After the political unification of 1861, the Italians experienced a difficult period of transformation and tension under the leadership of the Liberal Party. Illiteracy and illness affected not only the rural families of the south but also the proletariat of the north. Poor hygiene and inadequate nutrition led to high levels of mortality and deformity among children. Many young men (about 42 per cent in 1870 and 52 per cent in 1890) were rejected for military service on medical grounds.!