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Rapprochement in imperial context. Catholicism and colonial policy in liberal Italy (1878–1912)

Did the imperial context make a gradual rapprochement between liberalism and political Catholicism possible, several years before it could be achieved on a national level?
By the end of the 19th century, the young Kingdom of Italy struggled both for a place among the long established colonial powers and for recognition on a national level. The Roman Question was still unresolved. Consequently, a strong Catholic milieu had emerged whose supporters advanced very diverse views on the newly founded state and its expansionism.
Militant, antiliberal Catholics (Intransigenti) were represented by a large variety of Catholic media and by their umbrella organisation Opera dei Congressi e dei Comitati Cattolici (1874–1904). While they supported the pope’s temporal power and Catholic missionary work, they fervently opposed the new state and its colonial policies, which – in their opinion – had damaged the “good name” of Italy.
Nationalist Catholics (Transigenti, Nationali Conservativi or Conciliatoristi), however, were in favour of limiting papal responsibilities to spiritual authority only. In order to “spread Italian culture and language in the world” they not only generally supported a reconciliation between the church and the liberal state, but they also actively propagated an actual collaboration with regard to missionary work and colonialism and sought to end the French protectorate over Italian missionaries. 
In so far as this “colonial question” constituted a central issue in the divide between Intransigenti and Transigenti, the fact that they had similar-sounding opinions on colonialism might be read as a rapprochement between both groups and, hence, between liberalism and Catholicism in general.
The PhD project aims to prove – or disprove – this thesis by analysing the change in attitudes towards Italian expansionism in relation to events occurring in Italian colonial and mission history.