Milan is an ancient city. It has been an important municipal center since Roman times and, in AD 285, Mediolanum, as the Romans called it, became the capital city of the western half of the Roman Empire. The city’s modern history began in 1737, after the War of the Spanish Succession, when the peace of Utrecht assigned Milan to Austria. In the next century, under Napoleon, Milan was to enjoy relative freedom, becoming the capital of the Republic of Italy in 1802, then of the Kingdom of Italy in 1805. The Milanese, therefore, were disgruntled by the decision of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to restore Austrian rule. Milan was the center of the revolutions of 1848 in northern Italy. It was liberated by the Piedmontese army in 1859. In the late 19th century Milan was the stronghold of Italian socialism and trade unionism. Prior to the rise to power of Fascism in 1922, the city was the setting for fierce street battles between the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and Benito Mussolini’s squads. In 1945, the city’s working class liberated the city without waiting for Allied forces. Since 1945, Milan has become Italy’s premier commercial, financial, and manufacturing center. More than four million people live in the city of Milan and its hinterland, and measured by the proportion of its citizens who work in manufacturing, Milan has become one of the most highly industrialized areas in the world. The high levels of industry have brought both an enviably high standard of living—the per capita value of the city’s product is approximately C–– 30,000—and a less enviable reputation for pollution, chaotic traffic, and urban sprawl. Political corruption has also marred the city’s image. In 1992–1993, the city was the center of the Mani pulite investigations into political wrongdoing that eventually led to the disgrace of the PSI leader (and Milanese political boss) Bettino Craxi.
   See also Lega Nord (LN); Risorgimento.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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