Italy's Entrance into the War

Courtesy Reuters

LA NEUTRALITÁ ITALIANA (1914), L'INTERVENTO (1915): RICORDI E PENSIERI. By ANTONIO SALANDRA. Milano: Mondatori, 1928--30, 2 vols., pp. 478, 386.

"THE Italian Government will employ all its efforts to preserve the peace; and, in case of war, it will begin by adopting a waiting attitude and will finally join the camp toward which victory will incline."[i] This shrewd prophecy, made in 1912 by M. Poincaré to the Russian Ambassador in Paris, was precisely realized in 1914--15. It was an easy logical inference from the secret engagements, hardly reconcilable with one another, which Italy had entered into on the one hand with the Central Powers, and on the other with France in 1902 and with Russia in 1909. It seemed to sum up the policy of sacro egoismo, to use Signor Salandra's later phrase.

But did Italy really use the terrible struggle of her engulfed neighbors to extort, "by blackmail" as Count Berchtold said, the best possible bargain for her own selfish interests by secretly bidding up one group of Powers against the other? Was she pushed into the war by Italian public opinion, or by the nationalist newspapers, or by pressure and bribes from the Powers opposed to Germany and Austria? Or was she deliberately led in by a resolute ministry, perhaps against the wishes of the parliamentary majority if not of the Italian people, at a moment carefully selected so as to give widest realization to Italy's national aspirations? And could Austria, by making more timely and more generous concessions, as urged by Germany, have held Italy to her own side, or at least have prevented her from going over to the side of the enemy?

These questions and many others are greatly illumined, if not absolutely settled, by Signor Salandra, the Prime Minister from March 1914 to June 1916. His memoirs in many respects resemble Sir Edward Grey's "Twenty-five Years." Like Grey, he is charmingly disarming in his admission that he may have made mistakes and in his effort to present events as they seemed to him at the

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