Who's Who - Paolo Boselli

Paolo Boselli Although aged 78 when he came to power as Prime Minister in June 1916, Paolo Boselli (1838-1932) was appointed at the head of Italy's first wartime national coalition government.

Born on 8 June 1838 in Savona, Piedmont, Boselli was the first professor of science at the University of Rome prior to entering politics.  He served for 51 years as a liberal rightist parliamentary deputy, and as a senator from 1921.

Appointed Minister of Education in 1888, Boselli reorganised the Bank of Italy with his next portfolio, as Minister of the Treasury in 1899.  He also served in Sidney Sonnino's 1906 government.

Although in semi-retirement when war broke out in Europe in August 1914, Boselli spoke out firmly in favour of war on the side of the Allies (despite Italy's nominal association with the Central Powers).  With Antonio Salandra's decision to enter the war on 23 May 1915 Boselli made an important speech in the chamber in favour of granting Salandra additional powers.

With a reputation as something of a political fixer, and with evident political seniority, Boselli's name quickly became a leading candidate for the vacated office of Prime Minister, despite his advancing age, once Salandra has resigned following military defeat at the Trentino in June 1916.

With a determined focus to promote national unity during wartime, Boselli took care to ensure a broad spectrum of political views in his enlarged cabinet, including liberals, clerics as well as conservatives.  Inevitably however he was unable to please all political factions, and he lacked the energy to pull the disparate elements together in the wartime cause.

He was criticised by pacifists for allowing the conservative Sonnino to continue to drive Italian foreign policy, and also drew complaints from the right for refusing to clamp down on the dissident press or to put down strikes in the north of the country.

Boselli, like his predecessor, proved entirely unable to exert any form of control over his autocratic Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna.

With the economic situation declining the fate of Boselli's government was sealed by the military disaster at Caporetto in October 1917.  He was voted from office on 25 October and replaced by Vittorio Orlando; the fiasco at Caporetto also claimed Cadorna's head.

Retaining his parliamentary seat until 1921 before becoming a senator the following year, Boselli embraced Benito Mussolini and his fascist policies after the war, acting as his spokesman in the upper house in March 1928 over the bill to approve the Lateran treaties between Italy and Rome.

Paolo Boselli died in Rome on 10 March 1932 at the age of 93.

A Battery was a group of six guns or howitzers.

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