The most important effects of the First World War on Italy between 1915 and 1918 were political. How far would you agree with this statement?

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“The most important effects of the First World War on Italy between 1915 and 1918 were political.” How far would you agree with this statement? [22]

It is undeniable that Italy suffered greatly as a result of the First World War in several aspects; this relatively new and unstable country was unprepared for the true nature of war. Many would argue the failures were down to the leadership of the liberal government, and I agree with this statement. In examining why the political effects were the most important, a good place to start would be looking at the effects in question.

The wartime government was weak, divided and failed to rally national enthusiasm for the war. This was partly because the majority in the Chamber of Deputies had been against Italian intervention in the war and this division lasted the whole course of the war. Additionally, the Catholics and Socialists did not participate in government – the Socialist party advocated ‘neither support nor sabotage.’ Disgruntled workers flocked to the Socialist Party which advocated revolution and the overthrow of the liberal state. Membership rose from 50,000 in 1914 to over 200,000 by 1919.

There were close state-industry links (centralisation) in an attempt to make sure Italy could produce the armaments it needed, regardless of the economic cost. As the war progressed economic decline only worsened the divisions in government. Giolitti’s neutralist stance led to him being politically isolated from 1915 after being accused of defeatism. Furthermore, the humiliating defeat at Caporetto led to reorganisation and promise of major social reforms, because military failings were always blamed on the weak government. Even the Pope criticised what he saw as ‘useless slaughter’ in the Italian war effort. The government’s incompetent conduct of the war reinforced the disillusionment many Italians felt towards the political system. Any semblance of credibility the liberal government had was ruined and this would lead to the eventual rise of fascism.

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However, the war impacted Italy in many other ways outside of the political sphere. Although I would argue these other results were not as potent as what happened to the government, they nonetheless are important. As was mentioned earlier, the economy took a major blow. This is linked very closely to the political situation. This was not surprising as the government spent 148 billion lira financing the war. There was also a rise in inflation – prices were four times higher in 1918 than before the war. The government printed more money and the value of the Lira at the ...

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