Progetti di ricerca

The opportunity to become a "great power": Italy and the new international order (1917-1920)

Ambito disciplinare Macroarea 3

Area scientifica Area 16 - Scienze politiche e sociali

Tipologia finanziamento PROGETTI DI RICERCA DI ATENEO (Finanziamenti di Ateneo)

Tipo di progetto Nazionale

Stato progetto Concluso (archiviato)

Responsabilità scientifica Coordinatore

Data avvio: 10 November 2016

Data termine: 31 December 2018

Importo: 10.001,00 Euro


Since the completion of the Unification process, one of the main goals of Italy's ruling class was to impose the new nation as a 'great power' and the quest for a great power role shaped Liberal Italy's foreign policy. In the past several Italian and foreign historians have focused their attention on this topic with different, sometimes contrasting interpretations. Nevertheless it is usually recognised that on the eve of the First World War Italy had achieved at least the position of the "least of the great powers". But such an opportunity was largely wasted during the First World War and the immediate postwar period due to the political and diplomatic blunders by the Liberal governments, especially by policy pursued by the Italian Foreign Minister Sonnino. Moreover the myth of the "mutilated victory" played some role also in the eyes of anti-fascist politicians and historians, who were critical of the Rome governments' foreign policy. Actually this research project aims at offering a new interpretation. In spite of the usual vision about Italy's position vis-à-vis its Entente allies and the US in 1917, the military defeat at Caporetto implied a closer coordination among the Allies of the Entente and Italy's "private" war was no longer possible. In 1918 Italy was compelled to coordinated its action with the Allies and the Italian representatives took active part in the newly created Supreme War Council. In the context of the Paris peace conference, it has almost always pointed out Italy'a minor role, its mistakes and the underevaluation by the major Allies. But if the perspective is widened till the Giolitti government and the Rapallo Treaty, Italy was coming out as one of the "great powers" which had to rule the new international order settled at Versailles and confirmed by the creation of the League of Nations. The international system was based on a tiny number of powerful international actors (some pre-war great powers had disappeared, others had been defeated and/or banned from the Versailles system and the League of Nations, the US had chosen the return to an isolationist position). So France and Britain needed Italy to support the new international balance and, for example, it has to be pointed out that Italian delegations were actively involved in the solution of the border conflicts which characterised east-central Europe in the immediate post-war years. Moreover, through the signature of the Rapallo treaty in November 1920, Italy had achieved most of its "national" goals in the Adriatic and the Balkans. Furthermore the Rapallo treaty was regarded by the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Carlo Sforza, as an instrument through which Italy would impose its peaceful influence in the Danube-Balkan area. So in the aftermath of the Rapallo Treaty the main foreign policy goal of liberal Italy seemed to be achieved.
The main objective of this project is to test this hypothesis through: (a) the analysis of Italy's international position, especially the relations with the western Allies, (b) the analysis of the policies and "images" developed by Italy's major partners, (c) the study of the role played by Italy in the resolution of the conflicts which characterised East-Central Europe and Russia in the immediate post-war period, (d) the study of the role Italy played in the League of Nations in its early years. Such a study would take into consideration not only the political and diplomatic contexts, but also the economic and "cultural" dimensions.
The project represents a "start up" initiative, as it would involve historians from different scholarly background and from different institutions (both in Italy and abroad) and it aims at offering new ideas to the debate on the First World War and the Versailles settlement as lasting turning point in Twentieth century European history. Moreover it has a close link with the aims of "Horizon 2020", when it deals with the studies involving the "reflective societies".


As it has been already stated in the previous points, the research project aims: a) at analysing Italy's international role during the period which ranges between the aftermath of the Caporetto defeat and the Italo-Yugoslav Treaty of Rapallo of November 1920, especialy as far as the Italian aspiration at being recognised the role of "great power" by the other members of the international system; b) at singling out the role which, in the opinion of the major great powers, Italy could play in the emerging Versailles settlement (such analysis would include the economic dimension and the perception by foreign decision and opinion makers; c) at assessing whether Italy's position influenced the early period of Fascist foreign policy till the collapse of the Versailles system. Those goals are closely related to the objective of contributing to the wider international historiographical debate on the First World War as a fundamental turning point in the Twentieth century and on the new interpretation about the main patterns of the international system in the 1920s. The international character of the research project and the ambition at the dissemination of the results in the international scholarly environment will be guaranteed by some aspects of the research, as well as by some of its mid-term steps (e.g. the participation of Italian and foreign colleagues from other universities, the organisation of a seminar which will offer the opportunity for a reasessment of the project, the publication of the outcome of the research in Italian and foreign learned journals, as wel as the publication of the final results). The project envisages one year grant for a young researcher. In this connection the main goals of the researcher will be the support of the team in collecting first-hand archival material at Italian and foreign archives (especially in the UK, France and Germany), as well as the singling out of secondary published sources at various national and university libraries in Italy and abroad. The researcher will also have the opportunity to develop an indidivual study, that will form a part of the wider project. So, at the end of the project it is expected that the researcher may present a paper which will lead to a publication.



Progetti di ricerca SID 2016