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Giovanni Giolitti


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(b. 27 Oct. 1842, d. 17 July 1928).

Prime Minister of Italy 1892–3, 1903–5, 1906–9, 1911–14, 1920–1 A law graduate from the University of Turin (1860), he became a civil servant and served, amongst other positions, in the legislative high court until he entered the Chamber of Deputies as a Liberal in 1882. He became Minister of the Treasury 1889–90. As Prime Minister he won the 1892 elections but was forced to resign over a banking scandal. As Minister of the Interior 1901–3 he emerged as the main force behind a ‘new liberalism’ which attempted to adapt classical liberal traditions to the changed social conditions of early twentieth-century Italy, when the consequences of industrialization were beginning to make themselves felt in many northern cities. Thus, he was responsible for an increase in the parliamentary franchise, and the acceptance of the bargaining powers of trade unions. He also launched Italy's entry into the high noon of imperialism through the conquest of Libya in 1911. He opposed Italy's entry into World War I, and afterwards called for a complete overhaul of the Italian state. During his fifth ministry he resolved the Fiume affair, and ended the workers' occupation of factories in 1920. He also supported Croce's attempts at educational reform. However, Giolitti was unable to stop the escalating violence between the blackshirts and socialist and Communist bands. To provide himself with a new mandate, he called new elections in May 1921, which he lost. He tolerated the Fascist movement at first, but became increasingly critical of Mussolini after the murder of Matteotti.

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