Spadolini, Giovanni

Spadolini, Giovanni
   The first prime minister of the Italian republic not to be a member of the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC), Giovanni Spadolini was one of the few first-rank figures in recent Italian history whose reputation was enhanced by his years at the head of the principal institutions of the state. Spadolini was a latecomer to political life. Before 1972, when he was elected to the Senate on the Partito Repubblicano Italiano/Italian Republican Party (PRI) ticket, Spadolini had been a successful newspaperman for more than 20 years. Since 1968, in fact, he had been editor of Italy’s most prestigious newspaper, Corriere della Sera.
   Spadolini served as a minister twice in the 1970s. Between 1974 and 1976, he was minister for cultural heritage. In 1979 he became minister for education. In the same year, he replaced Ugo La Malfa as leader of the PRI, a position he retained until 1987. In June 1981, Spadolini headed the first government containing all five main noncommunist parties, the so-called pentapartito. His premiership was dominated by financial-political scandals and by the mafia’s increasingly assertive and brutal role in Sicily, but Spadolini and the PRI emerged from this period in Italian history with their reputations enhanced. In the June 1983 elections, the PRI obtained more than 5 percent, its best showing since the war.
   During the governments of Bettino Craxi, Spadolini was minister for defense (July 1983 to March 1987), although he briefly resigned in objection to Craxi’s position during the Achille Lauro dispute in October 1985. Spadolini fervently supported Italy’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and saw no utility in antagonizing Italy’s most powerful ally. Spadolini was president of the Senate from 1987 to 1994, and in 1991 he was made a life senator. In April 1994, he was the center-left’s candidate for the presidency of the Senate, but he lost by a single vote. Spadolini was a hugely successful writer of popular history books and a leading scholar of the Giolittian period in Italian history. A noted bibliophile, his private library contained thousands of rare books. He died in August 1994.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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