29 July 2019

29 July

Agostino Depretis – politician

Premier stayed in power by creating coalitions

One of the longest serving Prime Ministers in the history of Italy, Agostino Depretis, died on this day in 1887 in Stradella in the Lombardy region.  He had been the founder and main proponent of trasformismo, a method of making a flexible centrist coalition that isolated the extremists on the right and the left.  Depretis served as Prime Minister three times between 1876 and his death.  He was born in 1813 in Mezzana Corti, a hamlet that is now part of Cava Manara, a comune in the province of Pavia.  After graduating from law school in Pavia, Depretis ran his family’s estate.  In 1848, the year of revolutions in Europe, he was elected as a member of the first parliament in Piedmont.  He consistently opposed Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, the Prime Minister of Piedmont Sardinia.  A disciple of the pro-unification activist Giuseppe Mazzini, Depretis was nearly captured by the Austrians while smuggling arms into Milan, but he did not take part in the 1853 uprising planned by Mazzini in Milan. It is thought he predicted it would fail.  Depretis briefly served as Governor of Brescia in Lombardy after Cavour’s resignation in 1859.  Read more…


Teresa Noce - activist and partisan

Anti-Fascist who became union leader and parliamentary deputy

Teresa Noce, who became one of the most important female campaigners for workers’ rights in 20th century Italy, was born on this day in 1900.  A trade union activist as young as 12 years old, Noce spent almost 20 years in exile after the Fascists outlawed her political activity, during which time she became involved with the labour movement and in Paris and subsequently led a French partisan unit under the code name Estella.  After she returned to Italy in 1945 she was elected a member of the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies) as a member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI).  Working with the Unione Donne Italiane (Italian Women’s Union), she secured changes to the law to protect working mothers and provide paid maternity leave.  Born in one of the poorest districts of Turin, she and her older brother were brought up in a one-parent family after her father abandoned their mother while they were both young. Because her mother’s poor income, they were seldom able to keep the same home more than a few weeks before being evicted for non-payment of rent.  Teresa was a bright girl who taught herself to read the newspapers her mother occasionally bought but was forced to abandon her dreams of an education in order to contribute to the family income as soon as she was physically capable of work.  Read more…


The birth of Benito Mussolini

Future dictator inspired by his father's politics

Benito Mussolini, who would become Italy's notorious Fascist dictator during the 1920s, was born on this day in 1883 in a small town in Emilia-Romagna known then as Dovia di Predappio, about 17km (11 miles)  south of the city of Forlì.  His father, Alessandro, worked as a blacksmith while his mother, Rosa was a devout Catholic schoolteacher.  Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. He would later have a brother, Arnaldo, and a sister, Edvige.  It could be said that Alessandro's political leanings influenced his son from birth.  Benito was named after the Mexican reformist President, Benito Juárez, while his middle names - Andrea and Amilcare - were those of the Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.  Working in his father's smithy as a boy growing up, Mussolini would listen to Alessandro's admiration for the protagonists of the Italian unification movement, such as the nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, and the military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi. But he also heard him speak with approval about the socialist thinker Carlo Pisacane and anarchist revolutionaries such as Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin.  Alessandro's view would leave a lasting impression and, one way or another, shape the direction his son would eventually follow, although initially Benito saw himself as a traditional socialist.  Read more...


Pope Urban VIII

Pontiff whose extravagance led to disgrace

The controversial Pope Urban VIII died on this day in 1644 in Rome.  Urban VIII – born Maffeo Barberini – was a significant patron of the arts, the sponsor of the brilliant sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose work had a major influence on the look of Rome.  But in his ambitions to strengthen and expand the Papal States, he overreached himself in a disastrous war against Odoardo Farnese, the Duke of Parma, and the expenses incurred in that and other conflicts, combined with extravagant spending on himself and his family, left the papacy seriously weakened.  Indeed, so unpopular was Urban VIII that after news spread of his death there was rioting in Rome and a bust of him on Capitoline Hill was destroyed by an angry mob.  His time in office was also notable for the conviction in 1633 for heresy of the physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, who had promoted the supposition, put forward by the Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus, that the earth revolved around the sun, which was directly contrary to the orthodox Roman Catholic belief that the sun revolved around the earth.  Urban VIII was born to Antonio Barberini, a Florentine nobleman, and Camilla Barbadoro, in Florence in April 1568. Read more…


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