Liberal Italy: The Midwife of Fascism or a Much-Maligned State?

F.G. Stapleton defends the record of Italian governments from 1861 to 1914.

For students of Italian history, the period of liberalism between 1870 and 1922 is all too often an unfrequented backwater. It is glanced at, if at all, as a topic that either ends the glorious period of Italian unification or, alternatively, prepares the way for the coming of the Fascists. It is a thin and unappetising filling between the far more important ends of an Italian historical sandwich. It was the tragic failure to the high hopes of the Risorgimento, and also the obvious causal factor behind the emergence of Fascism. Marxists like Antonio Gramschi have condemned the regime as toothless, corrupt, selfseeking and illegitimate. But are such viewpoints accurate and historically fair? Some historians have challenged the notion of a doom-laden state that spent over half a century awaiting its own inevitable demise. For Trevelyan in 1910, it was the remarkable apotheosis of nineteenth-century liberal-inspired nationalism. Pertinently, Denis Mack Smith and Michael Clark have asked what the regime could have done better, given its problematic inheritance.

What nails hold down the coffin lid of Italian Liberalism and are they secure?

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.