Introduction to Italian History



The Italian peninsula was the home for one of the greatest empires in history, the Roman Empire,

and one of the worlds largest religions, Catholicism. The dynamic city states that arose after the fall

of the Roman Empire gave birth to the Renaissance.  Italian ports and trade declined with the discovery of

America .The rise of the more powerful nations states to the north, France, Spain  and Austria controlled

Italian affairs till the Risorgimento and the unification of most of Italy by 1870.  Italy fought the fought

against Austria and Germany in WWI , losing 600,000 and leading to the concentration of economic powe

r in the hands of a few. In the economic hard times that followed, Mussolini formed the Fascist party in

1919 and allied with German and Japan in WW2, leading to the invasion of Italy in 1943 and surrendered

to the Allies on April 28, 1945. Italy became a republic in 1946 and joined NATO in the 1950s.By the

1950s, the economy began to recover and Italy joined the EEC in 1958.A major factor in the recovery

was the growth of the Italian automobile industry.The late 70s and early 80s are known at the Years of Lead

( anni di piombo ) because of student protests and terrorism by communist and neo-fascist groups.

The Mani pulite(clean hands) investigation into political corruption led to the demise of the first republic in



The Geographical Setting  


The Italian peninsula extends from the foot of the Alps into the Mediterranean sea, about seven hundred

and fifty miles. Its breadth is very unequal. In the extreme north, where it is bounded by the circular sweep

of the Alps, which separate the plains of Lombardy from Switzerland and the Tyrol, the country presents a

breadth of one hundred and fifty miles. In the center it is but about eighty miles from the bay of Naples to

the Adriatic, while in Calabria the width dwindles to but eighteen miles from sea to sea. The islands of

Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, with several others of minor importance, have also been usually considered

as a part of Italy.Italia original applied to the southern extremity of the peninsula;during the Roman republic it

was extended  to the central provinces, the territory north of the Apennines being called Cisalpine Gaul.  

The use of the word Italia for the whole peninsula came during the Roman empire (27 BC-395AD)


Early Humans  


Remains of Homo erectus have been found in Italy from 200,000 BC. Cro-Magnons appeared by

10,000 BC. By around 4,000 BC Neolithic humans were entering Italy. Agriculture appeared by 3500

BC. In 1991, hikers in the Italian Alps found the body of a 5,000 year old man. The man was in his twenties

or thirties, wore animal skins and a grass cape and leather shoes stuffed with grass. Of special interest

was his copper ax.


The Etruscans and

Greek Colonies in Italy


The Romans


 Middle Ages






 Foreign domination

(1559 to 1814)   

Unification (1814 to 1861


World War I


Mussolini and WWII


Italian Republic

(after 1945)


A Concise

History of Italy








The Etruscans and

Greek Colonies in Italy





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