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Italy - History

A series of attempts at revolution were made up until 1848, mainly by secret societies such as that of the Carbonari, against the arrangement of Peninsula by the Vienna Congress. The indisputable protagonists were Giuseppe Mazzini Garibaldi and Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, whose efforts led to unification under the Savoy sceptre. On 17 March 1861 the new Turin Parliament decreed the birth of the Kingdom of Italy.

The two large parliamentary blocs, although divided over the actions of government, shared a single aspiration: achievement of national unity with Rome, still under the Pope's rule, and the Veneto region, controlled by Austria. This latter would become part of the Kingdom of Italy after the Third War of Independence, fought in 1866 and, four years later in the "breach of Porta Pia" (20 September 1870), Italian troops entered the Eternal City marking the end of the Church's ancient strangle hold.

Since the formation of this monarchy in 1860, its finances had never been in anything but the most unsatisfactory condition. Large armies and fleets had been maintained at a ruinous expense, and both proved their incapacity to accomplish the purposes for which they were intended; large numbers of useless officials, who did no public work worthy of the name, and served as impediments more than as facilities to the transaction of business, were suffered to live idly on the resources of the State.

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914, shortly after the war fought by Italy against the Ottoman Empire for Libya, was an opportunity to complete the national unification process. Having verified the impossibility of peacefully reuniting the unredeemed lands via negotiation with Austria-Hungary, Italy was forced to denounce the Triple Alliance and, in 1915, join the Allies against the Central Powers.

The war, which lasted more than three years and cost more than 600,000 lives, led the country to victory and to the achievement of unity, but also to a serious crisis that affected all aspects of national life. The period between 1919 and 1922 was one of severe political, economic and social instability, which facilitated the rise to power of the Fascist party of Benito Mussolini, who became head of government after his March on Rome in October 1922.

From that moment on, the democratic life of the State progressively diminished as the dictatorial regime of Mussolini settled in. Relations were established with the National Socialist Germany, which, from the Rome-Berlin Axis, was to culminate in a military alliance, the Steel Pact of 1939, and participation in the Second World War alongside Hitler the following year.

The military defeats sustained at the hands of the Allies led to Mussolini's removal from government. After failing to reach a majority during a session of the Fascist Council, on 24-25 July 1943 he was arrested by order of King Victor Emmanuel III. The government was then entrusted to General Pietro Badoglio, who signed an unconditional surrender to the Allies the following September.

This was the beginning of a tormented period for Italy, marked by the double occupation by the Allies south of Rome and the Germans in the north, by the installation of a puppet Italian Social Republic by Mussolini after his rescue by German paratroopers, the formation of a resistance movement against the Germans and the sad events of the civil war between partisans and the combatants of the Social Republic.

The allied troops entered Rome in June 1944 and continued their march northward, achieving, together with the partisan forces, the liberation of Italy on 25 April 1945. In the constitutional referendum of 2 June 1946, the Italian people voted for abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of the Republic.

The work of the constituent assembly, elected at the same time, led to the formulation of the current Constitution, which came into force on 1 January 1948. Elections for the first republican legislature of the new Italy took place on 18 April 1948, with the majority of seats going to the Christian Democrats and the Catholic party that would dominate Italian politics until the end of the cold war.

Hand in hand with the restoration of democracy, after putting the past behind it by signing the Paris Peace Treaty on 10 February 1947, Italy re-entered the international scene, overshadowed by the confrontation between the two superpowers of the time, the United States and the Soviet Union.

The country went on to make important strides as seen in its firm choice for the Western camp, such as adhering to the Marshall Plan in 1947, the Council of Europe and, above all, to NATO in 1949. Italy was also one of the founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951.

Becoming part of the United Nations in 1955, Italy was again among the most advanced countries on the way to European integration, which saw Italy at the centre of some of its major steps forward: from the Messina Conference in 1955 to the Venice Conference in 1956 and the historic signing of the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 1957, which instituted the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

The year 1968 was one of profound political and social change in Italy that impacted substantially on the customs and mentality of the people. The 1970s brought major institutional and social reforms such as the Charter of Workers' Rights, regional administrative laws, the laws on divorce and allowing use of the referendum, as well as the rise of those political movements that degenerated in later years into extreme left and right wing terrorism.. The Christian Democrat party, which united moderate and conservative centralists, were part of the government from 1946 to 1993, usually in coalition with other centrist parties, and over this period of time-except for rare occasions-the position of Prime Minister was held by a member of that party. In 1992 the "Tangentopoli" scandal and resulting "Clean Hands" inquest shook the political world and, from the disintegration of the previous order was born a pre-party known as "Forza Italia" (Go Italy) which was highly successful in 1994, bringing the centre-right coalition to the government.

This phase, known as the Second Republic, was marked by bi-polarism and an alternation of the two coalitions at the helm of the government: from 1996 to 2001 the centre-left governed; from 2001 to 2006 the centre-right took over; from 2006 to 2008 the government went back into the hands of the centre-left coalition while, after the elections of 2008, the current centre-right government was installed.

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Page last modified: 05-06-2016 20:47:28 ZULU