Italy in the Twentieth Century
Only thirty years after the Piedmontese army marched into Rome to unite Italy under one government, the country suddenly found itself on the brink of the twentieth century and a rapidly changing world. The twentieth century would mark the beginning of great changes throughout Europe, and Italy would not be left untouched. What set the stage for these changes, though, were the years just prior to, and directly after 1900.
The decade before 1900 can be thought of in terms of its government leaders, most notably, Francesco Crispi. Crispi attempted to lead Italy with administrative reforms and expansion abroad. The 1890s, however, also marked a time of great crisis, as riots over the prices of food grew increasingly common, and government oppression became more and more blatant. It was not uncommon for the prime ministers of the time to issue decrees without parliament by claiming royal authority, or to dissolve opposition parties. Even the end of the Sicilian fasci movement, which carried out strikes and opposition demonstrations, came when Crispi sent the military in on one of their strikes, imprisoning all of their leaders.
Crispi's attempts to turn Italy into a world power through colonialism failed as well. In the 1890s, the Italian government's various attempts at turning nearby African nation Ethiopia into a colony were met with heavy losses and crushing defeats. Although Italy did manage to conquer Libya, it did not help very much. Libya's annexation in 1896 lowered living conditions for the lower class and increased prices across the nation. Libya was a veritable economic sinkhole for Italy, even as peasants from the South emigrated in large numbers to seek work there. With the atmosphere of discontent present in Italy at the time, this did not bode well for the country's leaders and politicians. Italians had the impression that their government was bumbling and ineffectual, and that it was keeping Italy from realizing her potential.
When the final major political conflict of the nineteenth century came, then, Italy was ripe for change. The conflict arose between monarchists and constitutionalists, and brought the country to a boiling point. Elections were held in 1900, and brought an end to the era of Crispi. Illiberal...