Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Economic change and nationalism in Italy in
the twentieth century
Luigi De Rosa

For most of the nineteenth century the pressure on the Italian government and parliament to abandon liberalism and to pursue a policy that protected and promoted the country's economic interests did not come from any political movement as such but from newspapers, cultural and economic societies, industrial and worker associations and similar organisations. The Chambers of Commerce, in particular, showed themselves to be increasingly in favour of state intervention in the economy, especially in towns where industrial centres had grown up, demanding that contracts to provide the weapons and ships needed for the country's defence be awarded to Italian and not to foreign companies, as had happened in the past, as well as a revision of trade and navigation treaties with foreign powers. It was at the end of the century and the beginning of the new that such forces found a political counterpart — that is, a movement of opinion and action that sought to increase the country's economic and political prestige among the concert of nations.

It is no coincidence that the movement emerged towards the end of the century, stimulated as it was by two circumstances. One was of a political nature: the reaction to the Italian army's defeat at Adua in 1896 in the war against Ras Menelik to conquer the Eritrean Plateau. The other was economic: the awareness that the country was undergoing rapid industrialisation and was no longer the country emerging from the long and difficult period of the Risorgimento. In the forty years since the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, the country had undergone profound change. Overcoming great difficulties and complex problems, it had achieved considerable agricultural progress. The marshland and malaria that infested large coastal areas had been partly reduced. Much uncultivated land was put under the plough. Although many areas of the country, especially in the south, still appeared to be in a worrying state of backwardness, the agrarian crisis that had overcome Italy in the 1880s

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