War and the Welfare State: The Case of Italy, from WWI to Fascism
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Historia contemporánea 61 : 835-872 (2019)
On the eve of WWI Italy was among the less advanced European countries in terms of social policies. This was due both to the the frailty of the state building process, began in 1860, and to the relative weakness of the workers’ organizations. In accordance with recent literature that shows the manifold causal links between the developments of the welfare state and war, this article aims at examining the peculiarities of the Italian scenario. Faced with the new social needs triggered by the total war, Italian governments experienced an unprecedented activism in the field of social policies, especially in the last year of the conflict and in the immediate post-war period. This was a radical evolution with respect of the pre-war context. By analyzing the various measures adopted, and the rethoric that justified and surrounded them, this paper shows how WWI can be considered as the real starting point in the history of the Italian welfare state.