Giolitti, Giovanni

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Giolitti, Giovanni

Giovanni Giolitti (jōvän´nē jōlēt´tē), 1842–1928, Italian public official, five times premier (1892–93, 1903–5, 1906–9, 1911–14, 1920–21). He entered parliament in 1882 and served (1889–90) as minister of finance before becoming premier. By controlling elections, especially in S Italy, and by regrouping coalitions, he was able to maintain his political supremacy, and the period 1901–14 is often called the Age of Giolitti. A progressive Liberal despite his political corruption and practices of intimidation (called giolittismo), he favored the organization of labor and was responsible for social and agrarian reforms and the introduction (1912) of universal male suffrage. He tried to co-opt the socialist movement by bringing socialist leaders into the government. At the same time, he encouraged the entry of Roman Catholics into politics. Although he initiated the Italian conquest of Libya during his fourth ministry, he opposed Italian participation in World War I. In the troubled period of his fifth premiership, he ousted D'Annunzio from Fiume and settled the conflict with Yugoslavia in that region. He was not, however, successful in dealing with Italy's domestic crsis. Indeed, in the 1921 elections he helped Benito Mussolini by including Fascists among government-sponsored candidates, thus enabling them to win 35 seats in the chamber. Like most prewar politicians, Giolitti failed at first to condemn the increasing Fascist brutality, and only after Nov., 1924, did he openly oppose Mussolini. He is much more controversial than either, however, because of the contradiction between his generally liberal ends and the corrupt, Machiavellian means he employed in pursuing them. Along with Francesco Crispi, Giolitti was the most important Italian political figure between Camillo Benso Cavour and Mussolini.

See his memoirs (tr. 1923, repr. 1973); study by F. J. Coppa (1971).

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