Nationalism and Statebuilding for AP European History (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Italian Nationalism to 1850

Italian nationalism had been forged in opposition to Napoleon's rule. After 1815, dreams of a unified Italy were kept alive in secret societies like the Carbonari, secret clubs whose members came mostly from middle-class families and from the army. In 1820, the Carbonari briefly succeeded in organizing an uprising that forced King Ferdinand I of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to grant a constitution and a new Parliament. But Austrian troops, with the blessing of the Concert of Europe, crushed the revolt. The Austrians put down a similar revolt by Carbonari in Piedmont in 1831–1832.

In the 1840s, Giuseppe Mazzini's Young Italy had carried the banner of Italian nationalism. Both a Romantic and a liberal, Mazzini fought for the establishment of an Italian republic that would serve, as he believed ancient Rome had, as a beacon for the rest of humanity. By midcentury, Mazzini had forged a movement known as the Risorgimento, which was composed mostly of intellectuals and university students who shared his idealism. From 1834 to 1848, the Risorgimento attempted a series of popular insurrections, briefly establishing a Roman Republic in 1848 until it was crushed (like its liberal counterparts throughout Europe) by the forces of reaction. In defeat, it was evident that the Risorgimento had failed to win the support of the masses.

Cavour and Victory over Austria

At midcentury, a new leader of Italian nationalist hopes emerged in the person of Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the chief minister of King Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. Cavour differed from Mazzini and other previous leaders of the Italian nationalist movement in several significant ways:

  • Cavour was a conservative aristocrat with ties to the most powerful Italian ruler on the peninsula, rather than a middle-class intellectual.
  • Cavour advocated a constitutional monarchy under Victor Emmanuel II, rather than a republic.
  • Cavour was a cautious and practical statesman, rather than an idealist.

Cavour's strategy was that of an opportunist: he sought to increase the amount of territory under the control of Piedmont whenever possible and to weaken the opponents of Italian unification by playing them against each other. Between 1855 and 1860, Cavour took advantage of several such opportunities and managed to unite all of northern Italy under Piedmont:

  • In 1855, Cavour brought Piedmont and its army into the Crimean War on the side of England and France, who were fighting Russia. This resulted in no immediate gains, but the peace conference afforded Cavour an opportunity to denounce Austrian occupation of Italian lands.
  • In 1858, Cavour reached a secret agreement with Napoleon III of France gaining a promise of French support should Austria attack Piedmont.
  • In 1859, Cavour goaded the Austrians into attacking Piedmont by mobilizing forces and refusing an ultimatum to disarm. French and Piedmontese troops defeated the Austrians at the battles of Magenta and Solferino, driving the Austrians out of Lombardy. Further gains by Piedmont were thwarted by Napoleon III's abrupt signing of the Treaty of Villafranca with the Austrians.
  • By 1860, inspired by the Piedmontese victory over Austria, the majority of the northern and north-central duchies shook off their Austrian rulers and voluntarily united with Piedmont.

Garibaldi and Victory in the South

The success of northern Italians in throwing off Austrian domination inspired their southern counterparts. A series of peasant revolts, tinged with anti-Bourbon sentiment, arose in the south.

Southern Italian nationalists found a different kind of leader in Giuseppe Garibaldi and, in 1860, launched a series of popular uprisings that put all of southern Italy under his control. The southern nationalist movement differed from its northern counterpart in several significant ways:

  • Garibaldi was a Romantic nationalist who had been an early supporter of Mazzini.
  • The southern movement was a genuine revolt of the masses rather than the political maneuverings of a single kingdom.
  • Garibaldi hoped to establish an Italian republic that would respect the rights of individuals and improve the lot of the peasants and workers.

In May of 1860, Garibaldi raised an army of 1,000 red-shirted Italian patriots and landed in Sicily to aid a peasant revolt underway there. In a few short months, Garibaldi and his red-shirts provided leadership to a nationalist revolt that took control of most of southern Italy and set its sights on Rome.

The Kingdom of Italy and the Completion of Italian Unification

Cavour had publicly condemned Garibaldi's conquests but secretly aided them. When Garibaldi's troops began to threaten Rome, Cavour persuaded Napoleon III, who had sworn to protect the pope, to allow the Piedmontese army to invade the Papal States in order to head off Garibaldi. By September of 1860, Piedmont controlled the Papal States and set up a ring around Rome.

When Piedmontese forces, led by King Victor Emmanuel II himself, met Garibaldi and his forces outside Rome in September of 1860, Garibaldi submitted and presented all of southern Italy to Victor Emmanuel; in the end, Garibaldi's dream of a unified Italy was stronger than his commitment to the idea of a republic. In March of 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was formally proclaimed. It was a constitutional monarchy under Victor Emmanuel II and a parliament elected by limited suffrage. It contained all of the Italian peninsula except the city of Rome (which was still ruled by the pope and protected by French troops) and Venetia (which was still occupied by Austrian troops). The unification of Italy was completed when Venetia came into the Kingdom of Italy during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and Rome (with the exception of the Vatican City) followed during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

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