Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914

Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914

Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914

Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914

Synopsis

By most accounts, Italian-style liberalism failed. Explanations for its failure vary from economic backwardness or a political culture shaped by autocracy to claims that liberals ruined their chances by pursuing nothing but narrow middle-class interests. This study examines the liberal record to weigh the accuracy of these approaches.

Excerpt

Too often, Liberal Italy has been seen as forerunner to Fascism, as a failure that produced Fascism, or as insignificant. The overwhelming importance of Fascism to Italian and modern history, or ignorance, probably explain these views.

Susan Ashley's work should go a long way toward correcting the picture of how Liberal Italy actually ticked. The book—a meticulous study based on relevant primary sources such as parliamentary debates, periodicals, and books—analyzes the work of important thinkers and politicians of the period but is not merely an examination of abstract debates. It is notable because it examines the practical workings of Italian Liberalism from unification to the First World War and directly addresses the question of the supposed “failure” of liberalism and the rise of Fascism. In looking at the practical application of Italian Liberal principles, she deals with important, neglected, economic issues such as the development of the Italian railway system. She carefully considers as well how Liberals applied the law when dealing with the serious challenges to public order that arose out of political dissent, and their approach to social reform. Not least, she compares Italian Liberalism with that of other countries during the period and demonstrates how the liberalism of foreigners influenced Italy.

Susan Ashley's study is a balanced account of neglected but momentous questions that illuminates an often-misinterpreted period of Italian history.

Spencer M. Di Scala

Series Adviser

Italian and Italian American Studies

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