Visconti-Venosta, Emilio

(1829–1914)
   One of liberal Italy’s most adept diplomats and statesmen, Emilio Visconti-Venosta was the scion of a prominent Milanese family. In his youth, he was a follower of Giuseppe Mazzini, but by 1861, when he entered Parliament, he had become fully reconciled to constitutional liberalism. Visconti-Venosta was foreign minister almost continuously from 1863 to 1876; during this period, he promoted the policy of close relations with Germany that enabled Italy to complete the process of unification begun in 1860–1861 and played a major role in resolving the crisis of relations with the Vatican after the occupation of Rome in 1870 by promoting the so-called guarantee laws. The rise of Agostino Depretis and Francesco Crispi signaled the end of his career for 20 years. Finally, in 1896, after the Italian defeat at the battle of Adowa brought a rude awakening from Crispi’s imperialistic dreams, Antonio Starabba Di Rudini called Visconti-Venosta back to office. The veteran diplomat subtly steered Italy away from its alliance with Austria and Germany, improving relations with France and maintaining good relations with Great Britain even as Germany began to challenge British dominance. Unlike Crispi, Visconti-Venosta was a realist who was aware that diplomacy, not force of arms, was the key to a successful foreign policy for Italy. He relinquished his office in 1901, but played an important role as mediator between France and Germany at the Algeciras Conference in 1906. He died in Rome in 1914.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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