See M. Maestro, Caesare Beccaria and the Origins of Penal Reform (1973).
In 1859, he joined the revolutionary committee which paved the way for Garibaldi's triumphs in the following year. After spending a short time at Turin as attaché to the Italian foreign office, he was elected mayor of Palermo. In 1866, he displayed considerable personal courage and energy in quelling an insurrection of separatist and reactionary tendencies. The prestige thus acquired led to his appointment as prefect of Palermo. It was while occupying that position that he put down briganclage throughout the province. In 1868, he was prefect of Naples.
In October 1869 he became minister of the interior in the Menabrea cabinet. The cabinet fell a few months later, and although Starabba was an elected member of parliament for Canicattì, he held no important position until, upon the death of Marco Minghetti in 1886, he became leader of the Right. Early in 1891, he succeeded Francesco Crispi as premier and minister of foreign affairs, forming a coalition cabinet with a part of the Left under Giovanni Nicotera. His administration proved vacillating, but it initiated the economic reforms by virtue of which Italian finances were put on a sound basis and also renewed the Triple Alliance.
He was overthrown in May 1892 by a vote of the Chamber and was succeeded by Giovanni Giolitti. Upon the return of his rival, Crispi, to power in December 1893, he resumed political activity, allying himself with the Radical leader, Felice Cavallotti. The crisis consequent upon the disaster of Adowa enabled Rudinì to return to power as premier and minister of the interior in a cabinet formed by the veteran Conservative, General Ricotti. He signed a peace treaty with Abyssinia, but endangered relations with Great Britain by the unauthorized publication of confidential diplomatic correspondence in a Green-book on Abyssinian affairs.
To satisfy the anti-colonial party, he ceded Kassala to Great Britain, thereby provoking much indignation in Italy. His internal policy was marked by continual yielding to Radical pressure and by persecution of Crispi. By dissolving the Chamber early in 1897 and favoring Radical candidates in the general election, he paved the way for the outbreak of May 1898: Rudinì declared the state of siege at Naples, Florence, Livorno and Milan, and the suppression of the riot resulted into a bloodshed. Indignation at the results of his policy led to his overthrow in June 1898.
During his second term of office, he thrice modified his cabinet (July 1896, December 1897, and May 1898) without strengthening his political position. In many respects Rudinì, though leader of the Right and nominally a Conservative politician, proved a dissolving element in the Italian Conservative ranks. By his alliance with the Liberals under Nicotera in 1891, and by his understanding with the Radicals under Cavallotti in 1894-1898; by abandoning his Conservative colleague, General Ricotti, to whom he owed the premiership in 1896; and by his vacillating action after his fall from power, he divided and demoralized a constitutional party which, with more sincerity and less reliance upon political cleverness, he might have welded into a solid parliamentary organization.
Di Rudinì was also reputed to be a thorough gentleman and grand seigneur. One of the largest and wealthiest landowners in Sicily, he managed his estates on liberal lines, and was never troubled by agrarian disturbances. The marquis, who had not been in office since 1898, died at Rome in August, 1908, leaving a son, Carlo, who married a daughter of Henry Labouchere.