Italy AS Revision

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  • Created on: 30-11-13 11:00

What was Italys state by 1900?

Italy was a relatively new country with little sense of national direction. Italy had for centuries been divided up into separate states such as the Papal State, Venice, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies etc. But from 1861 on, these states all came together with one king as their leader. In 1871, Rome was made the capital of Italy. So by 1900, Italy was barely 30 years old as a nation.

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Explain factors associated with the North/South?

Parts of the north had a history of wealth – especially Venice and the Papal State. The north became Europe’s main producer of silk – taking advantage of the fertile soil found there which was needed to grow mulberry bushes on which silkworms fed.

However, the region south of Rome (the kingdom of the Two Sicilies) had been poor throughout its history. The south was traditionally a farming community but many areas had lapsed into banditry and any modernisation in farming techniques experienced in the north and other areas of Western Europe had not reached the south. The growth of education was poor and many children went to work on the land, or in the case of Sicily, in the sulphur mines. Between 1881 and 1884, 3640 miners in Sicily were tested for their fitness to join the army – only 200 passed the test. Many of them had tuberculosis.

Many had hoped that unification would end the poverty experienced in many parts of Italy. The north did make some advances but the south did not. Both north and south seemed to live different existences. In the north, Fiat opened its first factory in Turin in 1899. Not everyone in the north shared in this economic expansion and many northern Italians remained poor.

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How were the Churches reacting to the unification?

There was minimal respect for the government in Rome. To add to the woes of the government, the Roman Catholic Church had ordered Italians not to vote for the government as it had lost a lot of land during he process of unification. The power of the pope in Italy at that time was huge. Though there would have been a few who did not listen to what the pope said, many would have done. The lack of support from the church was a major weakness for the government in Rome.

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How did the people react to the unification?

With no obvious chance of progress, many Italians simply left the country. America was the most popular choice for those who wished to emigrate. Between 1876 and 1926, 9 million Italians emigrated there. A further 7.5 million emigrated to other parts of Europe.

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What problems did Italy face c.1918?






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Triple Alliance-Triple Entente?

In the years that led up to World War One, Italy had sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance. In theory, Italy should have joined in the sides of these two nations when war broke out in August 1914. She did not. Italy's experience in World War One was disastrous and ended with the insult of her 'reward' at the Versailles Settlement in 1919.

What Italy did was wait and see how the war progressed. On April 26th 1915, she came into the war on the side of the Triple Entente – Britain, France and Russia. (World War One:  28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918).                 

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What happened with Mussolini and his views on war?

Many socialists had supported the government ‘s stand in keeping Italy out of the war in 1914. The nationalists, however, were horrified. To start with, Mussolini was against the war:

"Down with the war. Down with arms and up with humanity." (July 1914)

However, by October 1914, he had changed his mind and referred to the war as "a great drama".

"Do you want to be spectators in this great drama? Or do you want to be its fighters?"

Mussolini was kicked out of the Socialist Party in Italy but many young socialists agreed with Mussolini and left the party and followed him. Therefore, they greeted the news of April 26th 1915, the entry of Italy into the war.

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Why did the government want to go to war?

In 1915, Italy had signed the secret Treaty of London. In this treaty Britain had offered Italy large sections of territory in the Adriatic Sea region – Tyrol, Dalmatia and Istria. Such an offer was too tempting for Italy to refuse. Britain and France wanted Italy to join in on their side so that a new front could open up t the south of the Western Front. The plan was to split still further the Central Powers so that its power on the Western and Eastern Fronts was weakened. The plan was logical. The part Italy had to play in it required military success. This was never forthcoming

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What happened at the Battle of Caporetto?

Between 1915 and 1917, Italian troops only got 10 miles inside Austrian territory. But in October 1917 came the disaster of Caporetto. In this battle, in fact a series of battles, the Italians had to fight the whole Austrian Army and 7 divisions of German troops. The Italian Army lost 300,000 men. Though the Italians had a victory at Vittorio Veneto in 1918, the psychological impact of Caporetto was huge. The retreat brought shame and humiliation to Italy.

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What was the situation at the end of World War One

By the end of the war in 1918, 600,000 Italians were dead, 950,000 were wounded and 250,000 were crippled for life. The war cost more than the government had spent in the previous 50 years – and Italy had only been in the war three years. By 1918, the country was hit by very high inflation and unemployment was high. But at least Italy had been on the winning side and could expect her just rewards at Versailles.........But did she?

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What happened in Versailles?

In fact, Italy got very little at Versailles. The Italian public believed that her leaders there had been humiliated as the "Big Three" (Wilson of America, Lloyd George of Britain and Clemenceau of France) all but ignored the Italian delegation who were seen as secondary figures at Versailles. This heaped further humiliation on the government.

The Italians did not get what they felt had been promised at the Treaty of London and that caused resentment especially at the losses Italy had endured fighting for the Allies. The government came over as weak and lacking pride in Italy. For nationalists, the failure of the government to stand up to the "Big Three" at Versailles was unforgivable.

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How did the F Party become most important in Italy

In November 1921, the fascist parties of Italy joined forces to create the Fascist Party. It became an official political party. In its October 1922 party conference, Mussolini said:

"Either the government will be given to us or will shall seize it by marching on Rome."

Mussolini, with the party’s hierarchy, drew up a blueprint on how to do this.

1. Fascists would be brought into Rome from all over Italy.

2. All-important public buildings would be taken over including those outside of Rome in the important cities in the north.

3. Mussolini would demand the resignation of the government and that a new Fascist government be allowed to take over.

4. Armed Fascists would be near Rome. If the government failed to meet these demands, they would march into Rome and take over by the use of force.

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Strengths/Weaknesses of March on Rome plan?

Weaknesses: The plan was grandiose if naïve. The military in Rome far out-numbered the Fascists who were poorly armed. Many Fascists only had tools brought with them from farms. Many had the wrong clothing for a party that was trying to seize power.

StrengthsMussolini gambled on one thing. He believed that the Italian government lead by Facta and the king, Victor Emmanuel, did not want any form of conflict especially as Italy had suffered so much in World War One. Mussolini miscalculated with Facta – he wanted to make a firm stand against Mussolini. But Mussolini was correct with regards to the king. Victor Emmanuel was convinced that any form of conflict would lead to a civil war and he was not willing to contemplate that. Victor Emmanuel also knew that his cousin, the Duke of Aosta, was a Fascist supporter. He was fearful that his cousin would replace him if he stood up to Mussolini and failed.

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What happened on October 29th, 1922?

Mussolini was summoned to meet the king in Rome.

Mussolini arrived on October 30th and was sworn in as Prime Minister. Only then were the Fascists who had gathered outside of Rome allowed to march in triumph through Rome.

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Facts about Benito Mussolini:

-Lived in North, but suffered poverty like most people did in Italy in 1880s.

-The young Mussolini grew up in an environment where the talk would have been about socialism, republicanism and nationalism. He also grew up supporting the view of his father that the Roman Catholic Church was an enemy of Italy as it did not support the state itself.

-He was rewarded with the job of editor of "Avanti" (Forward) the socialist newspaper – an appointment he got in April 1912 (due to his leadership in Forli.

-WW1 saw a major change in Mussolini. At the start of the war he condemned it as workers being forced to fight other workers while the factory bosses got richer at their expense. However, his views changed during the war. In "Avanti" he wrote: 'down with war!' but five months later Mussolini left "Avanti" as he now saw the war as a "great drama" not to be missed. Mussolini still claimed to be a socialist but his colleagues disagreed. At a meeting in Milan they decided to expel him from the Socialist Party.{Socialist: Leftwinged:people in control}{Nationalist:Right:power to gov not people}

-After the war, Mussolini became very influenced by Gabriele D’Annunzio; an Italian nationalist who felt Italy should have got more out of the Versailles Treaty.

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Mussolinis Dictatorship

Mussolini took years to achieve what could be defined as a dictatorship. He achieved some semblance of power after the March on Rome in 1922 when he was appointed Prime Minister of Italy. But his government contained a mixture of men with different political beliefs - similar to Hitler’s position in January 1933.

Mussolini started his time in power by buying support from both the working class and the industrial bosses. How did Mussolini 'buy' support?

-The workers were promised an eight hour day

-To get support from the Roman Catholic Church, religious education was made compulsory in all elementary schools.


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Mussolini and the Fascists

Mussolini had never intended to share power with the liberals who were in the government. He introduced a Fascist Grand Council which would decide policy for Italy without consulting the non-fascists in the government first.

In February 1923, Mussolini and the Fascist Grand Council introduced the Acerbo Law. This law changed election results. Now if one party got just 25% (or more) of the votes cast in an election, they would get 66% of the seats in parliament.

When it came for Parliament to vote on the Acerbo Law, many politicians agreed to a law that would almost certainly end their political careers if they were not fascists. Why did they do this?

The gallery in the hall in which the politicians voted was filled with armed fascist thugs who had a good view of anybody who spoke out against the law. The threat was clear and real. If you voted for the law, you would be fine. If you did not, then you were certainly in danger from fascist thugs.

Mussolini did say in the spring of 1924 that "a good beating did not hurt anyone."

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March 1923 election

In the March election that followed the Acerbo Law, the Fascist Party got 65% of the votes cast and, therefore, easily got the 2/3rds of parliamentary seats – a clear majority. That people were intimidated into voting for the Fascists or that the Fascists took ballot papers from those who might have voted against Mussolini were brushed aside. The Fascists who were elected were bound to support Mussolini. In this sense, the Acerbo Law was an important move to dictatorship in Italy.

However, unlike Hitler, even after the Acerbo Law was passed, Mussolini still faced open criticism in Italy. The fear element that Hitler had created in Nazi Germany by April 1933, was still not in place in Italy.

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The Matteo Affair

Blackshirt thugs did beat up critics but that did not stop Giacomo Matteotti from publicly condemning Mussolini. Matteotti was murdered almost certainly by fascists and Mussolini was held responsible for this. There was overwhelming public outrage at the murder as Matteotti was Italy’s leading socialist Member of Parliament. Newspapers and wall posters condemned Mussolini and in the summer of 1924 there was a real possibility that Mussolini would have to resign.

A number of non-fascist politicians walked out of Parliament in protest at the murder. This gesture only served to play into Mussolini’s hands as it got rid of more parliamentary opposition. The protestors – named the Aventine protestors – appealed to the king, Victor Emmanuel, to dismiss Mussolini but the king disliked the protestors more than Mussolini because they lent towards republicanism and he refused to take action.

With this royal support, Mussolini felt strong enough to take on his opponents. Any critics of Mussolini were beaten up and newspapers that were not supportive of the Fascists were shut down. 

After surviving the Matteotti affair, Mussolini slowly introduced the classic features of a dictatorship. But this was now nearly three years after the March on Rome.

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How did Mussolini try and control his opposition?

In November 1926, all rival political parties and opposition newspapers were banned in Italy.

In 1927, a secret police force was set up called the OVRA and it was lead by Arturo Bocchini. The death penalty was reintroduced for "serious political offences". By 1940, the OVRA had arrested 4000 suspects but only 10 people from 1927 to 1940 were ever sentenced to death – much smaller than in Nazi Germany.

Mussolini also changed Italy’s constitution. He introduced a diarchy. This is a system whereby a country has two political heads. In Italy’s case, it was Mussolini and the king, Victor Emmanuel. This system put Mussolini in charge of Italy simply because Victor Emmanuel was not the strongest of men and rarely felt able to assert himself. Though he disliked Mussolini bypassing him at every opportunity, he did little to challenge this.

Mussolini appointed members to the Fascist Grand Council and from 1928, the Grand Council had to be consulted on all constitutional issues. As Mussolini appointed people onto the Council, logic would dictate that those people would do what Mussolini wished them to do.

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How did Mussolini control his people?

All Italians were expected to obey Mussolini and his Fascist Party. Authority was enforced by the use of the Blackshirts – the nickname for the Fasci di Combattimenti. Those men in this unit were usually ex-soldiers and it was their job to bring into line those who opposed Mussolini. It was the Blackshirts who murdered the socialist Matteotti – an outspoken critic of Mussolini. The motto of the Blackshirts was "Me ne frego" (I do not give a damn")

Though they were probably less feared than Hitler’s SS, the Blackshirts did maintain an iron rule in Italy. One favoured way of making people conform was to tie a ‘troublemaker’ to a tree, force a pint or two of castor oil down the victim’s throat and force him to eat a live toad/frog etc. This punishment was enough to ensure people kept their thoughts to themselves. The murderous tactics used by the Gestapo and SS in Germany were rarely used in Italy.

Italy did have a secret police under Mussolini. It was called the OVRA. It was formed in 1927 and was lead by Arturo Bocchini. The death penalty was restored under Mussolini for serious offences. Yet up to 1940 only ten people had been sentenced to death. Only 4000 people were arrested by the OVRA and sent to prison. This figure was massively overshadowed by the actions of the Gestapo and SS in Nazi Germany.

Prisons were set up on remote Mediterranean islands such as Ponza and Lipari. Condition for those sentenced to the prisons here were crude and many anti-Fascists left for their own safety.

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Education in Fascist Italy

Adults who opposed Mussolini were dealt with harshly. However, the children were the Fascists of the future and Mussolini took a keen interest in the state’s education system and the youth organisations that existed in Italy. Hitler used the same approach in Nazi Germany.

Mussolini wanted a nation of warriors. Boys were expected to grow into fierce soldiers who would fight with glory for Italy while girls were expected to be good mothers who would provide Italy with a population that a great power was expected to have.

Children were taught at school, that the great days of modern Italy started in 1922 with the March on Rome. Children were taught that Mussolini was the only man who could lead Italy back to greatness. Children were taught to call him "Il Duce" and boys were encouraged to attend after school youth movements.  Three exsisted Sons of the She wolf (age 4-8), Balilla (8-14) Avanguardista (14-18).

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Education continued...

Boys were taught that fighting for them was a natural extension of the normal male lifestyle. One of the more famous Fascist slogans was "War is to the male what childbearing is to the female." Girls were taught that giving birth was natural – while for boys, fighting was the same – natural. 

Children were taught to obey those in charge. This was not an unusual move in a dictatorship. Once the OVRA had dealt with those adults who challenged the authority of the state, all future adults of Fascist Italy would be model civilians and not a challenge to those in charge. 

Boys took part in semi-military exercises while members of the Balilla. They marched and used imitation guns. Mussolini had once said "I am preparing the young to a fight for life, but also for the nation."

Members of the Balilla had to remember the following: "I believe in Rome, the Eternal, the mother of my country……I believe in the genius of Mussolini…and in the resurrection of the Empire."

The glory of the old Roman Empire always lurked in the background of much of what children did. A child in a youth movements was a "legionary" while an adult officer was a "centurion" – a throw back to the days of when the Ancient Roman army dominated much of western Europe.

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Women in Fascist Italy

As in Nazi Germany, women were seen as having a specific role in Fascist Italy. The task of young girls was to get married and have children – lots of them. In 1927, Mussolini launched his Battle for Births.

Mussolini believed that his Italy had a smaller population than it should have. How could it possibly be a power to reckon with, without a substantial population and a substantial army? Women were encouraged to have children and the more children brought better tax privileges – an idea Hitler was to build on. Large families got better tax benefits but bachelors were hit by high taxation.

Families were given a target of 5 children. Mothers who produced more were warmly received by the Fascist government. In 1933, Mussolini met 93 mothers at the Palazzo Venezia who had produced over 1300 children - an average of 13 each!

Mussolini wanted Italy to have a population of 60 million by 1950. In 1920, it stood at 37 million so his target was a tall order. However, the Battle for Births was a failure. Though the population grew as people were living longer due to better medical care, the birth rate actually went down between 1927 and 1934.

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The Economy in Fascist Italy

The economy of Fascist Italy was weak. The economy of Italy had made little recovery after World War One and Mussolini knew that this was a major area to address if Italy was to become a major European power.

Mussolini knew that Italy after 1918 was a poor nation compared to France and Britain. Mussolini wanted to advance the economic state of Italy and his plan was based on a two-fold approach: attacking the power of the trade unions and therefore controlling the workers, and setting Italy targets as he had with his Battle for Births. For the attempt to get Italy on the road to economic prosperity, Mussolini introduced three ‘battles’ – the Battle for Land, the Battle of the Lira and the Battle for Grain.

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Mussolini and the Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church was such a powerful institution in Italy. While Mussolini governed the political side of Italy, the Roman Catholic Church governed the spiritual side. In this sense, Mussolini could not afford to anger the Roman Catholic Church. To gain credibility with the Roman Catholic Church, Mussolini had his children baptised in 1923. In 1926, he had a religious marriage ceremony to his wife Rachele. Their first marriage in 1915 had been a civil ceremony. Mussolini closed down many wine shops and night clubs. He also made swearing in public a crime. One of the reasons why Mussolini pushed the idea that women should stay at home and look after the family while their husbands worked, was because this was an idea pushed by the Roman Catholic Church. Mussolini voiced his disapproval at the use of contraception - an identical stance to the Roman Catholic Church. Like the Roman Catholic Church, Mussolini also wanted divorce banned in Italy. By doing all of this, Mussolini was trying to bring the Roman Catholic Church onto his side to get its support and give added credibility to his government. However, the relationship was not always harmonious. In particular, Mussolini and the Roman Catholic Church clashed over who should control education. To ensure that children grew up as good Fascists, Mussolini wanted the state to control this - as it did. However, the Roman Catholic Church felt that it should have this power. Both sides worked for a compromise. The attempt to settle this dispute started in 1926 and it took until 1929 for agreements to be signed. These were the Lateran Treaties.

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Mussolini and the Church continued..

The Papal States (the name given to land previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church in Italy) had lost all its land in the 1870 unification of Italy. The Roman Catholic Church received £30 million in compensation in 1929 and the Church was given 109 acres in Rome to create a new papal state - the Vatican. The pope was allowed a small army, police force, post office and rail station. The pope was also given a country retreat called Castel Gandolfo.

Another part of the treaty was called the Concordat. This made the Roman Catholic faith the state religion - this was a fait accompli anyway. The pope appointed his bishops, though they had to receive the government’s blessing. Religion had to be taught in both primary and secondary schools. The Roman Catholic Church was given full control of marriage.

When these agreements were signed in 1929, Mussolini’s popularity was at its highest. He had got what he wanted - the support from the members of the public who may not have supported the Fascists but who saw the Roman Catholic Church working with the Fascist government, and that by itself created a tacit acceptance of Mussolini’s government.

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