- Giolitti, Giovanni
- (1842–1928)Italian Premier in 1892–1893 and for most of the period from 1903 to 1915. At the beginning of the twentieth century, two factions dominated Italian politics. The first represented nondemocratic and authoritarian political and economic elites. The second was a parliamentary alliance of Mazzinians, Radicals, and independent Socialists who advocated more democratic government. In 1900, this “extreme left” defeated an attempt by the right to restrict constitutional law, and thereby ushered in a democratic government under Giuseppe Zanardelli, a longtime reformer. When health issues forced Zanardelli to retire, Giuseppe Giolitti returned to power. Giolitti was from Piedmont and entered public life shortly after national unifi-cation, holding various civil service positions. He believed that southern peasants and northern industrial workers could be entrusted with political choice but realized that both authoritarian conservatives and nondemocratic radicals threatened democratic government. In 1899, Giolitti announced a sweeping program of reforms, including respect for civil rights, administrative reorganization, a progressive tax, and free trade. To ensure that his reforms were passed, Giolitti practiced transforismo, that is, bringing men into government regardless of political ideology and ensuring their loyalty through political patronage. He played the various parliamentary factions against each other to divide opposition, undermining the Socialists, for example, by supporting Catholic and Nationalist parliamentarians. Giolotti was responsible for the annexation of Tripoli and led a successful imperialist war against Turkey in 1911–1912 in which Italy gained Libya, Rhodes, and Dodecanese, but his government was rampant with corruption and the costs of war high. When he pushed through universal male suffrage and social welfare programs, moreover, he alienated industrialists and Catholics, split the Socialist Party, thereby crippling it as a political force, and had few political allies left. Giolotti supported the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary but sought to keep Italy neutral at the outbreak of World War I.See also <
>, < >FURTHER READINGS:Coppa, Frank J. “Economic and Ethical Liberalism in Conflict: The Extraordinary Liberalism of Giovanni Giolotti.” Journal of Modern History, 42 , 2, 1970: 191–215;Sprigge, Cecil. The Development of Modern Italy. New York: Fertig, 1969.FREDERICK H. DOTOLO
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.