Italy, united in 1861, has significantly contributed to the cultural and social development of the entire Mediterranean area. Many cultures and civilizations have existed there since prehistoric times.
Culturally and linguistically, the origins of Italian history can be traced back to the 9th century BC, when earliest accounts date the presence of Italic tribes in modern central Italy. Linguistically they are divided into Oscans, Umbrians and Latins. Later the Latin culture became dominant, as Rome emerged as the dominant city around 350 BC. Other pre-Roman civilizations include Magna Graecia in Southern Italy and the earlier Etruscan civilization, which flourished between 900 and 150 BC in the Center North, Po Valley, Latium and Campania.
After the Roman Republic and Empire dominated this part of the world for many centuries, came an Italy whose people would make immeasurable contributions. Some of these contributions led to the development of European philosophy, science, and art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Dominated by city-states for much of the medieval and Renaissance period, the Italian peninsula also experienced several foreign dominations. Parts of Italy were annexed to the Spanish, the Austrian and Napoleon's empire, while the Vatican maintained control over the central part of it, before the Italian Peninsula was eventually liberated and unified amidst much struggle in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the late-19th century and early 20th century, or the new Kingdom of Italy, the country built a colonial empire, colonizing parts of Africa, and countries along the Mediterranean. Italy suffered enormous losses in World War I but came out on the winning side. The Fascists, led by Benito Mussolini, took over and set up an authoritarian dictatorship 1922-43. Italy was a junior partner of Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II, and after the southern regions had been liberated in 1943 the Fascists fought on until surrendering in 1945 as the "Republic of Salò". Italy was a hard-fought a battlefield 1943-45.
In 1946, due to a referendum, the Kingdom of Italy was abolished,and 2 June 1946 saw the birth of the Italian Republic. The 1950s and 1960s in Italy saw a period of rapid modernization and economic growth succeeding the disastrous consequences of World War II, and ever since, Italy has been one of the founding nations, or has joined, several organizations, such as the European Economic Community, which later became the European Union, the United Nations, NATO, UNESCO, the G7, which afterward became the G8, the G20, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Italy is currently ranked as a regional power, and Italy has been classified in a study, measuring hard power, as being the 11th greatest worldwide national power.

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The name Italy (Italia) is an ancient name for the country and people of Southern Italy. Mythological roots of the name date back to a legendary ancient king named 'Italus', though a more likely origin may be from ancient Oscan VÍTELIÚ, meaning "land of young cattle", as Italy was a land rich in cattle since ancient times. The name Italia was imposed upon the Roman Republic by the conquering Italic tribes of the contemporary Abruzzo region, centering in the area of Corfinium (Corfinio). Coins bearing the name Italia were minted by an alliance of Italic tribes (Sabines, Samnites, Umbrians and others) competing with Rome in the 1st century BC. By the time of Emperor Augustus, the multi-ethnic territory of Italy was included in the Roman Italy (//Italia//) as the central unit of the Empire; Cisalpine Gaul, the Upper Po valley, for example, was appended in 42 BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Lombard invasions, "Italy" or "Italian" gradually became the collective name for diverse states appearing on the peninsula and their overseas properties. Pallotino claims that the name was originally derived from the Itali settled in modern Calabria. The Greeks gradually came to use the name for a greater region, but it was not until the time of the Roman conquests that the term was expanded to cover the entire peninsula.

Until 1925, when Alberto de Stefani ceased to be Minister of Economics, policies were mostly in line with classical liberalism (suppression of inheritance and luxury tax, suppression of taxes on foreign capital; life insurance transferred to private enterprises in 1923, state monopoly on telephones and matches was abandoned, etc.). However, this policy did not contradict seemingly opposite-minded ones: various banking and industrial companies were financially supported by the state. One of Mussolini's first acts was to fund the metallurgical trust Ansaldo to the height of 400 millions Liras. Following the deflation crisis which started in 1926, banks such as the Banco di Roma, the Banco di Napoli or the Banco di Sicilia were also assisted by the state. In 1924, the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI) was formed by private entrepreneurs and part of the Marconi group, and granted the same year a monopoly of radio broadcasts. After the war, the URI became the RAI.
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An image showing a railway station during the Italian occupation of Eritrea, in Africa. The photograph dates from 1938.

Starting in 1925, Italy's policies became more protectionist. Tariffs of grains were increased in an attempt to strengthen domestic production ("Battle for Grain"), which was ultimately a failure. Thus, according to historian Denis Mack Smith (1981), "Success in this battle was... another illusory propaganda victory won at the expense of the Italian economy in general and consumers in particular". also pointed out "Those who gained were the owners of the Latifondia and the propertied classes in general... his policy conferred a heavy subsidy on the Latifondisti."
Affected by the Great Depression, the Italian state attempted to respond to it both by elaborating public works programs such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, developing hydroelectricity, improving the railways which in the process improved job opportunities, and launching military rearmament. The Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) institute was created in 1933, with the aim of subsiding floundering companies. It soon controlled important parts of the economy, through government-linked companies, including Alfa Romeo.
Economically Italy improved with the GNP growing at 2% a year; automobile production was increasing especially those owned by Fiat, its aeronautical industry was making advances.[Mussolini also championed agrarianism as part of what he called battles for Land, Lira and Grain; in aims of propaganda, he physically took part in these activities alongside the workers creating a strong public image.

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