SONNINO, SIDNEY, BARON:
Italian politician; born at Alexandria, Egypt, in 1849. His father was a Jewish emigrant from Leghorn, and his mother an English Protestant. He grew up in Florence among a circle of kindred spirits including such men as the historian Pasquale Villari; Karl Hillebrand, the German literary investigator; and Leopoldo Franchetti. In company with the last-named, Sonnino undertook an expedition to southern Italy and to Sicily, the result being a joint publication in which was embodied Sonnino's treatise "I Contadini di Sicilia," on the peasants of the latter place. Another treatise of Sonnino's, entitled "La Mezzadria in Toscana," deals with the leasehold system by which the peasants of Tuscany hold their farms. In both of these treatises Sonnino shows his intimate acquaintance with economic conditions, and his deep interest in the welfare of the poorer classes.
As a member of Parliament, in which he has held a seat since 1882, Sonnino is chiefly occupied with financial and foreign questions. He is an earnest champion of the German-Italian alliance. As leaderof the Left Center he was one of the most active and successful opponents of Depretis' cabinet, especially of Magliani, the minister of finance, whom he repeatedly accused of extravagance. During Perazzi's ministry Sonnino filled the office of assistant secretary of state in the department of finance; and from 1893 to 1896 he held the portfolio of finance in Crispi's cabinet. By his wide knowledge of national economy and his shrewd financial operations he has rendered the Italian state valuable services. Since Crispi's fall Sonnino has been one of the most prominent members of the parliamentary Opposition.
- Telesforo Sarti, Il Parlamento Subalpino e Nazionale, Terni, 1890;
- A. de Gubernatis, Dictionnaire International des Ecrivains du Jour, Florence, 1888;
- Luigi Brengi, I Moribondi di Montecitorio, 1889.