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From Belle Époque to Great Depression

Europe before 1914: An Interactive Map

Italy became a unified country in 1871.  As a result of the unification, Italy had gained a huge national debt, and so demanded high taxes.  These high taxes affected Italy’s poor community considerably.  Also the annual value of national agricultural product fell considerably before 1901. 


A census in 1881 showed that only one in ten peasants owned their own land or held it by share cropping.  The rest were labourers, desperately competing for work.


Between 1880 and 1900 the population rose by four million, this massive increase in population increased significantly the level of poverty in Italy.


By 1911 Italy had a population of 34.7 million. Although primarily an agricultural economy, there was considerable kingdom in 1870. 


In the north some Italians still obeyed the Austrian rule.


‘Risorgimento’ was the term given to the unification of Italy.


The Vatican and San Marino are still independent states; they did not join up with the unified states which surrounded them, becoming Italy.   


The movement of unification meant Italy becoming a country.  However, the risorgimento did not fulfil all of the hopes and myths which industry in the northern areas of the country. To feed its growing population, Italy needed to import some foods, notably grain from Russia and Germany.


Italy was a constitutional monarchy (a monarchy that is limited by a constitution).  Victor Emmanuel III had been king since 1900; he had reasonable power in Italy. 


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