Alcide De Gasperi


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(b. 3 Apr. 1881, d. 19 Aug. 1954).

Italian Prime Minister 1945–53

Early career

Born in the Trentino (which was then part of Austria‐Hungary), he graduated from the University of Vienna in 1905. He became politically active in the Italian Catholic Social Movement and in 1911 he entered the Austrian parliament as a representative of the Trentine Popular Party, which stood for local autonomy. Following Italy's acquisition of Trentino after World War I, he became active in the Italian Popular Party and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1921. An outspoken opponent of the Fascist movement, he took part in the Aventine Secession, which lost him his parliamentary seat in 1926. He was arrested in 1927, but after his release in 1929 he took refuge in the Vatican, where he advanced from a cataloguer to secretary of the Vatican Library.

In office

After the liberation of Rome in 1944 he became active in the newly founded Christian Democratic Party (DC), and in December 1945 he became the party's first Prime Minister. In his long (especially by Italian standards) period of office, he laid the foundations for an Italian republic committed to NATO and oriented towards US friendship, a relatively liberal financial policy, and a social policy directed at social compromise. Increasingly he also became a strong advocate of European integration. By contrast, he failed to introduce fundamental administrative or judicial reforms, for example. His tenure of office inaugurated the DC's uninterrupted participation in national government until its dissolution in 1994. He resisted any attempt for the DC to become a confessional (Roman Catholic) party, even though he was happy to accept the Church's support in general elections. At the same time, he steered the DC along a violently anti‐Communist course, from which it liberated itself only in the 1970s under Andreotti. He resigned in July 1953 after he failed to gain an absolute majority for the DC and its allies in the parliamentary elections, though he remained party secretary until his death.

Subjects: Politics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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