The Italian Constitution: History, Development & Main Points

The Italian Constitution: History, Development & Main Points
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  • 0:04 Treasure Hunt; Development
  • 2:26 Fundamental Principles
  • 3:00 Rights & Duties of Citizens
  • 4:23 Structure of Government
  • 5:13 Amendments
  • 5:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will study the Italian Constitution. We will pay special attention to its history and development, its major parts, and its amendments.

A Treasure Hunt

We're going on a treasure hunt - not for gold or silver or even for a collection of objects. We are going to be hunting for knowledge. This lesson will focus on Italy's Constitution, and as you listen, see if you can discover the answers to these five questions:

  1. What did the Italian citizens decide in a referendum on June 2, 1946?
  2. When did the new Italian Constitution officially go into effect?
  3. The Constitution begins by listing a set of what?
  4. What are the other two main parts of the Constitution?
  5. How many times has the Constitution been amended?

If you pay close attention, you will find that you have gleaned a wealth of information that perhaps you never knew before. We'll check back at the end of the lesson to see if you have collected all your little nuggets of knowledge.

Constitutional Development

The current Italian constitution is not the first such document to serve Italy. In 1848, King Charles Albert created a constitution designed to pull the rather scattered Italian states together under his rule and to establish an overall system of government. This constitution lost most of its value when the fascists, led by Benito Mussolini, took over Italy in 1922.

After World War II, the war-weary Italian people knew it was time for a change. On June 2, 1946, Italian citizens voted in a referendum that would change their country forever. They decided two issues. First, they voted to make Italy a republic instead of a monarchy. Second, they elected a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution for their renewed country.

The Constituent Assembly got straight to work. Its over-500 members came from many different political parties, so they quickly discovered that they would have to compromise if they wanted to get anything accomplished. They learned to work together, and on December 22, 1947, they passed the new Italian Constitution by a vote of 453 to 62. The Constitution officially went into effect on January 1, 1948.

The Constitution's Fundamental Principles

The Italian Constitution has three major parts. The first, entitled 'Fundamental Principles,' establishes the basic ideology for the Italian Republic, stating in 12 articles what the country is and what it guarantees.

This part of the Constitution defines Italy as 'a democratic Republic founded on labour,' ensures the sovereignty of the people, and recognizes and safeguards individual and social rights. It firmly declares that all citizens are 'equal before the law' and that the Republic itself is 'one and indivisible.'

The Constitution and the Rights and Duties of Citizens

The second major part of the Constitution lays out the rights and duties of Italian citizens under four titles, which are as follows:

Title 1, 'Civil Relations,' guarantees personal liberty; the inviolability of the home; rights like freedom of communication, travel, assembly, religion, and the press; and the ability of citizens to seek justice in the court system.

Title 2, 'Ethical and Social Rights and Duties,' recognizes family and parental rights, offers the Republic's assistance to families, and promises free and open education.

Title 3, 'Economic Rights and Duties,' acknowledges the value of work and sets forth guarantees to protect and assist workers. This section specifically assures fair pay, equal rights and pay for women, assistance for those unable to work, the ability to form trade unions, and the protection of private enterprise and private property.

Title 4, 'Political Rights and Duties,' affirms that all citizens, male and female, who are of age, have the right to vote. It also assures freedom to political parties. Further, citizens have the right to petition Parliament and run for office. Citizens also have the duties of defending their country through obligatory military service and paying taxes.

The Constitution and the Structure of the Government

The third and final part of the Constitution presents the structure of the Italian government and provides detailed information about:

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