Giovanni Giolitti was Prime Minister of Italy five times between 1892 and 1921. In 1892, Giovanni Giolitti became Prime Minister of Italy for his first term. Although his first government quickly collapsed a year later, Giolitti returned in 1903 to lead Italy's government during a fragmented period that lasted until 1914. Giolitti had spent his earlier life as a civil servant, and then took positions within the cabinets of Crispi.
Giolitti was the first long-term Italian Prime Minister in many years because he mastered the political concept of trasformismo by manipulating, coercing and bribing officials to his side. In elections during Giolitti's government, voting fraud was common, and Giolitti helped improve voting only in well-off, more supportive areas, while attempting to isolate and intimidate poor areas where opposition was strong.
Southern Italy was in terrible shape prior to and during Giolitti's tenure as Prime Minister. Four-fifths of southern Italians were illiterate and the dire situation there ranged from problems of large numbers of absentee landlords to rebellion and even starvation. Corruption was such a large problem that Giolitti himself admitted that there were places "where the law does not operate at all".
In 1911, Giolitti's government sent forces to occupy Libya. While the success of the Libyan War improved the status of the nationalists, it did not help Giolitti's administration as a whole. The government attempted to discourage criticism by speaking about Italy's strategic achievements and inventiveness of their military in the war: Italy was the first country to use the airship for military purposes, and undertook aerial bombing on the Ottoman forces.
The war radicalized the Italian Socialist Party: anti-war revolutionaries led by future-Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini called for violence to bring down the government. Giolitti returned as Prime Minister only briefly in 1920, but the era of liberalism was effectively over in Italy. The 1913 and 1919 elections saw gains made by Socialist, Catholic and nationalist parties at the expense of the traditionally dominant liberals and radicals, who were increasingly fractured and weakened as a result.