EDEXCEL Notes on The collapse of Liberal Italy and Rise of Fascism 1896-1943

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A: Weaknesses of the political system and attempts to stabilise it from 1903
under Giolitti social discontent and political disorder, 18961912.
Why was Italy politically unstable in the late nineteenth century?
Political life was monopolised by a small social élite elected by a small percentage of the
population. Before 1912, only 2 million men had the right to vote.
In Parliament, political parties were weak and ineffective. Large political coalitions were created ­
Giovanni Giolitti was the politician most closely associated with trasformismo. Between 1892 and
1922, he was Prime Minister on five occasions.
Under his influence, the Liberals did not develop as a structured party. They were, instead, a series
of informal personal groupings with no formal links to political constituencies.
The King offered some stability but some radicals wanted reform of the monarchy and lower taxes.
A Republican Party was created in 1895 but could not work with the radicals in Parliament.
Italy suffered from limited industrial development and generally inefficient farming. A fundamental
economic weakness was the NorthSouth divide.
In the North, revolutionary farming changes between 1890 and 1910 led to the introduction of new
crops like sugar beet and more diverse products such as grapes, rice, olives and maize.
In the South, farming changed little. Primitive peasant farming supported a social and political
system dominated by a few landowning families.
In the twenty years before 1914, Italy witnessed some industrial development but compared with
other European nations, such development was limited. Hydroelectric power in the North led to
the growth of some steel production but most had to be imported.
State subsidies were introduced for some industries such as shipbuilding whilst others were
protected by high tariffs.
In 1905, the railway system was nationalised. As industry developed in the North, an urban
working class began to emerge.
Political thinkers such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Filippo Marinetti and Benedetto Croce attacked
the corruption and drift of the Liberal Society and began to suggest cleaner, simpler and more
extreme models of political action.

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Why did stronger parties emerge in 19001914?
The Socialist Party (PSI), founded in Genoa in 1892, was based in the northern industrial towns.
By 1900, it had 32 seats in The Chamber of Deputies and published its own daily newspaper,
Avanti. But Giolitti found it difficult to include Socialist deputies in any coalition.
The Papacy, fearing the growth of socialism, relaxed its prohibition on Catholic involvement in
politics. In 1909, 17 Catholic deputies were elected to the Chamber.…read more

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B: The impact of the First World War on Italy and its impact on the Liberal
State 191823: Mussolini and the message and appeal of Fascism, 191922.
In the years before World War One, Italy sided with Germany and AustriaHungary in the Triple
But, on 26th April 1915, she entered the war on the side of the Triple Entente ­ Britain, France and
To do this, Italy signed the secret Treaty of London.…read more

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The Fiume Crisis
The seizure of Fiume by Gabriele D'Annunzio in September 1919 attracted great public support.
D'Annunzio and 2000 followers seized the area and occupied it for fifteen months. Thousands of
supporters rushed to join him ­ throughout the occupation, D'Annunzio was constantly in the public
The Fiume Crisis was the responsibility of Francesco Nitti who was Prime Minister of three
separate governments from June 1919 to June 1920.…read more

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The rapid demobilisation of 5 million soldiers resulted in an unemployment figure of 2 millions.
Postwar inflation hit the economy ­ in 1919, the lira lost half its value.
These economic difficulties led to widespread social dislocation. By 1920, 3½ million workers
were in trade unions ­ 2 million in the increasingly socialist General Confederation of Labour.
In April 1920, there were localised general strikes in the North followed in June by an army mutiny
in Ancona.…read more

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Marinetti and Vecchi led an attack on the socialist newspaper `Avanti'. Mussolini took no part but
organised a private army of several hundred for whom he provided arms ­ the Arditi.
The early Fascist movement was based in the cities and was supported by exservicemen and
students. It spread from Milan to other northern industrial cities but was only one of several
rightwing groups attacking Giolitti and the coalition governments.
Fascism seemed to offer simple solutions to the complex social and economic problems facing
Italy.…read more

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The inclusion of Fascist candidates in Giolitti's government list in 1921 made Mussolini and the
party respectable.
In October 1921, the Fascist Party was established on a national basis (Partito Nazionale Fascista)
­ by mid1922 it had 300,000 members.
It stressed the importance of patriotism in contrast to the failures of the liberals. It was vigorously
antisocialist. It also emphasised the importance of the leadership of Mussolini, beginning the cult of
the Duce.
The March on Rome, October 1922.…read more

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The political weaknesses of the Liberal State were worsened by the extension of the franchise and
the growth of new parties. The trasformismo system of coalition politics could not cope with these
World War One created serious divisions within Italian society between those who supported
Italian involvement and those who opposed it.
World War One had disastrous social and economic consequences for Italy ­ e.g. unemployment
and inflation.
After World War One, extremist political parties and violence grew.…read more

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C: Power and control in Fascist Italy: propaganda terror the PNF (Partita
Nazionale Fascista the relationship of the regime with the Church and the
old elites
Which social groups supported Mussolini?
When Mussolini and the fascists came to power in 1922, they enjoyed considerable support from
across the political spectrum.
Mussolini appeared to offer a new beginning after the terrible events of World War 1 and its
aftermath.…read more


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