Having obtained a parliamentary majority in the 1924 election and the
following year passed a law increasing the powers of the head of government, it
was in 1926, with the abolition of all the other political parties, that the
Fascist dictatorship formally began. By such means Mussolini, both on the
national and international level, was able to expand without any further formal
hindrance. In 1929 following the Concordato with the Catholic Church, he
also managed to gain the support or at least not the hostility of the Church
itself an through this the Catholic masses, which were equivalent to the
majority of Italians. Such consensus increased also because of an undoubted
improvement in the country's economic condition and a policy of social reform
involving the poorest classes.
The continuation of land reclamation, already begun in the previous century even before the unification, increased the amount of land under cultivation with a satisfactory level of basic provisions. Examples of these initiatives can be found in the `grain battle' and the draining of the agro pontino, which produced an entirely new piece of territory. At the same time, industry was being brought up to date and developed, especially after the world economic crisis of 1929. The Istituto Mobiliare Italiano was created in 1931 to provide credit for industry and the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (1933) began the era of public intervention in large-scale industrial reform.
In its external policy the Fascist regime especially sought prestige by further colonial expansion, as that into Ethiopia (1935-36) or participation in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Franco's forces. Gradually, Italy's good relations with France, Britain and the Soviet Union (whose revolutionary government Italy was the first country to recognize) deteriorated, while her links with Hitler's Germany increased (Rome-Berlin Axis, 1936). In 1939 the Pact of Steel with Germany, after an initially non-belligerent phase, inevitably dragged Italy, in 1940, into the tragic events of the Second World War (1939-45).
Italy's increasingly unsuccessful war, fought on many fronts and against better trained and equipped armies, overwhelmed Mussolini in 1943, when he was censured by his own party. He was replaced as head of government by the Marshall Pietro Badoglio, who immediately signed an armistice with the allied powers (3 September 1943). The formation of a new government by Mussolini in Northern Italy, the Repubblica Sociale Italiana based at SalÚ, with the support of Germany and in opposition to the monarchial government (temporarily based at Brindisi) provoked a civil war. This was only brought to an end by the intervention of the allied armies, the formation of the partisans, the abdication of the king and the end of Mussolini (28 April-2 May 1945).
After an interlude with several national coalition governments and the provisional rule of Umberto II of Savoy, Alcide De Gasperi of the Democrazia Cristiana became President of the Council. On 2 June 1946 the results of the institutional referendum brought to an end the monarchy of the House of Savoy (its last king, Umberto II, going into exile) and heralded the republic which was officially proclaimed on 18 June 1946. Enrico De Nicola was elected as the Republic's first President. Under the government led by De Gasperi, the first parliamentary assembly to be freely elected by the people began work on the new Constitutional Charter that was to come into force on 1 January 1948.