Luzzatti, Luigi

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LUZZATTI, LUIGI (1841–1927), Italian statesman and economist; the first Jew to become prime minister of Italy. Born in Venice, he graduated in law from the University of Padua. Luzzatti's devotion to economic and social studies arose from his desire to improve the condition of the poor. He began by founding a mutual aid society for the gondoliers of Venice which was opposed by the Austrian police and in 1863 he was expelled from Venice as a revolutionary. He went to Milan where he became professor of economics at the Instituto Tecnico and then professor of constitutional law at the University of Padua (1867). In 1869 Luzzatti became general secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce. He was elected to Parliament in 1871 and sat continuously for 50 years until 1921 when he was raised to the Senate. He was minister of the treasury on three occasions (1891–92, 1896–98, and 1904–06) and together with Sidney *Sonnino reduced the Italian treasury deficit and secured the conversion of the public debt, thus restoring Italy's finances. In 1909 Luzzatti became minister of agriculture and was prime minister (1910). His ministry introduced numerous reforms aimed at winning popular support, but his right-wing administration was defeated by a combination of Liberals and Socialists the following year. An outstanding orator and expert economist, Luzzatti founded the Banca Popolare in Milan and founded the first cooperative store in Italy. He also negotiated many of Italy's principal commercial treaties. During World War i, Luzzatti established the National Foundation for the sons of peasants fallen in the war and in 1922 presented a plan for international currency stabilization. Though religiously nonobservant, he retained his Jewish sympathies and acted on behalf of oppressed European Jews, intervening through diplomatic channels for the granting of civic rights to the Jews of Romania. Luzzatti supported Zionist enterprises in Palestine, particularly the agricultural settlements which he much admired. Luzzatti's writings were collected under the title Opere di Luigi Luzzatti, including Grandi Italiani: grandi sacrifizi per la patria (1924), and Dio nella libertà: studi sulle relazioni tra lo Stato e la Chiesa (1926; God in Freedom…, 1930), a collection of essays on religious liberty.


F. Catalano, Luigi Luzzatti: la figura e l'opera (1965); Villari, in: H. Bolitho (ed.), Twelve Jews (1934), 123–52; L. Luzzatti, God in Freedom (1930), xvii–xxv (biography by D. Askowith). add. bibliography: F. Parrillo, (a cura di) Attualita di Luigi Luzzatti (1964); M. Berengo, "Luigi Luzzatti e la tradizione ebraica," in: Luigi Luzzatti e il suo tempo (1994), 527–41.

[Giorgio Romano]