Italian Unification

October 15, 2014 | | Leave a Comment

By: Avneet Kang, Stratton Gilmore and Jennifer Camarena

Edited By: Susie Townsend

After the Congress of Vienna, Italy was split into several different independent governments. In 1815, Austria was received most of the country, while the rest of the country was turned into three separate nations. Italy consisted of, but was not limited to: The Papal States, Sicily, Piedmont, and Lombardy-Venetia. In the 18th century, liberal ideas from Britain and France spread rapidly across Europe, and they clashed with the conservative ideas of the Austrian monarchy, which led to the rise of nationalism, or pride in one’s country.


Starting in Palermo, Sicily, January 12, 1848, Sicilian nobles demanded for a democratic government from the rule of the local king, Ferdinand II. Initially resisting these changes, Ferdinand II was driven out of Italy by a full-fledged riot. This expulsion of the king and his men allowed the provisional government to be instituted. Revolts then started to erupt in Lombardy-Venetia, while Milanese and Venetian revolutionaries expelled the Austrian forces from Milan. However, they were soon to be defeated by the Austrians, and in the armistice conceded back the lands the revolutionaries took save Venice, which now had the republic of San Marco under the rule of Daniele Manin.

The main obstacle of Italian unification was the power of the Roman Catholic Church, which ruled a great part of the Italian peninsula, and the great diversity of independent states. So the Republican forces fomented a revolt against the pope, declaring the Republic of Rome in 1848, which upset the Pope because it would rob him of his authority as the head of state.

Fathers of Italy

“The Fathers of the Fatherland”

Giuseppe Mazzini, nicknamed The Beating Heart of Italy, was an Italian politician, journalist and activist for the unification of Italy. He founded a patriotic movement of young men and called it Giovine Italia (Young Italy). It was designed as a national association for liberating the separate Italian states from foreign rule and fusing them into a free and independent unitary republic. His methods were education and revolution. This was the first Italian democratic movement embracing all classes, for Mazzini believed that only a popular initiative could free Italy.

Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general and politician, was a great part in the Unification of Italy. Garibaldi came from a humble background; his family where fisherman in Nice. As a young boy he traveled to the South Americas where he fought many battles in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. This is where he started wearing his ionic red shirt (poncho), which became a symbol of his followers. Garibaldi moved back to Italy where he joined Carbonari revolutionary association and fought many battles, which conjure many lands for Italy.

Camillo di Cavour united Italy under the crown of Sardinia.  In fact, di Cavour used the concept of “Realpolitik,” the idea that politics must be conducted in terms of the realistic assessment of power and the self-interest of individual nation-states and not ownership by foreign nations. Cavour was a master politician, skillfully creating alliances with France when it benefited his cause and alternatively with Prussia, one of France’s enemies, when it aided his ability to unify Italy.  Cavour effectively used international power to advance his drive to create a unified Italy. While each region in what was to become Italy maintained both regional and local cultures that were supported by both nobility and peasant alike, Cavour uniquely understood that to create united Italy he would need to overcome local preferences.

Cavour’s efforts were significantly aided by the concepts of romanticism, socialism and the teachings of Karl Marx all of which effectively undermined the aristocracy and foreign powers that ruled the Italian states.  Once established, the new government undertook a number of projects to unify Italy.  They built the first national railroad system to physically link the different parts of the country, a national army to enforce government policies, and a common cause that began to overcome 1300 years of disunity.

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Map of Italy 1800

Material edited from previous post



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