History of Italy as a monarchy and in the World Wars
This articles covers the history of Italy as a monarchy and in the World Wars.

Italian unification (1861-1870)

Modern Italy became a nation-state
The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

 during the Risorgimento on March 17, 1861 when most of the states of the Italian Peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

 and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, commonly known as the Two Sicilies even before formally coming into being, was the largest and wealthiest of the Italian states before Italian unification...

 were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

, hitherto king of Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

, a realm that included Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...


Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian military and political figure. In his twenties, he joined the Carbonari Italian patriot revolutionaries, and fled Italy after a failed insurrection. Garibaldi took part in the War of the Farrapos and the Uruguayan Civil War leading the Italian Legion, and...

 (July 4, 1807 – June 2, 1882) was an Italian patriot and soldier of the Risorgimento. He personally led many of the military campaigns that brought about the formation of a unified Italy. He has been dubbed the "Hero of the Two Worlds" in tribute to his military expeditions in South America and Europe.

The architect of Italian unification was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel.

Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 itself remained for a decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 only in 1870, the final date of Italian unification.

Napoleon III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

's defeat brought an end to the French military protection for Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Blessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...

 and on September 20, Italian troops breached Rome's walls at Porta Pia
Porta Pia
Porta Pia is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. One of Pope Pius IV's civic improvements to the city, it is named after him. Situated at the end of a new street, the Via Pia, it was designed by Michelangelo in replacement for the Porta Nomentana situated several hundred meters...

 and entered the city. The Italian occupation forced Pius IX to his palace where he declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

 until the Lateran Pacts of 1929.

The Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 (State of the Vatican City
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

) is now an independent enclave surrounded by Rome, Italy.

From the unification to the First World War (1870-1914)

From its beginning the Italian Nationalist Movement had dreamt about Italy joining the modernized World Powers. In the North, extensive industrialization and the building of a modern infrastructure was well underway by the 1890s. Alpine railway lines connected Italy to the French, German and Austrian rail systems. Two south-going coastal lines were also completed. Most of the larger industrial businesses were originally founded with considerable investment from Germany, Britain, France and others. Subsequently, the Italian state decided to help initiate heavy industry such as car factories, steel works and ship building, adopting a protectionist trade policy from the 1880s onward. Northern Italian agriculture was modernized, as well, bringing larger profits, underpinned by powerful co-operatives. The South, however, did not experience the same kind of development in any of the above mentioned areas.

After unification, Italy's politics favored radical socialism due to a regionally fragmented right, as conservative Prime Minister Marco Minghetti
Marco Minghetti
Marco Minghetti was an Italian economist and statesman.-Biography:Minghetti was born at Bologna, then part of the Papal States....

 only held on to power by enacting revolutionary and socialist-leaning policies to appease the opposition such as the nationalization of railways. In 1876, Minghetti was ousted and replaced by socialist Agostino Depretis
Agostino Depretis
Agostino Depretis was an Italian statesman.-Biography:Depretis was born at Mezzana Corte, near Stradella, in the province of Pavia ....

, who began the long Socialist Period. The Socialist Period was marked by corruption, government instability, poverty, continued depravity in southern Italy, and use of authoritarian measures by the Italian government.

Depretis began his term as Prime Minister by initiating an experimental political idea called Trasformismo
Trasformismo was the method of making a flexible, centrist coalition of government which isolated the extremes of the left and the right in Italian politics after the unification but before the rise of Benito Mussolini and Fascism. One of the more successful politicians was Giovanni Giolitti who...

(transformism). The theory of Trasformismo was that a cabinet should select a variety of moderates and capable politicians from a non-partisan perspective. In practice, trasformismo was authoritarian and corrupt, Depretis pressured districts to vote for his candidates if they wished to gain favourable concessions from Depretis when in power. The results of the 1876 election resulted in only four representatives from the right being elected, allowing the government to be dominated by Depretis. Despotic and corrupt actions are believed to be the key means in which Depretis managed to keep support in southern Italy. Depretis put through authoritarian measures, such as the banning public meetings, placing "dangerous" individuals in internal exile on remote penal islands across Italy and adopting militarist policies. Depretis enacted controversial legislation for the time, such was abolishing arrest for debt, making elementary education free and compulsory while ending compulsory religious teaching in elementary schools.

The first government of Depretis collapsed after his dismisal of his Interior Minister and resigned in 1877. The second government of Depretis started in 1881. Depretis' goals included widening suffrage in 1882 and increasing the tax intake from Italians by expanding the minimum requirements of who could pay taxes and the creation of a new electoral system called which resulted in large numbers of inexperienced deputies in the Italian parliament. In 1887, Depretis was finally pushed out of office after years of political decline.

In 1887, Depretis cabinet minister and former Garibaldi republican Francesco Crispi
Francesco Crispi
Francesco Crispi was a 19th-century Italian politician of Arbëreshë ancestry. He was instrumental in the unification of Italy and was its 17th and 20th Prime Minister from 1887 until 1891 and again from 1893 until 1896.-Sicily:Crispi’s paternal family came originally from the small agricultural...

 became Prime Minister. Crispi's major concerns before during his reign was protecting Italy from their dangerous neighbour Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

. To challenge the threat, Crispi worked to build Italy as a great world power through increased military expenditures, advocation of expansionism, and trying to win Germany's favor even by joining the Triple Alliance
Triple Alliance (1882)
The Triple Alliance was the military alliance between Germany, Austria–Hungary, and Italy, , that lasted from 1882 until the start of World War I in 1914...

 which included both Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1882 which remained officially intact until 1915. While helping Italy develop strategically, he continued trasformismo and was authoritarian, once suggesting the use of martial law to ban opposition parties. Despite being authoritarian, Crispi put through liberal policies such as the Public Health Act of 1888 and establishing tribunals for redress against abuses by the government.

The overwhelming attention paid to foreign policy alienated the agricultural community in Italy which had been in decline since 1873.". Both radical and conservative forces in the Italian parliament demanded that the government investigate how to improve agriculture in Italy. The investigation which started in 1877 and was released eight years later, showed that agriculture was not improving, that landowners were swallowing up revenue from their lands and contributing almost nothing to the development of the land. There was aggravation by lower class Italians to the break-up of communal lands which benefited only landlords. Most of the workers on the agricultural lands were not peasants but short-term labourers who at best were employed for one year. Peasants without stable income were forced to live off meager food supplies, disease was spreading rapidly, plagues were reported, including a major cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 epidemic which killed at least 55,000 people.

The Italian government could not deal with the situation effectively due to the mass overspending of the Depretis government that left Italy in huge debt. Italy also suffered economically because of overproduction of grapes for their vineyards in the 1870s and 1880s when France's vineyard industry was suffering from vine disease caused by insects. Italy during that time prospered as the largest exporter of wine in Europe but following the recovery of France in 1888, southern Italy was overproducing and had to cut back which caused greater unemployment and bankruptcies.

Early colonialism

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Italy attempted to join the Great Powers in acquiring colonies, though it found this difficult due to resistance and unprofitable due to heavy military costs and the lesser economic value of spheres of influence remaining when Italy began to colonize.

A number of colonial projects were undertaken by the government. These were done to gain support of Italian nationalists and imperialists, who wanted to rebuild a Roman Empire. Already, Italy had large settlements in Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, and Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

. Italy's first attempted to gain colonies by entering a variety of failed negotiations with other world powers to make colonial concessions. Another approach by Italy was to investigate uncolonized undeveloped lands by sending missionaries to them. The most promising and realistic lands for colonization were parts of Africa. Italian missionaries had already established a foothold at Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

 in the 1830s and had entered deep into Ethiopia.

During the construction of the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 in Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 by Britain and France in the 1850s, Cavour believed that this presented an opportunity for Italian access to the East and had wanted the Italian merchant marine to take advantage of the Suez Canal's creation. Following Cavour's initiative, a man named Sapeto was given permission by the Rubattino shipping company to use a ship to establish a station in east Africa as a means of creating a route to the east. Sapeto landed at the Bay of Assab
Assab is a port city in the Southern Red Sea Region of Eritrea on the west coast of the Red Sea. In 1989, it had a population of 39,600. Assab possesses an oil refinery, which was shut down in 1997 for economic reasons...

, a part of modern-day Eritrea in 1869. One year later the land was purchased form the local Sultan there by the Rubattino shipping company acting on the behalf of the Italian government. In 1882, Assab officially became Italian territory making it Italy's first colony. Though Tunisia would have been a preferable target because of its close proximity to Italy, the threat of reaction by the French made the attempt too dangerous to pursue. Italy could not afford the threat of war as its industry was not developed. Assab stood as the start of the small colonial adventures that Italy would initially undertake.

On 5 February 1885, taking advantage of Egypt's conflict with Britain, Italian soldiers landed at Massawa in present day Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, shortly after the fall of Egyptian rule in Khartoum. As was key in Italian foreign policy, the British backed Italy's taking of Massawa from the Egyptians as it aided their occupation efforts. In 1888, Italy annexed Massawa by force, allowing it to pursue its creation of the colony of Italian Eritrea.

In 1885, Italy offered Britain military support for the occupation of Egyptian Sudan, but the British decided that they did not need Italian support to crush the remainder of Egypt as the forces of Sudanese Muslim rebel Muhammad Ahmad
Muhammad Ahmad
Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah was a religious leader of the Samaniyya order in Sudan who, on June 29, 1881, proclaimed himself as the Mahdi or messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith...

, called the Mahdist army in Sudan, already had crushed remaining Egyptian forces and Ethiopia's (then called Abyssinia) intervention in Sudan also aided the British. Italy's earlier intervention in Assab set off tensions with Ethiopia which had territorial aims on Assab and Italy's official annexation of Ethiopian-claimed Massawa in 1888 increased tensions further.

In 1889, Ethiopia's Emperor Yohannes IV
Yohannes IV of Ethiopia
Yohannes IV , born Lij Kassay Mercha Ge'ez, was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1872 until his death.-Early life:...

 died in battle in Sudan, Menelik II replaced Yohannes as Emperor. Menelik believed he could negotiate with Italy to avoid war and in error allowed Italy's claim to Massawa. Menelik made another serious blunder when he signed an agreement which declared that Ethiopia would work alongside the King of Italy in its dealings with foreign powers, which the Italians interpreted to declare that Ethiopia had in effect made itself a protectorate of Italy. Menelik opposed the Italian interpretation and the differences between the two states grew.

In October 1889, Menelik met with a Russian officer who was sent to discuss merging the Russian and Abyssinian orthodox churches, but Menelik was more concerned over Italy's massing army in Eritrea. The meeting was used by Menelik to show unity between Ethiopia and Russia against Italian interests in the area.

Russia's own interests in East Africa led Russia's government to sent large amounts of modern weaponry to the Ethiopians to hold back an Italian invasion. In response, Britain decided to back the Italians to challenge Russian influence in Africa and declared that all of Ethiopia was within the sphere of Italian interest. On the verge of war, Italian militarism and nationalism reached a peak, with Italians flocking to the Italian army, hoping to take part in the upcoming war.

In 1895, Ethiopia abandoned its agreement to follow Italian foreign policy and Italy used the renunciation as a reason to invade Ethiopia. The Italian army failed on the battlefield of Adowa
Battle of Adowa
The Battle of Adwa was fought on 1 March 1896 between Ethiopia and Italy near the town of Adwa, Ethiopia, in Tigray...

, despite having superior weaponry, the sheer large numbers of the Ethiopian warriors forced Italy to eventually retreat into Eritrea.

The failed Ethiopian campaign was an international embarrassment to Italy, whose citizens had grown used to earlier colonial victories at Assab and Massawa. Ethiopia would remain independent from Italy and other colonial powers until it was occupied in 1936 but then subsequently liberated four years later in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Giovanni Giolitti

In 1892, Giovanni Giolitti
Giovanni Giolitti
Giovanni Giolitti was an Italian statesman. He was the 19th, 25th, 29th, 32nd and 37th Prime Minister of Italy between 1892 and 1921. A left-wing liberal, Giolitti's periods in office were notable for the passage of a wide range of progressive social reforms which improved the living standards of...

 became Prime Minister of Italy for his first term. Though his first government quickly collapsed a year later, Giolitti returned in 1903 to lead Italy's government during a fragmented reign that lasted until 1914. Giolitti had spent his earlier life as a civil servant, and then took positions within the cabinets of Crispi. Giolitti was the first long-term Italian Prime Minister in many years and was so because he mastered the political concept of trasformismo by manipulating, coercing and bribing officials to his side. In elections during Giolitti's government, voting fraud was common, and Giolitti helped improve voting only in well-off, more supportive areas, while attempting to isolate and intimidate poor areas where opposition was strong.

On May 5, 1898, workers in Milan organized a strike to demonstrate against the government of Antonio Starrabba di Rudinì, holding it responsible for the general increase of prices and for the famine that was affecting the country. In response infantry, cavalry and artillery were brought into the city and General Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris
Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris
Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris was an Italian general, especially remembered for his brutal repression of riots in Milan in 1898, known as the Bava-Beccaris massacre.-Biography:...

 ordered his troops to fire on demonstrators
Bava-Beccaris massacre
The Bava Beccaris massacre, named after the Italian General Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris, refers to the repression of widespread riots in Milan in May 1898....

. According to the government, there were 118 dead and 450 wounded. King Umberto I praised the General and awarded him the medal of Grande Ufficiale dell'Ordine Militare dei Savoia. The decoration exacerbated the Italian population's indignation. On the other hand, Antonio di Rudinì was forced to resign in July 1898.

On 29 July 1900, at Monza
Monza is a city and comune on the river Lambro, a tributary of the Po, in the Lombardy region of Italy some 15 km north-northeast of Milan. It is the capital of the Province of Monza and Brianza. It is best known for its Grand Prix motor racing circuit, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.On June...

, Umberto I was assassinated by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci
Gaetano Bresci
Gaetano Bresci was an Italian American anarchist who assassinated King Umberto I of Italy. Bresci was the first European regicide not to be executed, as capital punishment in Italy had been abolished since 1889.-Militancy:...

 who claimed he had come directly from America to avenge the victims of the repression, and the offense given by the decoration awarded to General Bava Beccaris.

Southern Italy was in terrible shape prior to and during Giolitti's tenure as Prime Minister. Four-fifths of southern Italians were illiterate and the dire situation there ranged from problems of large numbers of absentee landlords to rebellion and even starvation. Corruption was such a large problem that Giolitti himself admitted that there were places "where the law does not operate at all".

Natural disasters like earthquakes and landslides were a common source of destruction in southern Italy, often killing hundreds of people in each disaster, and southern Italy's poverty made repair work very difficult to do. Giolitti's small response to the major earthquake in Messina in 1908 was blamed for the high number of deaths which numbered at 50,000 people. The Messina earthquake infuriated southern Italians who claimed that Giolitti favoured the rich north over them.

One study released in 1910 examined tax rates in north, central and southern Italy indicated that northern Italy with 48% of the nation's wealth paid 40% of the nation's taxes, while the south with 27% of the nation's wealth paid 32% of the nation's taxes.

During Giolitti's three year absence, the Italian liberal establishment collapsed with the rise of Italian nationalism
Italian nationalism
Italian nationalism refers to the nationalism of Italians or of Italian culture. It claims that Italians are the ethnic, cultural, and linguistic descendants of the ancient Romans who inhabited the Italian Peninsula for centuries. The origins of Italian nationalism have been traced to the...

. The nationalists were becoming a popular movement in Italy with popular leadership figures such as Enrico Corradini
Enrico Corradini
Enrico Corradini was an Italian novelist, essayist, journalist and nationalist political figure.-Biography:Corradini was born near Montelupo Fiorentino, Tuscany....

 and the revolutionary Gabriele D'Annunzio
Gabriele D'Annunzio
Gabriele D'Annunzio or d'Annunzio was an Italian poet, journalist, novelist, and dramatist...

. Nationalists began demanding the return of Italian-populated territories in Austria, demanded Croatian-populated Dalmatia, spoke of the need for Italy to expand territorially into Africa, particularly Libya. Giolitti negotiated with the nationalists demands and began planning an invasion of Ottoman Turkish-held Libya.

In 1911, Giolitti's government agreed to sending forces to occupy Libya. Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 which held Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 as a colony. The war ended only a year later, but the occupation resulted in acts of extreme discrimination towards Libyans such as the forced deportation of Libyans to the Tremiti Islands
Tremiti Islands
The Isole Tremiti are an archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, north of the Gargano Peninsula. They constitute a comune of Italy's Province of Foggia and form part of the Gargano national park...

 in October 1911 and by 1912, a third of these Libyan refugees had died due to lack of food supplies and shelter from the Italian occupation forces. Italian control of the area was weak, leading to twenty years of conflict with the Senussi
The Senussi or Sanussi refers to a Muslim political-religious order in Libya and the Sudan region founded in Mecca in 1837 by the Grand Senussi, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi. Senussi was concerned with both the decline of Islamic thought and spirituality and the weakening of Muslim political...

 religious order which was the main political and religious authority in the Libyan hinterlands. The invasion of Libya did mark a turn in direction for the opposition to the Italian government, revolutionaries became divided, some adopting nationalist lines, while others retaining socialist lines. The annexation of Libya caused nationalists to advocate Italy's domination of the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 by occupying Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 as well as the Adriatic coastal region of Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....


While the success of the Libyan War improved the status of the nationalists, it did not help Giolitti's administration as a whole. The war radicalized the Italian Socialist Party with anti-war revolutionaries led by future-Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 calling for violence to bring down the government. Giolitti could no longer rely on the dwindling reformist socialist elements and was forced to concede even further to the right, Giolitti dropped all anticlericalism and reached out to clericals which alienated his moderate liberal base leaving him with an unsteady coalition which collapsed in 1914. By the end of his tenure, Italians detested him and the liberal establishment for the fraudulent elections, the divided society, and the failure and corruption of trasformiso organized governments. Giolitti would return as Prime Minister only briefly in 1920, but the era of liberalism was effectively over in Italy.

Italian colonial ventures began with the acquisition of the ports of Asseb in 1869 and Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

 in 1885 in what is now Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

. These areas were claimed by Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 at the time, and when Ethiopia went into turmoil at the death of Emperor Yohannes IV
Yohannes IV of Ethiopia
Yohannes IV , born Lij Kassay Mercha Ge'ez, was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1872 until his death.-Early life:...

 Italy moved into the northern Ethiopian highlands. However, further expansion was checked by a revival of Ethiopian power under Emperor Menelik II which led to the defeat of Italian forces at the battle of Adua. However, Italy was still able to secure the northern highlands in the Treaty of Wuchale
Treaty of Wuchale
Treaty of Wuchale was a treaty signed by King Menelik II of Shewa, later the Emperor of Ethiopia with Count Pietro Antonelli of Italy in the town of Wuchale, Ethiopia, on 2 May 1889...

, ending its conflict with Ethiopia until 1935.

Around the same time Italy began to colonize Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

. It avoided the other powers carving out domains in that area but gradually gained the southern Somali coast beginning with the Sultanate of Hobyo
Hobyo is an ancient harbor city in the Mudug region of Somalia. Hobyo literally means "here, water", and the plentiful fresh water to be had from the wells in and around the town has been the driving force behind Hobyo's ancient status as a favorite port-of-call for sailors.-Establishment:Hobyo's...

 and the Sultanate of Majeerteen
The Majeerteen is a Somali clan. Its members form a part of the Harti confederation of Darod sub-clans, and primarily inhabit the Puntland region in northeastern Somalia....

 in 1888 and continuing with gradual acquisitions until 1925 when Chisimayu Region belonging to the British protectorate of Zanzibar was given to Italy.

Until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 with a parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

, mostly elected with universal suffrage (in 1913, the first universal male suffrage election was held). The so called Statuto Albertino
Statuto Albertino
The Statuto Albertino or Albertine Statute was the constitution that King Charles Albert conceded to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in Italy on 4 March 1848...

, which Carlo Alberto
Charles Albert of Sardinia
Charles Albert was the King of Piedmont-Sardinia from 1831 to 1849. He succeeded his distant cousin Charles Felix, and his name is bound with the first Italian statute and the First War of Independence...

 conceded in 1848 remained unchanged, even if the kings usually abstained from abusing their extremely large powers (for example, senators were not elected but chosen by the king).

The First World War (1914-1918)

At the beginning of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Italy remained neutral, claiming that the Triple Alliance
Triple Alliance (1882)
The Triple Alliance was the military alliance between Germany, Austria–Hungary, and Italy, , that lasted from 1882 until the start of World War I in 1914...

 had only defensive purposes, and the war was started by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, both the central empires and the Triple Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

 tried to attract Italy on their side, and in April 1915 the Italian government agreed (London Pact
London Pact
London Pact , or more correctly, the Treaty of London, 1915, was a secret pact between Italy and Triple Entente, signed in London on 26 April 1915 by the Kingdom of Italy, Great Britain, France and Russia....

) to declare war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire in exchange for several territories (Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Province of Trieste
Province of Trieste
The Province of Trieste is a province in the autonomous Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Trieste.It has an area of 212 km², and a total population of 236,520...

, Istria
Istria , formerly Histria , is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The peninsula is located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Bay of Kvarner...

, Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

). In October 1917, the Austrians, having received German reinforcements, broke the Italian lines at Caporetto
Battle of Caporetto
The Battle of Caporetto , took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid , on the Austro-Italian front of World War I...

, but the Italians (helped by their allies) stopped their advance on the river Piave
Battle of the Piave River
The Battle of the Piave River , known in Italy as Battaglia del Solstizio , Battaglia di Mezzo Giugno , or Seconda Battaglia del Piave , was a decisive victory for the Italian Army during World War...

, not far from Venice. After another year of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, and a successful Italian offensive in autumn 1918, the exhausted Austro-Hungarian Empire which was falling apart back home started to negotiate during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Battle of Vittorio Veneto
The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought between 24 October and 3 November 1918, near Vittorio Veneto, during the Italian Campaign of World War I...

. The Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti was signed on November 3, 1918, but came in effect only a day later. As Austro-Hungarian troops had been prematurely told to stop fighting on the 3rd, the Italians could occupy Tyrol
County of Tyrol
The County of Tyrol, Princely County from 1504, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1814 a province of the Austrian Empire and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary...

 and capture over 300,000 Austro-Hungarians with hardly any resistance. The Treaty of Saint-Germain
Treaty of Saint-Germain
The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, was signed on 10 September 1919 by the victorious Allies of World War I on the one hand and by the new Republic of Austria on the other...

 confirmed most of the London Pact
London Pact
London Pact , or more correctly, the Treaty of London, 1915, was a secret pact between Italy and Triple Entente, signed in London on 26 April 1915 by the Kingdom of Italy, Great Britain, France and Russia....


The Fascist regime (1922-1943)

Under the postwar settlement, Italy received most of the territories promised in the 1915 agreement, except for Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

, which was mostly given to the newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state stretching from the Western Balkans to Central Europe which existed during the often-tumultuous interwar era of 1918–1941...

. Many Italian workers joined lengthy strikes to demand more rights and better working conditions. Some, inspired by the Russian Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

, began taking over their factories, mills, farms and workplaces. The liberal establishment, fearing a socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 revolution, started to endorse the small National Fascist Party
National Fascist Party
The National Fascist Party was an Italian political party, created by Benito Mussolini as the political expression of fascism...

, led by Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

, whose violent reaction to the strikes (by means of the "Blackshirts
The Blackshirts were Fascist paramilitary groups in Italy during the period immediately following World War I and until the end of World War II...

" party militia) was often compared to the relatively moderate reactions of the government. After several years of struggle, in October 1922 the fascists attempted a coup (the "Marcia su Roma", i.e. March on Rome
March on Rome
The March on Rome was a march by which Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's National Fascist Party came to power in the Kingdom of Italy...

); the fascist forces were largely inferior, but the king ordered the army not to intervene, formed an alliance with Mussolini, and convinced the liberal party to endorse a fascist-led government. Over the next few years, Mussolini (who became known as "Il Duce", the leader) eliminated all political parties (including the liberals) and curtailed personal liberties under the pretext of preventing revolution. The nation state could only be formed by means of revolt.

In 1929 Mussolini signed the Lateran Pacts with the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 (with which Italy had been in conflict since the annexation of Rome in 1870), leading to the formation of the tiny independent state of Vatican City
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

. He was initially on friendly terms with France and Britain, but the situation changed in 1935-36, when Italy invaded Ethiopian Empire
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 despite their opposition (Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

); because of this and of the ideological affinities with the Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 party led by Hitler. It was a main part of the Axis Powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 with allies being Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 as the Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...


Italian occupation of Albania (April 1939)

As Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 annexed Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and moved against Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, Italy saw itself becoming a second-rate member of the Axis. The imminent birth of an Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

n royal child meanwhile threatened to give King Zog a lasting dynasty. After Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939) without notifying Mussolini in advance, the Italian dictator decided to proceed with his own annexation of Albania. Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III criticized the plan to take Albania as an unnecessary risk. On April 7, 1939 Italy invaded Albania
Italian invasion of Albania
The Italian invasion of Albania was a brief military campaign by the Kingdom of Italy against the Albanian Kingdom. The conflict was a result of the imperialist policies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini...

, in a short campaign the country was occupied and joined Italy in personal union.

Italy strengthened its ties with Germany on May 22, 1939 when both nations signed the Pact of Steel
Pact of Steel
The Pact of Steel , known formally as the Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy, was an agreement between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany signed on May 22, 1939, by the foreign ministers of each country and witnessed by Count Galeazzo Ciano for Italy and Joachim von Ribbentrop...

. This document solidified the alliance between the two regimes.

Italy and the Second World War (1940-1945)

At the beginning of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Italy remained neutral (with the consent of Hitler), but it declared war on France and Britain on June 10, 1940, when the French defeat was apparent. Mussolini believed that Britain would beg for peace, and wanted "some casualties in order to get a seat at the peace table", but that proved a huge miscalculation. With the exception of the navy, the Italian armed forces were a major disappointment for Mussolini and Hitler, and German help was constantly needed in Greece and North Africa.

After the German army defeated Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, a jealous Mussolini decided to use Albania as a springboard to invade Greece. The Italians launched their attack
Greco-Italian War
The Greco-Italian War was a conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II...

 on October 28, 1940, and at a meeting of the two fascist dictators in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Mussolini stunned Hitler with his announcement of the Italian invasion. Mussolini counted on a quick victory, but the Greek army halted the Italian one in its tracks and soon advanced into Albania. The Greeks took Korçë
Korçë is a city in southeastern Albania and the capital of the Korçë District. It has a population of around 105,000 people , making it the sixth largest city in Albania...

 and Gjirokastër
Gjirokastër is a city in southern Albania with a population of 43,000. Lying in the historical region of Epirus, it is the capital of both the Gjirokastër District and the larger Gjirokastër County...

 and threatened to drive the Italians from the port city of Vlorë
Vlorë is one of the biggest towns and the second largest port city of Albania, after Durrës, with a population of about 94,000 . It is the city where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on November 28, 1912...


Albanian fear of renewed Greek designs on their country prevented effective co-operation with the Greek forces, and Mussolini's forces soon established a stable front in central Albania. Fearful that the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 might become the Achilles heel
Achilles Heel
Achilles Heel may refer to:* Achilles' heel, a metaphor for a fatal weakness in spite of overall strength* Achilles Heel , music by Pedro the Lion* Achilles Heel , off Antarctica...

 of her domination of Europe, on April 6, 1941, Germany intervened to crush both Greece and Yugoslavia, and a month later the Axis added Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

 to Italian-ruled Albania. Thus Albanian nationalists ironically witnessed the realization of their dreams of uniting most of the Albanian-populated lands during the Axis occupation of their country.

After the invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 failed (1941–42), and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 entered the war (December 1941), the situation for the Axis started to deteriorate. In May 1943 the Anglo-Americans completely defeated the Italians and the Germans in North Africa, and in July they landed in Sicily. King Victor Emmanuel III reacted by arresting Mussolini and appointing the army chief of staff, Marshal Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio, 1st Duke of Addis Abeba, 1st Marquess of Sabotino was an Italian soldier and politician...

, as Prime Minister.

The new government officially continued the war against the Allies, but started secret negotiations with them. Hitler did not trust Badoglio, and moved a large German force into Italy, on the pretext of fighting the Allied invasion. On September 8, 1943 the Badoglio government announced an armistice with the Allies, but did not declare war on Germany, leaving the army without instructions. Badoglio and the royal family fled to the Allied-controlled regions. In the ensuing confusion, most of the Italian army scattered (with some notable exceptions with the Decima MAS in La Spezia, around Rome and in places such as the Greek island of Cefalonia), and the Germans quickly occupied all of central and northern Italy (the south was already controlled by the Allies). The Germans also liberated Mussolini, who then formed the fascist Italian Social Republic
Italian Social Republic
The Italian Social Republic was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by the "Duce of the Nation" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs" Benito Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht to maintain control...

, in the German-controlled areas.

While the Allied troops slowly pushed the German resistance to the north (Rome was finally liberated in June 1944, (see Battle of Monte Cassino
Battle of Monte Cassino
The Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four battles during World War II, fought by the Allies against Germans and Italians with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome.In the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans...

), Milan in April 1945) the monarchic government finally declared war on Germany, and an anti-fascist popular resistance movement
Italian resistance movement
The Italian resistance is the umbrella term for the various partisan forces formed by pro-Allied Italians during World War II...

grew, harassing German forces before the Anglo-American forces drove them out in April 1945.
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