Modern World History

Unification of Italy

Italian Unification- Part I

In the beginning of 19th century, Italy was mere a geographical entity as it was divided into number of small principalities. The state of Piedmont was the only native state in Italy and other states were under foreign rule. North Italy was under Austria, the central parts were under the control of Pope and the southern Italy was under Bourbon dynasty of France. In the opening years of 19th century nobody ever thought of Italian unification and one rule could ever be established in whole of the state. The military campaigns of Napoleon played an important role in bringing about the unification of Italy. He was not looking for creating unified Italian kingdom but his works hold the course of the unification in an indirect manner. He defeated the powerful gentry in various parts of Italy. The large number of smaller principalities was amalgamated into three political entities. Napoleon established republican system in these political entities and started number of reforms in accordance with the ideals of the Revolution of 1789. The concept of equality was established and rule of law was implemented.Napolean also wiped out the feudal elements from Italy and this led to the weakening of traditional system. He also undertook steps for economic reforms. He abolished the restricted trade guilds and freed the trade and commerce from medieval restrictions.

Napoleon also helped raising the level of popular awareness in Italy. He glorified the past of Italy. When the rule of Napoleon turned despotic it undermined the rights and privileges of common citizens and resulted in reactionary reactions. It gave birth to Italian nationalism. This spread of nationalism continued to strengthen over the period of time and played a significant role in the politics of the state. The Vienna order of 1815 was inspired by reactionary ideals. The order was the product of absolute monarchies which restored the pre 1796 status in Italy. Characterized by the principals of legitimacy and balance of power the Vienna Order restored the old ruling houses in different parts of Italy. The House of Savoy was reestablished in Piedmont Sardinia. The rule of Austrian princes was restored in states likes Tuscany etc.The authority of Pope was recognized over Rome and Papal States of Central Italy. The Naples and Sicily of Southern Italy were placed under Ferdinand II of Bourbon dynasty of France. The authors of Vienna Order made efforts to wipe out the liberal and progressive ideals spread by Napoleon in Italy. The feudal elements and class privileges were restored.

Unification of italy


Role of Mazzini in Italian Unification

Mazzini was one of the most important philosopher nationalist of the 19th century. He carried the torch of Italian nationalism to every corner of the state. He was inspired by the cause of Italian unity and was disgusted by the foreign domination over Italy. He emphasized the glory of Italian past. He put forth the glorious achievements of history in front of the masses to motivate them and to instill a sense of national pride among them. His tireless work resulted in the birth and spread of nationalism in Italy. Mazzini was republican by principles and opposed the monarchial institutions and emphasized upon the natural rights of the citizens and the end of all forms of exploitation. Mazzini highlighted the common elements of diverse local cultures and this led Italians perceiving themselves as a part of one national culture. He propagated the sense of sacrifice for the cause of mother land among the people .He asked the young generation of Italy rise in support of the cause of Italian nationalism.

Mazzini established Young Italy in 1831 to spread his message among Italians and to strengthen the spirit of nationalism. His association attracted the young people and played an important role in motivating them to fight for the cause of Italian nationalism. The speeches and writings of Mazzini brought intellectual revolution in Italy and ideological unification could take place before political unification. The works of Mazzini eased the task of Cavour. The spirit of nationalism generated and strengthened by Mazzini could be used by Cavour to instigate popular revolts against foreign rule and to unify various small principalities through referendum.

Stages of Italian Unification (1848-70)

Though the early attempts to bring about the unification of Italy failed but these failures also contributed to the cause of unification. Count Cavour could learn a number of lessons from these failures and this valuable experience played an important role in the process of success later on. Cavour was appointed as the PM of Piedmont in 1852 and with his appointment a new chapter opened in Italian history. Cavour was a nationalist to the core of his heart and was dedicated to the cause of unification. He believed that process of unification could not succeed by the use of force only and state of Piedmont should be developed as model state to attract the attention of common masses and to win their support. Since foreign elements would not be leaving Italy so Piedmont should be developed into a military state. Foreign help would be required to oust Austria from Italy. He formulated his policies keeping these realities in mind.

He undertook many reforms to make Piedmont a model state through effective and liberal administration granting many liberties to the citizen. He also initiated number of economic reforms. The elements of feudal order were wiped out and rights of peasantry were recognized. The steps were taken to develop industries, agriculture, trade and commerce. The means of communication was also developed for flow of goods and services. A number of banks were created and cooperative societies were established. The privileges enjoyed by Church were taken away along with their lands. Cavour also initiated number of military reforms. External policy of Cavour aimed at creating a favorable political climate in Europe for the cause of unification. Cavour used his diplomatic skills to win the support of number of powers.

The Second phase of the unification of Italy

During this phase the states of central Italy were united with the time of Austro-Sardinia war whole Italy was doused in the spirit of nationalism. At the same time the people of central Italy expelled the rulers of Parma, Modena and Tuscany. People removed the representatives of Pope from Bologna and Romagna and established temporary government there. Those regions passed a resolution and decided to merge with Sardinia. The government of England adopted the policy of non-interference and declared that Italians had a right to resolve their problems themselves. Austria and Prussia wanted to reinstall previous rulers on the thrones of central Italy but they could not do anything in the prevailing atmosphere.

Cavour bargained with Napoleon III on the question of Italy. It was decided that France would not raise objection on merging the states of Italy into Sardinia only if Nice and Savoy provinces were given to him. In 1860 through a referendum Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Bologna and Piyokenja decided to merge with Sardinia. The public of Nice and Savoy also voted for merger with France. Separation of Nice and Savoy from Italy was criticized. The area of Sardinia – Piedmont was doubled in the bargain. An Italian state was created comprising all regions of North Italy and Central Duchies except Venetia. With it the second phase of Italy’s unification ended.

Third phase of the unification of Italy

Naples, Sicily, Venetia and Rome were still out of reach of Italy. Italy still had to acquire the remaining half of the peninsula. Naples and Sicily were greatly influenced by Austro-Sardinian war of 1859 and violent uprisings had taken place there also. The people of those states were dissatisfied as their rulers were of foreign origin. The public of Sicily was against the despotic rule of Bourbon dynasty. The patriots of Sicily requested Garibaldi to lead their mission. Garibaldi agreed to help them on condition that they should rise in revolt in the name of Victor Emmanuel and Italy. In April 1860 revolt broke out near Masina. Although the French troops suppressed it, Garibaldi made up his mind to help Sicily. Cavour too wanted to help Sicily but he could not do so openly for fear of breaking international laws. Therefore externally he demonstrated his neutrality but extended help to Garibaldi and Sicily secretly. In May Garibaldi marched forward from Genoa to Sicily. In May he defeated the troops at Naples at Keltapheme took possession of Palermo and by the end of June, established his dominance over Sicily and declared him to be sovereign of Sicily. But Garibaldi’s achievements put many troubles at the door of Cavour who suspected that Garibaldi would make the conquered territories republic under the influence of Mazzini. Cavour wanted to employ Garibaldi’s success in favor of Italy so he proceeded with great circumspection. In his message to Garibaldi Cavour asked him to merge Sicily with North Italy but Garibaldi refused to do so. Cavour sent a few selected volunteers to Sicily and Naples. They succeeded in preparing consensus in favor of the merger of Naples with North Italy. On Cavour’s advice Admiral Parsano persuaded the fleet of Naples to act in favor of Italy.

In August 1860 Garibaldi attacked Naples. He was in a better position than earlier because he had mustered the mass support and success he had elevated the morale of his army. Napoleon III wanted to thwart Garibaldi’s progress and sent a proposal to England to prevent Garibaldi from not reaching north of Sicily but Great Britain rejected that proposal and Garibaldi marched forward to Naples .All efforts made by Francis II to prevent Garibaldi ended in failure and the ruler of Naples fled to Geetta.Garibaldi marched forward without any hindrance and declared himself to be the sovereign of Naples. Garibaldi resolved to subjugate Venetia and Rome. But Cavour made the firm determination to finish Garibaldi’s efforts. He decided to have Papal States attacked by the army of Piedmont in order to defend Rome from the dominance of Garibaldi. Napoleon allowed Cavour to engineer attacks on the Papal States on condition that Rome should be spared. By the end of October the public of Naples, Sicily and the conquered Papal states voted for merger into the state of North Italy. It strengthened Cavour’s position. On the other hand Garibaldi was convinced that he would not succeed in his mission without the help of Italian forces. He accepted Emmanuel as a ruler of Italy and surrendered his rights and force to him. In November 1860 Victor Emmanuel was declared the ruler of combined Italy. With the merger of the states of Southern region the third phase of unification of Italy came to an end. In February 1861 the first session of Italian parliament was held at Turin and was attended by all the representatives of Italy except those from Venetia and Rome. Victor Emmanuel II was accepted, as the ruler of Italy and Sardinia became the state of Italy. The Parliament acceded to Cavour’s proposal for making Rome the capital of Italy.

Fourth phase of unification of Italy

The unification of Italy was complete but without Rome and Venetia. In 1866 Italy got an opportunity to acquire Venetia. Chancellor Bismarck of Prussia was making preparations of war against Austria and required Italy’s cooperation in this venture. In April 1866 a treaty was signed between Bismarck and Emmanuel which provided that Venetia would be annexed to Italy in lieu of Italy’s help to Prussia during war against Austria. In June 1866 Prussia declared war against Austria.

Emmanuel’s army attacked Venetia from southward in June while Prussia attacked Austria from North. Consequently Austrian forces were divided. Although Italy fought with great courage and bravery. Austria frustrated Italy at several places. On the contrary Prussia defeated her in July 1866 in the battle of Sadowa.The victory of Prussia enabled the unification of Venetia to Italy and by means of referendum Venetia was merged into Italy.

Fifth phase of unification of Italy

Pope dominated Rome and French troops were deployed there to protect him. In 1867 Garibaldi made efforts to acquire Rome but in vain. The Italian politicians were aware that Rome could not be acquired without the cooperation of France. When the war broke out between Prussia and France in 1870, Napoleon called his army back from Rome and in September 1870 Victor Emmanuel II established his dominance over it. Referendum was carried out in Rome and it was merged into Italy and made the capital of united Italy. With the acquisition of Rome, Italy did not remain merely a geographical entity but became an independent and sovereign nation.

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