The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922

The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922

The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922

The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922

Synopsis

Alongside Georges Clemenceau and David Lloyd George, Giovanni Giolitti (1842-1928) stands out as one of the major liberal reformers of late 19th- and early 20th-century Europe. In the first complete English-language study of Giolitti, De Grand examines the political life of Italy's most notable prime minister after Cavour. Giolitti emerges not as a transitional figure leading fledgling Italy into modern democracy, but as a staunch adherent of 19th-century elitist liberalism trying to navigate the new tide of mass politics. De Grand's careful research offers valuable insight into Giolitti as statesman and, through him, a vantage point on the development of Italy during a critical period.

Excerpt

By all accounts, Giovanni Giolitti was a calm and cool leader, but one who always provoked passionate feelings. Nationalists, Socialists of all (or most) stripes, and Catholics denounced him. In an appellation that stuck, historian Gaetano Salvemini labeled Giolitti “the Minister of the Underworld.”

This emotion persisted in heated debates among historians, despite more sophisticated interpretations of the “Man from Dronero” that marked the discussion following World War II.

Alexander De Grand’s full-fledged biography of Giolitti is the first to appear in English. It has the merit of being the first to consider Giolitti in the context of Italian politics and the social situation of the time, and to provide the intimate details of how the Italian political and administrative system operated. This approach allows readers to evaluate what it was possible for Giolitti to accomplish, throwing this element onto the scales when considering the appealing—and in some cases the not so appealing—rhetoric of his detractors. At the same time, the author does not spare criticism where he judges Giolitti had shortcomings.

Giovanni Giolitti thus reappears in a fresh perspective. He emerges as a European statesman with positive features and warts, but operating in a perhaps more difficult context than many others. Alexander De Grand’s portrayal will not end the controversy, but it does present a basis for the discussion of Giovanni Giolitti’s legacy in terms that are closer to reality than those presented in previous works.

Spencer M. Di Scala

Series Adviser

Italian and Italian American Studies

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