Giuseppe Zanardelli

Giuseppe Zanardelli
16th Prime Minister of Italy
In office
February 15, 1901  November 3, 1903
Monarch Victor Emmanuel III
Preceded by Giuseppe Saracco
Succeeded by Giovanni Giolitti
President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
In office
November 16, 1898  May 25, 1899
Preceded by Giuseppe Branchieri
Succeeded by Luigi Chinaglia
In office
April 5, 1897  December 14, 1897
Preceded by Tommaso Villa
Succeeded by Giuseppe Branchieri
In office
November 23, 1892  February 20, 1894
Preceded by Giuseppe Branchieri
Succeeded by Giuseppe Branchieri
Italian Minister of the Interior
In office
June 21, 1903  November 2, 1903
Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti
Preceded by Giovanni Giolitti
Succeeded by Giovanni Giolitti
In office
March 28, 1878  December 19, 1878
Prime Minister Benedetto Cairoli
Preceded by Agostino Depretis
Succeeded by Agostino Depretis
Personal details
Born (1826-10-29)October 29, 1826
Brescia, Italy
Died December 26, 1903(1903-12-26) (aged 77)
Maderno, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Historical Left
Dissident left-wing

Giuseppe Zanardelli (October 29, 1826  December 26, 1903) was an Italian jurisconsult, nationalist and political figure. He was the Prime Minister of Italy from February 15, 1901 to November 3, 1903. He was a distinguished jurist and eloquent orator. Zanardelli, representing the bourgeoisie from Lombardy, personified the classical 19th-century left liberalism, committed to suffrage expansion, anticlericalism, civil liberties, free trade and laissez-faire economics.[1] Throughout his long political career he was among the most ardent advocats of freedom of conscience and divorce.[2]

Early life

Giuseppe Zanardelli was born in Brescia (Lombardy). He was a combatant in the volunteer corps during the First Italian War of Independence of 1848 between the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia, within the era of Italian unification (Risorgimento). After the lost battle of Novara he went to Pisa to study law, and he returned to Brescia to become a barrister.[3][4] For a time earned a livelihood by teaching law, but was molested by the Austrian police and forbidden to teach in consequence of his refusal to contribute pro-Austrian articles to the press.[5]

In 1859 he was forced to flee to Switzerland. He moved to Lugano, but returned in time to organize the insurrection of Brescia in the Second Italian War of Independence and welcomed Giuseppe Garibaldi in the city. Enlisted in the Cacciatori delle Alpi (Hunters of the Alps), he remained in the area until the armistice of Villafranca. With the annexation of Lombardy to Piedmont he was elected to Parliament in Turin.[4]

Elected deputy in 1859, he received various administrative appointments, but only attained a political office in 1876 when the Left, of which he had been a prominent and influential member, came into power.[2]

In government

In 1876 he became Minister of Public Works in the first government of Agostino Depretis, and Minister of the Interior in the government of Benedetto Cairoli in 1878.[3] In the latter capacity he drafted the franchise reform, but created dissatisfaction by the indecision of his administrative acts, particularly in regard to the Irredentist agitation, and by his theory of repressing and not in any way preventing crime, which led for a time to an epidemic of murders.[6]

Overthrown with Cairoli in December 1878, he returned to power as Minister of Justice in 1881 the Depretis government, and succeeded in completing the commercial code.[4] He also was the architect of the electoral reform in 1892 which lowered the voting age from 25 to 21, and reduced the minimum tax threshold for voting or allowed an elementary school certificate.[1]

Abandoned by Depretis in 1883, he remained in opposition until 1887, when he again joined Depretis as Minister of Justice, retaining his portfolio throughout the ensuing government of Francesco Crispi, until January 31, 1891. During this period he began the reform of the magistracy and promulgated a new penal code, which unified penal legislation in Italy, abolished capital punishment and recognised the right to strike.[4][7] The code was regarded as a great work by contemporary European jurists.[3]

After the fall of the government of Giovanni Giolitti in 1893, Zanardelli made a strenuous but unsuccessful attempt to form an administration.[8] Elected president of the chamber in 1894 and 1896, he exercised that office with ability until, in December 1897, he accepted the Ministry of Justice in the government of Antonio di Rudinì, only to resign in the following spring on account of dissensions with his colleague, Emilio, marquis Visconti-Venosta, over the measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of the Bava-Beccaris massacre of May 1898.[9]

Prime minister

Returning to the presidency of the chamber, he again abandoned his post in order to associate himself with the obstructionist campaign against the Public Safety Bill (18991900) restricting political activity and free speech, which was introduced by the government of general Luigi Pelloux.[4] He was rewarded by being enabled to form an administration with the support of the Extreme Left upon the fall of the government of Giuseppe Saracco in February 1901.[10] Giolitti became Minister of the Interior in the administration of Zanardelli, and became its real head.[11]

Zanardelli focused his attention on the issue of the South: in September 1902 he undertook a journey through Basilicata – one of the poorest regions in Italy – to see for himself the problems in the Mezzogiorno.[12][13] Zanardelli was unable to achieve much during his last term of office, as his health was greatly impaired. His Divorce Bill, although voted in the chamber, had to be withdrawn on account of the strong opposition of the country. He retired from the administration on October 21, 1903,[14] and Giolitti succeeded him as Prime Minister.[11] Tired and ill, he died in Maderno on December 26, 1903.[3][4]


On September 15, 1902, Giuseppe Zanardelli stayed at the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, owned by the Commendator Guglielmo Baron Tramontano of Sorrento, who was also the mayor of the city Sorrento. Baron Guglielmo Tramontano asked the musician brothers Giambattista and Ernesto De Curtis to compose and write a song in honour of Zanardelli – and the result became the famous neapolitan song "Torna a Surriento" (Come Back to Sorrento).


  1. 1 2 De Grand, The hunchback's tailor, p. 17
  2. 1 2 Seton-Watson, Italy from liberalism to fascism, pp. 47–48
  3. 1 2 3 4 Signor Zanardelli Dead; Ex-Premier of Italy Was Seventy-four Years Old, The New York Times, December 27, 1903
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 (Italian) Biografia Giuseppe Zanardeli, Camera dei deputati, portale storico
  5.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Zanardelli, Giuseppe". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 955.
  6. Seton-Watson, Italy from liberalism to fascism, p. 77
  7. Seton-Watson, Italy from liberalism to fascism, p. 131
  8. Zanardelli rinuncia il mandato, La Stampa, December 8, 1893
  9. Seton-Watson, Italy from liberalism to fascism, pp. 191–92
  10. New Italian Ministry, The New York Times, February 15, 1901
  11. 1 2 Sarti, Italy: a reference guide from the Renaissance to the present, pp. 46–48
  12. (Italian) Zanardelli: il viaggio in Basilicata (Access date: September 8, 2016)
  13. Aid for Southern Italy; Premier Zanardelli Promises Two Railways to the Province of Basilicata, The New York Times, October 1, 1902
  14. Italian Cabinet Resigns; Its Action Not the Result of the Political Situation but of the Premier's Failing Health, The New York Times, October 22, 1903
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