Socially, Italy was also an extremely divided state. From the beginning of the unification process, the issue of the north-south divide was already a major issue, and many Italians from the south refusing to recognise their ‘Italian’ identity, instead viewing unification as more of a colonisation process rather than spurring national unity. The rural south was considered a relatively backward area, especially when compared to the industrialised north which seemed to amount for much of the country’s identity; people from the south were particularly disillusioned by the fact that the Italian working class were the ones that often did not gain from any reforms made. While Crispi’s own domestic policies failed to gain wider support, and in fact brought the Liberal Italian state to the lowest since its creation, Giolitti was extremely successful at tackling the social issues, increasing living standards and affordability of food, with the average calorie intake increasing, leading for an overall healthier nation with better living standards, achievable by balancing the government budget effectively. Social reforms made by Giolitti also led to the abolishment of child labour, with a pensions scheme for the old age and sick extended as well as the establishment of better working conditions by a compulsory weekly rest day. Similarly, under his new legislation female workers were also granted a maternity fund, in an attempt to pacify and improve working as well as living conditions for the working class majority in the south. Overall, it is clear that the Italian leaders of the time generally succeeded in improving Italy’s general society, especially Giolitti’s reforms, although hampered by Crispi’s unpopular domestic policy.
Prior to the unification process, as a set of separate sovereign states success economically was hardly viable, and the unification process of the states did little to actually implant the idea of a single Italian nation within the majority of the Italian mind-set, and with a combination of economically crumbling states. To ease this issue, industrialisation was thoroughly encouraged as a way of building the ‘economic miracle’, and this would be a major success as Italy began to catch up to other European countries economically. In this way the Italian leaders can be seen as extremely successful at tackling the issues of the Italian economy, with the rapid industrialisation process leading to production of commodities such as cars and typewriters in Italy. Much of this was made possible by government reforms to gain self-sufficiency; instead of relying on expensive coal imports there was a push towards development of hydroelectric power, which in turn provided the power to fuel Italy’s other industrial activities- at a lower cost to themselves, as well as placing themselves in the forefront of the newest electrical technology available. The government reforms included numerous tariffs in order to protect Italian production and encourage the sale of Italian goods, while the Italian government decided to invest in infrastructure such as shipping facilities and railways, which helped boost Italy’s industrial production further. The success of the Italian leaders at this time can be proven by Italy’s own import records; compared to the 1880s, by the early 1900s nearly all locomotives were produced within Italy, using Italy’s own resources such as steel. The industrialisation process also reached some of the more traditional industries, including silk, cotton and wool, which under government reforms and protection were able to switch to modern production methods. However, there was some economic failure in the form of the backward south, which failed to gain any advantage from the numerous policies and push towards industrialism; records suggest that the maize yields in the northern states were nearly five times as much as the production in the south, and while one part of Italy spurred in its economic advances, the other states underneath Rome were left disadvantaged. Despite this, the Italian leaders were still very successful in improving Italy’s economy, being able to lift Italy from a mainly agricultural, backwards state to one that was industrialised, relatively self-sufficient and the country paving the way for the new technology of the century – hydroelectric power.
A key stumbling block in the process of unification was the Papacy, and even after the unification the Papacy still did not regard the unified Italy as a legitimate state. In response to the national elections, the declaration of the Pope to prevent Catholics which made up virtually all of the Italian population would become a threat to Italy’s democratic system, especially the issue of poor vote turnout. Previous attempts to allow some freedom for the Catholic powers had failed, and crackdowns on the ‘Opera dei Congressi’ led to church authorities becoming more complicit with the Liberal government. Despite limited cooperation, ultimately the leaders of the era could not bring about any significant stability; the Catholic influence surrounding politics was still significant with the large majority of the population being under Catholic influence, and the Pope as often demonstrated could command followers to ignore the government, such as refusing to participate in voting. Overall it becomes clear that the policy of crackdown initiated did nothing to solve the problem of Papal influence in the state- arguably it increased it even further as despite the Church initially being complicit, the tensions that built up would trigger an even bigger outburst, and therefore the Italian leaders of 1896-1914 generally failed at maintaining a stable relationship with the Papacy, as despite Catholics being involved in the political system, generally there was still tension emanating from both sides.
The Italian leaders of 1896-1914 Crispi and Giolitti attempted numerous reforms to repair the problems of the newly unified state; the newly united Italy was economically backwards, living conditions relatively poor compared to other European countries and the democratic system a failure, failing to grant the majority of the population the vote. The leaders were only successful to a limited extent as despite the suffrage being enlarged, politically the idea Transformismo was still very much engrained and the failure to keep a stable relationship with the Church influenced voting. A success of the two leaders was in industrialising the country, increasing the standard of living and boosting the Italian economy, although this can only be considered a minor achievement due to the fact that not all of Italy benefitted; the rural southern states remained relatively poor and backwards, failing to keep up with the growing northern states. Overall, the leaders were successful to a limited extent to dealing with the problems of Italy, their successes often with shortcomings that would later strike Italy again.