Giuseppe Zanardelli
Prime Minister of Italy
In office
15 February 1901 – 3 November 1903
MonarchVictor Emmanuel III
Preceded byGiuseppe Saracco
Succeeded byGiovanni Giolitti
President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
In office
16 November 1898 – 25 May 1899
Preceded byGiuseppe Branchieri
Succeeded byLuigi Chinaglia
In office
5 April 1897 – 14 December 1897
Preceded byTommaso Villa
Succeeded byGiuseppe Branchieri
In office
23 November 1892 – 20 February 1894
Preceded byGiuseppe Branchieri
Succeeded byGiuseppe Branchieri
Italian Minister of the Interior
In office
21 June 1903 – 2 November 1903
Prime MinisterGiovanni Giolitti
Preceded byGiovanni Giolitti
Succeeded byGiovanni Giolitti
In office
28 March 1878 – 19 December 1878
Prime MinisterBenedetto Cairoli
Preceded byAgostino Depretis
Succeeded byAgostino Depretis
Italian Minister of Justice
In office
29 May 1881 – 25 May 1883
Prime MinisterAgostino Depretis
In office
4 April 1887 – 6 February 1891
Prime MinisterFrancesco Crispi
In office
14 December 1897 – 1 June 1898
Prime MinisterAntonio Starabba
Personal details
Born(1826-10-29)29 October 1826
Brescia, Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia
Died26 December 1903(1903-12-26) (aged 77)
Maderno, Kingdom of Italy
Political partyHistorical Left
Dissident Left

Giuseppe Zanardelli (29 October 1826  – 26 December 1903) was an Italian jurist and political figure. He served as the Prime Minister of Italy from 15 February 1901 to 3 November 1903. An eloquent orator, he was also a Grand Master freemason. Zanardelli, representing the bourgeoisie from Lombardy, personified the classical 19th-century 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 advocates of freedom of conscience and divorce.[2]

Early life

Italian Prime Minister Zanardelli standing on a cart drawn by oxen during a visit to Basilicata in September 1902.
Italian Prime Minister Zanardelli standing on a cart drawn by oxen during a visit to Basilicata in September 1902.

Giuseppe Zanardelli was born in Brescia (Lombardy) on 29 October 1826. 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] Zanardelli became a freemason in 1860; he was initiated in the Lodge "Propaganda" of Rome.[6]

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.[7]

Overthrown with Cairoli in December 1878, he returned to power as Minister of Justice in 1881 with 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 awhile 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 31 January 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 workers right to strike.[4][8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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 (1899–1900) 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.[11] Giolitti became Minister of the Interior in the administration of Zanardelli, and became its real head.[12]

Zanardelli focused his attention on the issue of the South: in September 1902 he undertook a journey through Basilicata, as one of the poorest regions in Italy, to see for himself the problems in the Mezzogiorno.[13][14] Zanardelli was unable to achieve much during his last term of office, as his health was greatly impaired. His proposed 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 21 October 1903,[15] and Giolitti succeeded him as Prime Minister.[12] Tired and ill, he died in Maderno on 26 December 1903.[3][4]

In popular culture

On 15 September 1902, 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. ^ a b De Grand, The hunchback's tailor, p. 17
  2. ^ a b Seton-Watson, Italy from liberalism to fascism, pp. 47–48
  3. ^ a b c d Signor Zanardelli Dead; Ex-Premier of Italy Was Seventy-four Years Old, The New York Times, 27 December 1903
  4. ^ a b c d e f (in 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 domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Zanardelli, Giuseppe". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 955.
  6. ^ "Zanardelli commemoration by Lodge 'Leonessa Arnaldo'". GOI (in Italian). 4 January 2017. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  7. ^ Seton-Watson, Italy from liberalism to fascism, p. 77
  8. ^ Seton-Watson. Italy from liberalism to fascism, p. 131
  9. ^ "Zanardelli rinuncia il mandato". La Stampa. 8 December 1893.
  10. ^ Seton-Watson. Italy from liberalism to fascism, pp. 191–92
  11. ^ "New Italian Ministry". The New York Times. 15 February 1901.
  12. ^ a b Sarti, Italy: a reference guide from the Renaissance to the present, pp. 46–48
  13. ^ (in Italian) "Zanardelli: il viaggio in Basilicata". Access date: 8 September 2016.
  14. ^ "Aid for Southern Italy; Premier Zanardelli Promises Two Railways to the Province of Basilicata". The New York Times. 1 October 1902
  15. ^ "Italian Cabinet Resigns; Its Action Not the Result of the Political Situation but of the Premier's Failing Health". The New York Times. 22 October 1903.
  16. ^ "Latest intelligence – The King of Italy in Berlin". The Times (36859). London. 29 August 1902. p. 3.
  17. ^ "Italy and Turkey". The Times (36867). London. 8 September 1902. p. 4.
  18. ^ "Latest intelligence - France and Italy". The Times (36921). London. 10 November 1902. p. 5.


  1. ^ The publication is referenced by Fabio Pruneri (2006). Oltre l'alfabeto: l'istruzione popolare dall'Unità d'Italia all'età giolittiana : il caso di Brescia. edagogia e scienze dell'educazione (in Italian). Milan: Vita e pensiero. p. 97. ISBN 9788834313442. OCLC 76000864 – via index.