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15. Unification of Italy: 1848-70

The Italian Unification or Italian Risorgimento is known as the chain of political and military events that produced a united Italian peninsula under the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. These events can be broken down in five stages:


 Pre-Revolutionary Phase: After the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon Bonaparte’s second defeat, the major powers that has resisted met at a conference called the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The topic of discussion was to limit France’s power, set limits on nations so no one nation become too strong, and divide up the territory conquered up by Napoleon.

Revolutionary Phase: During the first half of the 19th century, only aristocrats, intellectual, and upper middle class took the cause for unification. The masses showed no concern.

The people with a passion for unification started to form secret societies, namely the Carbonari.

By 1820, the Carbonari were involved in numerous failed revolutions against the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, the Kingdom of Sardinia, Bolonga, and other Italian states. However, the Austrian Empire crushed all of these revolutions; thus leading to more resentment from the Italia.

The soul and spirit of the Carbonari and the revolutions was a man named Giuseppe Mazzini.

Mazzini brought the campaign for unification into the mainstream in 1831 by forming Young Italy, a group created for the sole purpose to spread the ideas unification, revolutions, and republicanism.

In 1846, a liberal pope, Pius IX, was elected who enacted numerous reforms. Soon, other states followed but these reform movements were not enough. A series of uprising known as the Revolution of 1848 occurred throughout Europe including France, Germany, the Austrian Empire, and northern Italy.

In 1849, France sent troops to Rome and destroyed the short-lived Roman Republic. Piedmont lost to Austria and the king was forced to abdicate, causing his son, Victor Emanuel II to become king in 1849.

Cavour’s Policy and the Role of Piedmont:

In order to achieve success Cavour needed the help of a strong ally. France proved to be a good partner because it was a traditional enemy of Austria and any loss of Austrian influence would be beneficial.

In April 1859, war broke out between Piedmont and Austria.

After the war and the political maneuvering, Piedmont had greatly increased its size.

Garibaldi’s Campaign in Southern Italy:

If Mazzini was the soul of the unification process, then Garibaldi was the hero. In early 1860, he started to gather volunteers in Genoa for an expedition to Sicily. As Cavour neither opposed nor helped, thousands of soldiers from Romagna, Lombardy, and Venetia set sail for Sicily in May 1860.

Creation of the Italian Kingdom:

Although a Kingdom of Italy had been formed, it did not include all of Italy. The missing parts were Rome and Venetia.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War occurred between France and Germany and Napoleon III was forced to pull the French troops from Rome to aid the war effort. While Rome and the remaining Papal States remained unprotected, Italian troops marched in unopposed. In October 1870 Rome voted to join the union and in July 1871, it became the capital.

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