Depretis, Agostino(ägōstē`nō dāprĕ`tēs), 1813–87, Italian premier. An early supporter of the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, he entered the Sardinian parliament after 1848 and was a leader of the opposition to Camillo Benso di Cavour. He soon became a supporter of monarchism, however, and held several cabinet posts after the foundation (1861) of the Italian kingdom. As leader of the moderate left in parliament, he was premier three times (1876–78, 1878–79, 1881–87). He maintained himself in power by heading coalitions of the moderate elements, a policy he called transformisimo. For many, however, Depretis was an uninspired, opportunistic leader who governed by avoiding problems rather than resolving them and by sometimes corrupt political manipulation. To an important degree, the disillusionment with politics among the elite and the cynicism and antiparliamentarianism that characterized later decades in Italy originated during Depretis's period of ascendancy.
Born Jan. 31, 1813, in Mezzana-Corte-Bottaroni; died July 29, 1887, in Stradella. Italian political leader and statesman.
In 1847-48, Depretis took part in the liberal movement in Piedmont. In 1860 he joined the March of the Thousand; as pro-dictator of Sicily (G. Garibaldi was dictator), he followed C. B. Cavour’s line. On Sept. 14, 1860, Depretis was removed from office by Garibaldi. In 1873 he became leader of the so-called Left—a group that reflected the interests of the industrial and banking bourgeoisie and large landowners. Upon the fall of the Right on Mar. 25, 1876, Depretis headed the first cabinet of the Left, and held the post of prime minister in several cabinets (except for the 1879-81 period) until his death. Depretis was the most typical representative of trasformismo (transformism)—the political course that characterized the transition of a significant part of the Italian bourgeoisie (after the unification of Italy) from radical bourgeois-democratic positions to moderate monarchist conservatism. In the area of foreign policy, Depretis pushed for rapprochement with Austro-Hungary and Germany and accomplished the Triple Alliance of 1882. Depretis’ name is associated with the beginning of Italian expansion in Africa (the 1885 seizure of Massawa in Ethiopia).
IU. P. LISOVSKII