Tag Archives: Italy

Matteotti Crisis

The murder of Giacomo Matteotti: a crisis for the Italian Fascists?

Giacomo Matteotti, an Italian socialist politician, was kidnapped and then murdered by members of the Fascist party on 10th June 1924.

Matteotti had been a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party but, following divisions in the party, he co-founded the Unitary Socialist Party in 1922. Matteotti became an outspoken critic of Mussolini and the Fascists, and publicly criticised the new political organisation’s use of violence in a pamphlet published in 1921.
Three years later, in 1924, Matteotti published a book that was highly critical of the new government called The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination.

On 30 May that year he made a particularly zealous speech in the Chamber of Deputies in which he criticised Mussolini and accused the Fascists of only winning the recent election due to their use of violence to intimidate the public.

Less than two weeks later, on June 10, Matteotti disappeared. His neighbours reported an unknown car’s registration plate to the police who quickly found the car with blood on the back seat. Although this didn’t directly link the car to Matteotti’s disappearance, Mussolini ordered the arrest of Amerigo Dumini and other members of his recently-created Ceka secret police.

Opposition deputies showed their opposition to the Fascists by moving from the Chamber in an event known as the Aventine secession. Matteotti’s body was later found following an extensive search, showing that he had been stabbed in the chest with a carpenter’s file.

Despite a significant loss of political support, and the suggestion that he was involved in ordering the murder, Mussolini successfully turned events to his advantage. A speech in January 1925 saw him begin the transition to dictatorship when he stated that he would bring stability to Italy, even if that meant using force.

The rise of Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini and the first Fascist cabinet in Italy

Mussolini, who was determined to restore the glory of the Roman Empire following the ‘mutilated victory’ of the First World War, had formed the precursor to the Fascist Party in 1919. His skill as an orator, the intimidating power of his Blackshirts, and the relative weaknesses of the existing liberal government all contributed to the speed at which the Fascists gained influence.

On 24 October 1922 Mussolini went on stage at the Fascist Congress in Naples to declare his willingness to use the power of the Fascist movement to overthrow the government of liberal Prime Minister Luigi Facta. Four days later approximately 30,000 Blackshirts from around the country gathered in the capital in an event known as the March on Rome. As they filled the streets and occupied public buildings, they called for Facta’s resignation.

The Prime Minister chose to oppose the attempted revolution, but King Victor Emmanuel III refused his request to declare martial law. Stunned by the King’s rejection of military action, Facta offered his resignation which was immediately accepted. Victor Emmanuel later invited Mussolini to form a government, whose cabinet was sworn in on 31 October in front of the King himself.

The establishment of Mussolini’s government was greeted by a victory march by tens of thousands of Blackshirts. In time the March on Rome would achieve mythical status among Fascists as a revolutionary seizure of power, but the reality is that Mussolini was granted power the King. Within a few years, however, he would transform the country into a dictatorship.

The origins of Italian unification: 1815-1847

This revision podcast presents the background of Italian unification. Beginning with an overview of changes on the peninsula up to the late 18th Century, it firstly examines the impact of French rule under Napoleon.  The Congress of Vienna of 1815 ‘reset’ Italy, and so the podcast goes on to explore the differing opinions of how nationalism should be achieved.  There is some discussion of the failed revolutions of the 1820s and 1830s, as well as an introduction to the views of key personalities including Mazzini, Cavour and Pope Pius IX.

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Pope Pius IX

The election Pope Pius IX: a brief overview (podcast episode)

Born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, Pius IX’s election by the Papal conclave of 1846 came at a time of significant political unrest across Europe. A particular issue facing the 50 members of the College of Cardinals who attended the conclave regarded the future governance of the Papal States, which the new Pope would rule. A conservative faction wished to see the continuation of a policy of papal absolutism, while more moderate cardinals hoped for some liberal reforms.

Going against the general mood of the rulers of Europe who wished to see a conservative Pope, the moderate Cardinal Bernetti successfully persuaded other like-minded cardinals to vote for Mastai-Ferretti. The papal historian Valérie Pirie wrote that, as one of the scrutineers responsible for recording the votes of the conclave, Mastai-Ferretti therefore proclaimed his own election.

His appointment was met with enthusiasm from European liberals, and he was celebrated by English Protestants as a ‘friend of light’. Having named himself Pius after Pope Pius VII, the first years of the new Pope’s rule saw a number of liberal actions including the release of political prisoners and the beginnings of a constitution for the Papal States. However, the revolutions of 1848-49 and a number of nationalist terrorist attacks began to turn him away from this initially liberal agenda.

By the 1850s Pius IX had become more conservative, and he began to consolidate the power of the Church. The capture of the Papal States by the Italian Army in 1870, however, led to him declaring himself the ‘Prisoner of the Vatican’.

Flag of the Roman Republic

The Italian Revolutions of 1848-49

This IB and A Level History revision podcast looks at the causes and events of the revolutions of 1848-49 in the Italian states. Beginning with the impact of Pope Pius IX’s liberal experiment of 1846-47, it explores the development of the revolutions that followed, and which swept across the Italian states. The rise and fall of the Roman Republic is explained, before going on to assess the reasons for the ultimate failure of the revolutions.

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Cavour

Italy 1849-58: The emergence of Piedmont

This IB and A Level History revision podcast explores Piedmont before and after Cavour’s appointment as Prime Minister. Political aspects covered include the Statuto, the Siccardi Laws and the Connubio. Piedmont’s involvement in the Crimean War is also addressed, as well as Cavour’s relationship with Napoleon III. The podcast ends with a summary of the Plombieres agreement.

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Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel II

Garibaldi hands southern Italy to Victor Emanuel II

On the 26th October 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi met with Victor Emanuel II, the King of Sardinia, at Teano and handed him control of southern Italy. Hailing him as King of Italy, Garibaldi’s surrender of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies effectively ended any hope for an Italian republic but was one of the most significant events in the unification of the peninsula.

Garibaldi landed with his ‘Thousand’ – better known as the Redshirts – on the island of Sicily on the 11th May. The number of troops under his command quadrupled within just three days and so, on the 14th, Garibaldi proclaimed himself dictator of Sicily in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.

Within a fortnight he had besieged the Sicilian capital of Palermo, where many of the inhabitants joined with him and began to attack the Neapolitan garrison. Despite the arrival of 25,000 reinforcements the Neapolitans surrendered the city following an armistice facilitated by a British admiral, but not before the city had been virtually reduced to rubble.

Further difficult battles followed, but by the start of September Garibaldi had crossed to the mainland and taken control of Naples after the king fled with his army. However, he was not yet defeated, and still had the support of around 25,000 soldiers. At the Battle of Volturno, Garibaldi’s Redshirts were only successful against them thanks to the arrival of the Piedmontese Army who made it clear that they would not allow Garibaldi to march on Rome. When Victor Emmanuel arrived on the 26th October therefore, Garibaldi handed over his territory and retired to the island of Caprera.

The League of Nations in the 1930s

This GCSE and IGCSE revision podcast focuses on the period following the Wall Street crash in 1929, when the world was plunged into a huge economic depression which ultimately led to strained relations between countries as they tried to survive at all costs.  While the 1920s saw presented a mix of both success and failure for the League of Nations, the 1930s arguably saw its complete collapse.

The first section of the podcast looks at the Manchurian Crisis.  Beginning with an explanation of its causes, the episode goes on to describe the League’s response and the effect that this had on the long-term reputation of the League.  This is followed by a brief description of the World Disarmament Conference of 1932-33.

The second part of the podcast focuses on the Abyssinia Crisis.  Again beginning with the causes of the crisis, the podcast then describes the League’s response.  Reference is made to the immensely damaging Hoare-Laval Pact, followed by an explanation of how the League’s failure to deal decisively with Mussolini’s aggression against Abyssinia rendered the League of Nations powerless to deal with Hitler’s subsequent aggression.

The major events of the 1930s for the League of Nations including the Manchuria Crisis, the World Disarmament Conference and the Abyssinia Crisis.

          

The League of Nations in the 1930s – Disarmament and Abyssinia

This video presents an overview of the key issues surrounding the League of Nations’ attempts to achieve disarmament in the 1930s, and goes on the examine Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia.

Wal-Wal Incident

The Wal-Wal incident between Italy and Abyssinia

On the 5th December 1934, the Wal-Wal Incident took place which laid the foundations for the Abyssinia Crisis. A skirmish between a Somali garrison in the service of Italy, and Ethiopian troops who sought the withdrawal of Italian forces from the area, resulted in over 150 deaths and a diplomatic crisis that ended in the Italian invasion of Abyssinia the following year.

A 1928 treaty had agreed the boundary between Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. However, in 1930 Italy built a fort at the Wal-Wal oasis that was approximately 50 miles inside the Abyssinian side of the border and so contravened the agreement.

At first the Italian presence was tolerated by the Abyssinians with their only response being an increase in their military personnel in the area. However, in November 1934 a force of approximately 1000 Abyssinian soldiers arrived at the fort and demanded it be handed over: this demand was refused by the garrison’s commander.

The following day, a group of British and Abyssinian surveyors arrived at the fort and found themselves caught up in the dispute. The British withdrew in order to avoid any bloodshed, but the Abyssinians stayed and joined their countrymen in a face-off with the garrison. Although the exact cause of the skirmish that began on the 5th December is unclear, it’s generally accepted that neither side tried particularly hard to avoid it.

Despite this, both sides protested the actions of the other. While Abyssinia went to the League of Nations, Italy outright demanded compensation. The diplomatic crisis that ensued eventually led to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935.