Unification Of Italy

Follow Us @ Telegram

Unification Of Italy


  • The idea of Italy as an entity, of Italian as a noble and beautiful language and of the common cultural roots of the Italian city and states, however, can be traced back to the Renaissance period and even earlier.
  • Francisco Petrarch (1304- 1374) turned to antiquity for inspiration and solace following the decline of the two great forces of universalism – the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.
  • It was a purely literary patriotism. Rienzo’s “proclamations of the sovereignty of the Roman people and of the unity of Italy”, and his support for the common people against the aristocracy, also contained weak anticipations of ideas of nationalism and democracy.
  • The campaign for a unified literacy vernacular started in Italy when it became the victim of invading armies. But the debate on language reflected the social divisions in Italy and not merely regional differences.
  • The insistence on the linguistic cleavage between the ruling class and the common people and the assumption that Italy could have one language only for the dominant social groups reflected a profoundly elitist attitude.
  • In Italy poets played a major role in the development of nationalism.
  • It was humanistic literary elite which played a role in the diffusion of the Italian language.
  • There was no powerful state as in France which could promote the national language.
  • The absence of a vernacular reformation as in Germany confined the Italian language to tiny elite of 2.5% who commonly used  the  Italian  language  even  in 1860.
  • In fact the great contributions of Italian humanism also reflected a bias in favour of the elite. The great Italian humanists “spoke for and to the dominant social groups”. The literary output of the humanists was rooted in a sense of the responsibilities of the upper classes.
  • Even the Renaissance ideal of the dignity of man was linked to the domineering position of urban ruling groups in an age of triumph. Italian nationalism of the 19th century failed to overcome the cultural elitism of the Italian humanists and literary masters.

Political and Economic  Background

  • During the first half of the 16th century, Italy faced an intermittent conflict between French, Swiss, Spanish and German soldiers for political supremacy on Italian states – Venice, Milan, Florence, Naples and the Papal states – produced by, mid-15th century – was upset by the Italian wars of 1494-1559.
  • While France and Spain began to move towards a sense of nationalism, the Italians had a strong sense of regional  or local attachment to Milan, Florence or  Genoa;  but they could also swing to the other extreme    to  become cosmopolitans.
  • It was the French Revolution which provided a model for Italian nationalism. The French occupying forces in Lombardy organized an essay competition on the subject of the best  form of free government for Italy.
  • This encouraged a debate extolling the ancient glories of Italy, admiration for France and its constitution of 1795 and schemes for Italian regeneration and unification. Melchiorre Gioia won the essay competition and become one of Italy’s leading economists.
  • The Kingdom of Italy created by Napoleon helped to foster Italian national sentiment but it also reduced it to a continental colony of France.
  • The Napoleonic legal codes and prefectural system which was introduced in Italy helped to define the model of a unified national state. Even the Italian army, based on conscription and used for Napoleon’s campaigns, revealed a sense of nationalism.
  • It was as a reaction to French domination and Napoleon’s identification with Imperial Rome that Italian writers choose to reject the  Roman  heritage.
  • The Austrians were the dominant power in Italy and the settlement after the defeat of Napoleon strengthened Austrian control. Metternich’s proposal for an Italian Confederation, on the lines of the German Confederation, was opposed by both Piedmont and the Pope’s advisers. In the period after 1815 the secret societies attracted the supporters  of  the Italian Jacobin tradition.
  • Members of the Carbonari and other secret societies were not exclusively  concerned  with  Italian  nationalism. e.g. Carbonari of southern Italy who enjoyed the greatest public support among the 19th century revolutionary organizations were more interested in  democratizing  Naples  than  in  unifying Italy.
  • After the failure of the revolutions of 1830-   31, specially in Modena and Bologna,  Italians felt increasingly the need to rely on their own endeavour and on open methods of agitation. Giuseppe Mazzini, started Young Italy and rejected  the  sectarian  model  of  revolutionary dictatorship and terror.
  • Mazzini was a democratic nationalist who simultaneously rejected both the elitism of  the  moderates  and the  Jacobin  ideal  of  revolutionary dictatorship.
  • Radicals in Italy saw the monarchial governments as obstacles to the politics of integration; to them, their overthrow was the precondition for a unified nation-state. Radical nationalism in Italy found its greatest exponent in Guiseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) who had earlier joined a branch of the Carbonari in 1827  but soon became disillusioned by their lack of clear purpose.
  • He felt that Italy’s freedom from Austrian domination depended entirely on the destruction of aristocratic privilege and clerical authority. With this objective he founded the Young Italy (Giovine Italia) in 1832 and envisioned a republican form of government for   a united Italian state. After a failed armed uprising at Savoy in 1834 Mazzini went into exile  in London.
  • As a radical Unitarian, Mazzini believed that all forms of federalism were mere mechanisms  for perpetuating the dominance of local elites. Mazzini’s nationalism was not exclusive and he believed in the eventual emergence of a United States of Europe after all nations had become  free.
  • Although he believed in a people’s war of national liberation he also believed in a democratic government based on universal suffrage. Mazzini recognized the importance of support from the peasantry for his conception of people’s war but Italian republicans were never able to bridge the gap between the towns and    the  countryside.
  • The Italian national movement was not based on such a strong industrial bourgeoisie as in the case of Germany.
  • The level of economic unification in Italy prior to political unification was also on a lesser scale than in Germany, the Italian customs union being no match for the German Zollverein. Another serious economic problem was the considerable backwardness of the  Italian south.
  • The process of national unification in Italy was based on the existence of several states which tried to preserve their autonomy and privileges  in the context of Franco-Austrian rivalry. Piedmont became the Italian state which unified Italy.
  • The king, Charles Albert until 1840, evinced no  sentiments  in  favour  of  either  liberalism or patriotism. Charles Albert (1831-1840) was a conservative monarch who had no compunctious about using Austrian troops  to  stop  revolution in Italy much like the Metternich system envisaged.
  • Although Piedmont was not quite the powerhouse like Prussia in an economic sense, it was politically and militarily the most active participant in the process of Italian revolution. Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi have been hailed in some accounts as the brain, heart and sword    of unification. While Piedmont’s policies had been timid before 1849, in the 1850s the more resolute policies of Count Cavour in  combination  with the popular movements launched by Mazzini and Garibaldi led to Italian unification with the popular movements launched by Mazzini and Garibaldi led to Italian unification.
  • Cavour used his friendship and alliance with Napoleon III to wage successful wars for both the liberation of Italy from Austria and political unification. The territorial ambitions of Piedmont-Sardinia and  the desire to preserve social stability shaped the attitude of the aristocratic Cavour.
  • Unification was to depend primarily on the  regular  army and  bureaucracy,  not  popular  movements.
  • The financial costs of the wars of liberation had to be borne by Piedmont Sardinia which adversely affected the programme of modernization started by Cavour in the 1850s.
  • Piedmont influence which Piedmont wielded in the unitary state which was created in 1861. Earlier, when Pope Pius IX  withdrew  support  for a national war against Catholic Austria in April 1848 he lost the support of nationalist opinion  in Italy.
  • After the revolution in Rome and the flight  of the Pope, the Roman Republic was proclaimed. The efforts of the Pope to return succeeded in June 1849 with the help of French and Austrian forces.
  • During the period of Italian unification, the Pope and the Catholic Church played a conservative role. After losing temporal power, the Pope forbade the faithful to participate in national politics.
  • The opposition of the Church to the secular state – as well as socialism,  anarchism  and  the  labour movement – culminated in the merger of anticlericalism with support  for  parliamentary  democracy.

Unification Process

  • Although popular mobilization played a part in unification process the elites tried to control the level of popular participation. This is what  led Gramsci to characterize the Risorgimento and Italian unification as a form of passive revolution.
  • Secret societies such as  the  Carbonari,  Filadelfi or Young Italy were active in the 1830s and 1840s in fomenting revolutions.
  • There was a chain of rebellions in Turin, Naples, Palermo and other areas in 1820-21 and a fresh round of rebellions during 1828-31 and the 1848-49 revolutions in Germany, the revolutionary coalitions collapsed with workers, peasants, urban poor and socialists parting company from the liberal upper and middle classes.
  • The revolutions of 1848-49 were popular revolutions but more municipal than national revolutions. The real problem was that the democrats failed to secure the support of the countryside.
  • The 1848-49 revolutions failed but the heroic defense of the republics – in Rome by Mazzini  and  Garbaldi  and  in  Venice  by Manin produced the legends of Italian nationalism and the  Italian Cavour joined the Crimean War in 1855 on behalf of Britain and France to gain their support in this future confrontation with Austria.
  • One of Cavour’s military officers predicted that out  of the mud of the Crimea Italy would emerge. Although Italy did not achieve much it got an opportunity to discuss its problems in an international forum in 1856, Piedmont Cavour had consolidated his position by a connubio or alliance with Urbano Rattazzi  of  the  centre-left in  1852.
  • Although the republicans were initially distrustful of Cavour and the Piedmontese they slowly recognized the pivotal importance which Piedmont would have to play in Italian unification.
  • On the basic of the agreement with Napoleon III at Plombieres in 1858 France, came to the aid of Piedmont in the war with Austria which broke out in 1859. Italian National Society which played a key role in these plebiscites.
  • Between 1857 and 1862 this Society published a national newspaper, drafted volunteers, orchestrated revolutions in Central Italy and then played a role in the plebiscites. This society was implicated in Garibaldi’s invasion of Naples as well as Cavour’s entry into the Papal States “thus ensuring”, says Coppa, “that the kingdom of 1861  would  be  national  rather  than  northern.”
  • Although Garibaldi was upset by the handing over of his home province of Nice to the French he collaborated with Cavour in the invasion of Sicily and Naples. It was the tremendous success of Garibaldi’s volunteers which galvanized Cavour into uniting the whole of Italy while earlier he had concentrated on northern and central Italy.
  • The 1859 annexations in North and Central Italy had been achieved without much collective violence, but in 1860 the transfer of power in the south was marked by enormous violence.
  • As far as the unification of Italy was concerned, the question of Venetia and Rome remained. Venice was incorporated in Italy after an overwhelming vote in favour of union in a plebiscite. After several failed attempts to acquire Rome – notably Garbaldi’s attempt in 1867 – it was incorporated after a short war in September 1870.

Economic Unification

  • The Italian state after unification did try to force the pace of economic development in order to catch-up with the advanced countries. Unlike the USA and Germany and even France, the industrialization of Italy was not boosted substantially by the railways.
  • Even the utilization of the railways was poor because North and South did not complement each  other;  because the main Italian export-silk-weighed very little; and because of the general backwardness of the country.
  • The railway policy of the Italian  state was excessively “forced” in terms of timing as well as the mode of financing though the railways sewed up the Italian boot they neither integrated the south with the Italian  economy nor boosted overall  industrial growth.
  • In Italy the divisions between the more industrialized north, the less developed central region and the neglected and backward south actually intensified after the Italian unification.
  • The Italian south remained an alienated, almost colonized, region.
  • The Italian unification, more due to military success and international diplomacy rather than people’s war or mass struggles, was based on the lowest possible mobilization of the masses required for achieving independence  and  unification.
  • In Gramsci’s words, the process of Italian unification was a form of passive revolution in which the Italian elite had mobilized the Italian masses only to the extent necessary  to  achieve the political objective of national unification and independence  from  Austria.

Disintegration of Empires

  • In the modern international relations system any a-national or dynastic state could no longer exist. The Habsburg and Ottoman states hoped  to survive by obstructing, suppressing, or ignoring, nationalism.
  • But the nation-state did  not have to be the result, although so many nation-states had come into being. It could as well have been the multi-national state.
  • Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union are examples. The modern state could exist only on the basis of the promotion of nationalism; and this nationalism could equally be a single nationalism appropriate to the nation-state, or a number of nationalisms combined through imaginative federating arrangements into a multi- national  state.
  • In principle the Ottoman and Habsburg empires could have evolved into such multi- national entities like the Czechoslovak, Yugoslav, and Soviet states.
  • But the two empires were defeated in international war and were  carved up, as happens with almost unfailing regularity throughout history. In this case, the victors used nationalism as the principle by which to slice them up as it was the most readily available and effective instrument.
  • Yet they were not consistent, if it did not suit them, as the shifting frontiers in the Balkans, or finally the Czechoslovak and Yugoslav states demonstrate. The disintegration of the two empires was due to both nationalism and military defeat; military defeat gives most immediate reasons, and nationalism gives an idea of  the  form  in  which  it happened.
  • The Habsburg disintegration corresponded to the Ottoman with a difference of emphasis. The primary thrust to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire was the pressure by the great powers; nationalism came a distinct second, even if used by the great powers.
  • The Habsburg process was similar, but more spectacular. Its early losses in the nineteenth century were due to French action. It lost authority over Germany in 1806 when the Holy Roman Empire was abolished after Napoleonic victories. In 1860 the French deprived the Habsburg of their Italian possessions by promoting the unification of Italy.
  • In 1866, Prussia drove the Habsburgs finally out of the German leadership. On the other hand, the Habsburgs gained territories, chiefly the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the western Balkans at the expense  of  the  Ottoman Empire, But, despite all the nationalist pressures in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, it was only the defeat in World War I that led to the final disintegration, with the victorious powers carving out the new nations of Czechoslovakia, Hungary minus the non-Magyars, Romania with Transylvania, and a south Slav federation called Yugoslavia, leaving the rump Austria.
  • The process was more dramatic than the Ottoman as the Habsburg central state was more modern and effective.
  • It could contain local nationalism and hold off international predators better. But, as usual, international rivalry was the ultimate test; and the Habsburgs went down like the Ottomans,  and  for  much  the  same reasons.
  • Russian Empire differed from the other two Empires in terms of its more effective modernization, relatively lesser losses in  wars, the demographic superiority of the Russians in relation to other nationalities, the supportive role of the Orthodox Church thereby ensuring religious loyalty of the majority of its subjects, enforced cultural and linguistic unification of the minority nationalities and the leading role of Russian nationalism.
  • Even after the Empire broke up under the impact of the World War I, the Soviet Union, in a span of twenty years  or so,  was able to re-unite most of its constituent units  in  a  single nation-state.
  • For this (emergence of a Supra national structure i.e. USSR), a national territory was identified on the basis of language, history, and culture, and it was made into a constituent Republic of the Soviet Union.
  • The  language  of the Republic was then made the official language for local use, and Russian because the language for communication with the rest of the Soviet Union. Universal literacy campaigns were conducted with great energy such that more members of that nationality now knew how to read, write, and speak a single standardized version of their languages and could use it at all levels than ever before in history.
  • The full apparatus of education, from primary to post-secondary was established, so that members of the nationality could aspire to even higher levels of scholarship and culture within their own cultural space.
  • All the national cultural institutions were created, that is, museums, theatres, publishing house, radio, and many newspapers.
  • As much as possible, people of the local nationality were given preference in local employment; this process was known as nativization  or  korenizatsiia.
  • All these, put together, were major achievements for nationalist. But the essential conditions they had to observe in the twenties were: All citizens had to accept loyalty to the Soviet state and accept the dictatorship of the Communist  Party,  including  its  anti-religious militancy. Security sensitive jobs were controlled by Russians, as in the intelligence and defence services.

This was followed by the decade of Stalin which forced industrialization, collectivization, mass purges, labour camps, appalling man-made famines, and the final dictatorship of a security apparatus masquerading as the Party. Now nationalism was to be permitted in the form made notorious by the slogan ‘nationalist in form, socialist in content.’ All the non-socialist, or rather non-party line, thinking of the nationalists was denounced. They could promote their culture and pursue their careers within their respective Republics and regions only if they followed the Party line in its details. It was a thoroughgoing imposition  of  uniformity  and centralism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">html</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

error: Content is protected !!!!!

Join Our Online/Offline Classes Today!!!!!
By Dr. Ayush Sir!!!!!

For More Details Please
Call us at 7089851354
Ask at Telegram https://t.me/mppsc_content