THE TWO WORLD WARS
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History of Italy)
Having obtained a parliamentary majority in the 1924 election
and the following year passed a law increasing the powers of
the head of government, it was in 1926, with the abolition of
all the other political parties, that the Fascist dictatorship
formally began. By such means Mussolini, both on the national
and international level, was able to expand without any further
formal hindrance. In 1929 following the Concordato with
the Catholic Church, he also managed to gain the support or
at least not the hostility of the Church itself an through this
the Catholic masses, which were equivalent to the majority of
Italians. Such consensus increased also because of an undoubted
improvement in the country's economic condition and a policy
of social reform involving the poorest classes.
The continuation of land reclamation, already begun in the previous
century even before the unification, increased the amount of
land under cultivation with a satisfactory level of basic provisions.
Examples of these initiatives can be found in the `grain battle'
and the draining of the agro pontino, which produced an entirely
new piece of territory. At the same time, industry was being
brought up to date and developed, especially after the world
economic crisis of 1929. The Istituto Mobiliare Italiano was
created in 1931 to provide credit for industry and the Istituto
per la Ricostruzione Industriale (1933) began the era of public
intervention in large-scale industrial reform.
In its external policy the Fascist regime especially sought
prestige by further colonial expansion, as that into Ethiopia
(1935-36) or participation in the Spanish Civil War on the side
of Franco's forces. Gradually, Italy's good relations with France,
Britain and the Soviet Union (whose revolutionary government
Italy was the first country to recognize) deteriorated, while
her links with Hitler's Germany increased (Rome-Berlin Axis,
1936). In 1939 the Pact of Steel with Germany, after an initially
non-belligerent phase, inevitably dragged Italy, in 1940, into
the tragic events of the Second World War (1939-45).
Italy's increasingly unsuccessful war, fought on many fronts
and against better trained and equipped armies, overwhelmed
Mussolini in 1943, when he was censured by his own party. He
was replaced as head of government by the Marshall Pietro Badoglio,
who immediately signed an armistice with the allied powers (3
September 1943). The formation of a new government by Mussolini
in Northern Italy, the Repubblica Sociale Italiana based at
Sal? with the support of Germany and in opposition to the monarchial
government (temporarily based at Brindisi) provoked a civil
war. This was only brought to an end by the intervention of
the allied armies, the formation of the partisans, the abdication
of the king and the end of Mussolini (28 April-2 May 1945).
After an interlude with several national coalition governments
and the provisional rule of Umberto II of Savoy, Alcide De
Gasperi of the Democrazia Cristiana became President of
the Council. On 2 June 1946 the results of the institutional
referendum brought to an end the monarchy of the House of Savoy
(its last king, Umberto II, going into exile) and heralded the
republic which was officially proclaimed on 18 June 1946.
Enrico De Nicola was elected as the Republic's first President.
Under the government led by De Gasperi, the first parliamentary
assembly to be freely elected by the people began work on the
new Constitutional Charter that was to come into force
on 1 January 1948.
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