Introduction to Fascist Italy



  • Italy became a united country in 1870
  • The Catholic church refused to acknowledge the state and forbade Catholics from playing a part in Italian politics. As most Italians were practicing Catholics this was a serious issue. 
  • The north and south of Italy were divided economically and culturally. 
  • The south was totally dependent on agriculture while industrial growth occurred in the North.
  • There was much social unrest throughout the 1890s due to poverty. 40 thousand troops had to be used to restore order in Sicily in 1893 and in 1898 nearly 100 people died in violent outbreaks in Milan alone
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Post-War Instability

  • From 1919 to 1922, the country suffered from political instability and growing and growing social and economic unrest.
  • In this period, the fascist movement emerged and was established a small parliamentary presence.
  • It soon dropped its socialist ideas and became a more right wing movement. 
  • The support from the Fascists came from the disillusion created by the war and a joint fear of communism.
  • 1922 - Mussolini became prime minister of a coalition government and by 1925 he imposed himself as a dictator. 
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Key Terms

Piedmont - An Italian state. In the 1850s, Piedmont had expanded its economy to the point that it was the wealthiest state in Italy. Its prime minister Count Camillo Cavour, had attracted French support to help remove Austria from Lombardy. This encouraged the other states to vote for political union. By 1861, the union had expanded to include the south. Italy was complete with the inclusion of Venice in 1866 and Rome in 1870.

Adowa, 1896 - This was a massive humiliation. In 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia partly to avenge the humiliation by an inferior Ethiopian force.

Irredenta lands - Lands that were under foreign rule but were seen as Italy's'. Including; Trentino, Trieste, Istria, South Tyrol, Fiume and North Dalmatia. All bar the last two were regained by Italy in 1919 under the terms of Versailles. To nationalists, the failure to get Fiume and North Dalmatia made the treaty of Versailles a mutilated victory.

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Foreign Policy

  • Italy was one of the lesser European Powers
  • Settlements in Eritrea and Somaliland in north-east Africa 
  • 1896 defeat at Adowa when attempting to expand their control to Abyssinia
  • 1912 - Gained Libya 
  • 1882 - Joined the triple alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany. 
  • The Italians were hoping that they would be able to recover the irredenta lands. Where thousands of Italians were living under Swiss, Austrian and French rule.
  • Despite its place in the Triple Alliance Italy remained neutral when the first world war broke out in 1914 
  • In 1915 with the hope of gaining territory from Austria Italy entered the war on the side of the triple Entente
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The collapse of Fascism

  • WW2 broke out in 1939 - Italy joined on the German side in 1940
  • The Italian military proved ineffective as the war was much longer than initially planned.
  • By 1943, Italy was invaded and Mussolini was deposed. 
  • 1945 - Mussolini was captured and killed by Italian anti-fascist forces as he tried to escape into Switzerland. 
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The Fascist State

  • Mussolini was referred to as the Duce
  • After 1925, the Duce dominated the political decision-making and also became the object of a vast propaganda campaign which presented him to the Italian people as an infallible leader.
  • 1930s Mussolini led Italy to create an empire in Africa
  • Then a military alliance with Germany after Hitler seized power in 1933
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