Italy during the 1890’s was still extremely divided.

Peasant unrest remained in the South

The Trasformismo system had created numerous political problems- there wasn’t a centralised government.

1896- Adowa disaster

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1898- riots in Milan

1900- King Umberto I killed

Socio-Economic successes under Giolitti

1893- Bank of Italy- lender of last resort, end to financial stability associated with banking system- better access to long term credit- confidence in politics. Good for everyone.

Balanced judicious gov. Spending- improved standard of living, pleased southerners, more confidence in industries. But angered socialists- they wanted money to be spent on social reforms like education

1902- Supreme Council of Labour created- improved social rights + pleased workers as they were now being properly presented. But angered factory owners as they now faced greater opposition.

Law prohibiting child labour and limiting women to 11 hours a day of work- pleased women and children, improved human rights. But upset factory owners as it would now be more expensive to employ them; they also had to pay wages for women who went on maternity leave.

Promised social reform to be delivered in 1911 but failed to deliver. Pleased nationalists but angered socialists as they wanted money to be spent on social reforms e.g. Pension schemes.

Overall, helped and hindered both political parties.

Political reforms

Strict neutrality of state in industrial disputes e.g. 1901 allowed unions of agricultural labourers to strike. Pleased socialists and farmers as they now had more power to do what they wanted and could express their views more easily. Angered factory owners as they now had greater opposition.

1912- Introduced universal male suffrage- intention to end alienation of males massed. Pleased both catholics and socialists as they now had opportunity to become an electorate. But angered liberalists- they heavily relied on the Trasformismo system.

Foreign Policy

Unassertive foreign policy in early years- defence spending held now- no great navy. Angered rich land owners and business and also nationalists as they wanted money to be spent on army but pleased poor, peasants and workers as they wanted money to spent on social reforms.

Invaded Turkish province of Libya in bid to win nationalist support. Won in war of 1911-12, along with Dodecanese Islands. Pleased nationalists as it proved that they had a powerful army and that money should continue to be spent on military resources. Angered socialists as they didn’t want to be involved in war especially when money was being spent on military resources.

But effect of war was devastating- slow and expensive recovery. Conflict was extremely brutal and atrocities widespread e.g. Italian troops who were captured were often nailed to palm trees and had their eyes sewn up and their genitals removed. This, of course, hindered everybody.


Giolitti was an extremely able politician but he solved none of the essential problems. In 1914 there was still no central constituitional (Liberal) party, and there were several parties which had little time for the Liberal state and despised democratic liberties. The end of Giolitti marked the end of the Liberal era – the Liberal state. After 1914 ‘most governments in Italy were either nationalist, or Catholic, or both’.

In 1914 the divide between North and South was, if anything, worse, with the South still a agricultural semi-feudal society while the North industrialized.


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