How far does the North-South divide in Italy explain the weakness of the Liberal State in the years 1896-1921?

Authors Avatar by fangricky1gmailcom (student)

How far does the North-South divide in Italy explain the weakness of the Liberal State in the years 1896-1921?

Upon unification the Liberal State was formed within Italy, a system of government that ensured a supposedly fair system of government. Despite this, the Liberal State was largely damaged and its weakness exposed by several major factors, including the increasing North-South divide, the rise and threat of extremism, failure in foreign policy as well as arguably the most important explanation for weakness: political instability which would leave Italy in turmoil.

The North-South divide became an extreme point of contention for much of Italian society. The original unification process was headed mainly by Piedmont, and many Southern Italians could not see the difference between Piedmont’s ‘unification’ aims and colonisation of southern Italian states, and upon proclamation of the unification of Italy d’Azeglio suggested that the new state ‘now…must make Italians’. From that point, the Liberal State showed inherent weakness in that the North-South divide exposed how the government failed to calm social contention, with only the north benefitting from the push towards industrialism; the north saw rapid economic growth with new engineering techniques and a push towards mechanisation, while the south remained relatively agricultural and backwards when compared to the north. Notably the south saw the most abject poverty, with much of it being controlled by the mafia or the elite; roughly 0.01% of the population in Southern Italy owned over half the land available. The North-South divide emphasised how the Liberal State’s reforms had critically failed, with the south remaining disease ridden, and over fifteen thousand people killed annually in the south due to the spread of malaria. The North-South divide also exposed another weakness of the Liberal State: the failure to consolidate the Italian nation culturally. The southern states mostly retained their own Italian dialects, and culturally did not consider themselves to be part of this unified state, making the South prone to civil unrest, and made southerners increasingly disillusioned with the Italian state. The North-South divide shows how the Liberal State could not effectively exercise control over the Italian nation, and was prone to mishap as it could realistically only govern the North effectively. However, this arguably only exposed the weaknesses to a limited extent, with the oncoming political issues becoming a major key factor in the Liberal State’s failure.

Join now!

The strongest factor that explains the weakness of the Liberal State was political instability. Despite the government being named as ‘Liberal’, in reality suffrage was extremely limited with only 2 percent of the population initially being able to vote. While this would have technically not presented a major problem for the government, it explains the reasons why politicians turned to the concept of Transformismo, thus exposing the instability in the Italian government; even successful politicians such as Giolitti were forced to r ely on bribery in order to gain a position in office, clearly showing that the Liberal State’s key ...

This is a preview of the whole essay