascist Italy in Libya 1923-1933. In: Fritz Bauer Institute (ed.): Genocide and war crimes in the first half of the 20th century. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-593-37282-7 , p. 209
    14. ^ German Bundestag: Introductory dates for women's suffrage in 20 European countries , accessed on August 9, 2018
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    16. Population development in Italy since 1700 on
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    18. ^ Maria Lieber: Variety Linguistics of Italian , p. 7 ( Memento from January 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (TU Dresden, WS 2009/2010).
    19. ^ Georg Wannagat : Textbook of social security law. Vol. 1, Mohr, Tübingen 1965, p. 83.
    20. ^ Angus Maddison : Contours of the World Economy I-2030AD , Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-922720-4
    21. ^ Angus Maddison: Historical Statistics of World Economy 1-2003 AD.
    22. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 335.
    23. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 336.
    24. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 337.
    25. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 338.
    26. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 341.
    27. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 346.
    28. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 342.
    29. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 347.
    30. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 349.
    31. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 351.
    32. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 352.
    33. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 353.
    34. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 350.
    35. a b c d e f g h i Gernert et al. (2016), p. 356.
    36. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 354.
    37. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 355.
    38. a b c d e f Gernert et al. (2016), p. 357.
    39. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 358.
    40. a b c d e f Gernert et al. (2016), p. 361.
    41. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 362.
    42. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 363.
    43. a b c d e Gernert et al. (2016), p. 365.
    44. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 364.
    45. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 366.
    46. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 367.
    47. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 371.
    48. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 372.
    49. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 368.
    50. a b c d e f Gernert et al. (2016), p. 369.
    51. a b c d e Gernert et al. (2016), p. 370.
    52. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 373.
    53. a b c d e Gernert et al. (2016), p. 381.
    54. a b c Gernert et al. (2016), p. 375.
    55. a b c d e f Gernert et al. (2016), p. 376.
    56. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 377.
    57. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 378.
    58. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 379.
    59. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 380.
    60. a b c d e f Gernert et al. (2016), p. 382.
    61. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 384.
    62. a b Gernert et al. (2016), p. 385.
    63. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 387.
    64. Gernert et al. (2016), p. 388.
    65. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 383.
    66. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 396.
    67. a b c d Gernert et al. (2016), p. 398.
    68. On May 2, 1945 it became known that in Caserta on April 29, Army Group C, whose commander was also the Commander in Chief Southwest , had surrendered to the Allies under British Field Marshal Harold Alexander , Commander in Chief of the Allied Armed Forces in the Mediterranean region. The surrender was signed by two representatives (Lieutenant Colonel Hans Lothar von Schweinitz and SS-Sturmbannführer Eugen Wenner) on behalf of Colonel General Heinrich von Vietinghoff and the Supreme SS and Police Leader in Italy, SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS Karl Wolff . Source: ( Memento from October 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
    69. ^ Statement by Emanuel Philibert von Savoyen, November 21, 2007 ( Memento of March 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (Italian; PDF; 104 kB).
    70. ^ Open letter from Maria Gabriella von Savoyen and Maria Beatrice von Savoyen, November 24, 2007  ( page no longer available , search in web archives ) (Italian).@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /


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    Web links

    Commons : Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)  - collection of images, videos and audio files