Giolitti, Giovanni

(1842–1928)
   Giolitti’s legacy is much contested, but no one doubts that this statesman from Mondovi in Piedmont made a critical contribution to Italian history. Giolitti entered politics in 1882 after a brilliant career in the finance ministry. In 1889 he was entrusted with the post of treasury minister by Francesco Crispi, and in 1892 he briefly held the office of prime minister. His appointment was controversial since he was the first politician to reach the highest office who had played no role in the Risorgimento. His first premiership, however, was ended by the Banca Romana scandal, which was manipulated by his political rivals to make his position untenable. Giolitti returned to politics in 1897, but only in 1901 did he return to ministerial office. During his tenure as minister of the interior, Giolitti was severely criticized by industrialists and landowners for his lax attitude toward trade unions. Giolitti believed that the state should take no side in the class conflict and strongly defended the right to strike. He once told a landowner who complained in the Senate of having to plough his own fields that he should continue—for by so doing, he would realize how hard the peasants worked and would pay them more. Only a more equal distribution of income, Giolitti believed, would bring an end to the civil strife that had been plaguing Italy since the mid-1890s. Giolitti succeeded Giuseppe Zanardelli as prime minister in 1903; for most of the next 20 years, he dominated Italian political life. Giolitti added to the liberal reforms initiated by Zanardelli. His several prewar administrations opened a dialogue with the labor movement, nationalized the railways in 1909, and introduced universal male suffrage with the electoral reform of 1912. Italy meanwhile joined the race of the European nations for “a place in the sun” by waging war with Turkey in 1911–1912 and seizing Libya as a colony. Yet these achievements are overshadowed by what was not done. Giolitti did not campaign for the reform of the social injustices that were pushing the peasants and workers toward revolutionary doctrines and shrank from using the state to enforce the privileges of the wealthy. This position was an understandable one, but one that ultimately appeared as weakness. Giolitti was a master of the dark art of trasformismo. The Giolittian system of politics was a skillful balancing act that required him to incorporate radicals, republicans, moderate socialists, and finally Catholics into his governing coalition. His acceptance of the Gentiloni pact was a step too far for the radicals, however, and Giolitti was forced to resign on the eve of war. Giolitti opposed Italian entry into World War I and was widely suspected of working with the Austrians and Germans to prevent Italy’s renunciation of the neutrality it adopted in August 1914. His opposition to the war derived from his sensitivity to Italy’s military and economic weaknesses; he truly believed that the war might end with the Germans marching into Milan. So far as Giolitti was concerned, the Austrians and Germans had offered parecchio (a great amount) to ensure Italy’s neutrality, and he could not see the point of spilling blood to obtain more. This calculating mentality was typical of Giolitti and flew in the face of the widely prevalent irrationalism and its consequent exaltation of action over reflection, an attitude soon elevated to dogma in the Fascist regime.
   Giolitti returned to power only in 1920–1921, just as disillusionment with the peace settlement and mounting industrial unrest were bringing the fundamental problems of liberal Italy to the crisis point. Bravely, Giolitti put an end to the occupation of Fiume by the band of adventurers led by Gabriele D’Annunzio, but it can be argued that he was far too tolerant of Fascism. Giolitti seemingly believed that Benito Mussolini could be tamed and would both restore order and initiate social reforms. Events gradually robbed him of this illusion and convinced him to pass to the opposition. Until his death in Turin in 1928, Giolitti was an outspoken critic of the new regime.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Giolitti, Giovanni — born Oct. 22, 1842, Mondovì, Piedmont, Kingdom of Sardinia died July 17, 1928, Cavour, Italy Italian politician and prime minister five times between 1892 and 1921. He served in parliament (1882–1928). As a political leader, he used the technique …   Universalium

  • 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… …   Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914

  • Giolitti, Giovanni — ► (1842 1928) Estadista y jurisconsulto italiano. Redujo el índice de desempleo y fomentó la ley de sufragio universal. * * * (22 oct. 1842, Mondovi, Piamonte, Reino de Cerdeña–17 jul. 1928, Cavour, Italia). Político italiano que fue primer… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Giolitti — Giolitti, Giovanni …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Giovanni Giolitti — (* 27. Oktober 1842 in Mondovì/Piemont; † 17. Juli 1928 in Cavour/Piemont) war ein italienischer Politiker und mehrfacher Ministerpräsident. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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