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Who is Who in Italian History

Giovanni Giolitti
1842 - 1928
Giovanni Giolitti

Giovanni Giolitti, a progressive Liberal, was a 5-term premier, i.e. from 1892 to 1893, from 1903 to 1905, from 1906 to 1909, from 1911 to 1914, and from 1920 to 1921.

He first entered parliament in 1882 and held the position of Minister of Finance from 1889 to 1990. He was accused of political corruption including controlling elections in Southern Italy and of “reorganizing” coalitions.

The expression “Giolittismo” stands for the era from 1900 to 1924 during which Giolitti’s corruption practices were the boldest. He opposed Italian participation in WW 1 but failed and lost his premiership in 1914. He was instrumental in making it possible that the Fascists won 35 seats in the chamber during the 1921 elections thus helping Benito Mussolini gain power. He remained silent to the increasing Fascist brutality until after November 1924, at what time he opposed Mussolini openly.

Giolitti’s Career Chronology


Giovanni Giolitti is born in Mondovi (Piemonte) on October 27 to his father Giovenale Giolitti, an officer of the court and mother Enrichetta Plochiù;


Giolitti graduates from the law school at the university of Turin;


After a short tenure at the royal court in Turin he transfers to the Italian Government and is appointed to Secretary of State;


Giolitti is appointed to the position of Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and moves to Rome;


Prime Minister Agostino Depretis (1813-1887) appoints Giolitti to Privy Council. He is also a Liberal member of the Italian Parliament;


Giolitti openly opposes Prime Minister Depretis and leads the opposition with respect to financial policies;


Giolitti is nominated Minister of Finance (Treasury Secretary) by Prime Minister Crispi;


Giolitti steps down as Minister and becomes the lead opponent to Italy’s financial policies representing the leftist liberal party;


Giolitti is nominated Prime Minister;


 Following accusations of foul play and involvement in a substantial bank scandal, Giolitti steps down as Prime Minister;


King Vittorio Emanuele III nominates Giolitti Minister of Interior under Prime Minister Zanardelli. Given his vast experience in government affairs he is viewed as the actual head of state and succeeds in molding most of the government policies;


As Prime Minister he attempts to integrate the Italian workers and labor movement with the liberal Monarchy. He believes that succeeding in this unification would promote Italy’s industrialization;


Now a Prime Minister for the 3d time, Giolitti moves Italy away from the Tri-State treaty Italy enjoyed with the Austria-Hungarian and the German Monarchies over issues of power over the Balkan states;


Giolitti is nominated Prime Minister for the 4th time. His attempt to facilitate the participation of the Socialist Party in the Italian government fails due to opposition of the party’s revolutionary wing;


Introduction of General Elections and government controlled Social (Security) Insurance;


Following parliamentary elections in February that led to increased power by Conservatives and the Socialists, Giolitti steps down as Prime Minister. By August, the debate about Italy’s participation in WW1 leads to a strongly divided Italy. The Nationalists and radical Republicans favor Italy’s participation while the parliamentary majority led by Giolitti favor neutrality;


Giolitti becomes Leader of the Opposition in May and hopes that his party’s parliamentary majority will help bring the Salandra government down. During mass demonstrations, the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio agitates the crowd to kill Giolitti. Giolitti’s departure from Rome finally leads to the break-up of the opposition by the Neutralist party;


Italy participates in WW1 under the Entente. However at the conclusion of the war, Italy is not awarded the Balkan territories it requested;


In the wake of post war’s political and economic crisis, Giolitti is again nominated Prime Minister. He signs an accord with Yugoslavia and ends the occupation of the city Fiume (today known as Rijeka) by force;

1921- 1922

Giolitti steers Italy on an integration course to include the first-time elected Fascists. As he fails in this attempt, he steps down as Prime Minister and limits himself to the Opposition; (He is followed by Luigi Facta in 1922)


Giolitti openly opposes Benito Mussolini’s government;


In what was to be his last major speech to the parliament, 85-years old, Giolitti calls for opposition to Mussolini’s proposed election reform which in his words was equal to the dissolution of the constitution. Giovanni Giolitti dies on July 17 in Cavour, Piedmont.

Sources: Microsoft Encarta, The Columbia encyclopedia. Sixth edition; “Die Bibliographie von Giovanni Giolitti”.

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