Why was Piedmont able to play an increasingly dominant role in the movement towards unification in Italy in the period up to 1857?

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Sehaj Lamba L6 Mr Gray Why was Piedmont able to play an increasingly dominant role in the movement towards unification in Italy in the period up to 1857? The formally known 'poor and backward state of Piedmont' became the strongest and most imperative of the Italian states and was consequently able to put itself and its king on the top of a newfound united Italy by 1860. A number of reasons were contributing to Piedmont's increasing dominant role in the period up to 1857, particularly the role and achievements of Cavour which introduced modernisation and brought improved economy to Italy and the role of Victor Emmanuel 2nd in the Crimean War. Cavour was a liberal and firm believer in political progression, which meant that an increasing number of citizens should hold a share in power. His call for a constitution in 1847 exemplified his strong opposition to the principle of autocracy and simultaneously his support of anti-clerical legislation showed his opposition to the church holding power. Cavour was in fear of democracy and rather supported a 'middle way', favouring social reform. He was also in favour of free trade and railway development in Italy through the economic progression. These values moulded his character and political movement which brought about change. His initial aims were to transform Piedmont into the irrefutable head of Italian affairs, in which he was triumphant.


The conference greatly demonstrated Cavour's incompetence in diplomatic enterprise. The consequences of the conference were that the future of Northern Italy remained vague and no resolution to the problem of Austrian presence was achieved. Though, Cavour met Louis Napoleon and kept in touch with him, which would gradually lead to the Pact of Plombieres. Furthermore, Piedmont gained equal status at the conference and the 'Italian Question' had been raised. Cavour had established himself as a spokesman for Italian affairs and consequently Piedmont was clearly seen as the leading power of Italy. Also, Austria was left isolated following her ambivalent contribution to the war. Victor Emmanuel 2nd shared Cavour's goal of enlarging Piedmont and expelling the Austrian intervention. He was greatly popular with the public due to his lack of education and course manners. He was also very popular for his new constitution and liberal reforms in the Kingdom of Sardinia. He had obvious courage and great strength, though he was seen by many as lazy and cautious. Emmanuel brought out a set of measures known as 'the Siccardi Laws' and was a substantial move towards Piedmontese anti-clericalism. The privileges of the church were abolished, and now incompatible with Parliamentarianism. The numbers of existing holy days were limited. D Mack-Smith described him as: 'always happiest in the barracks, the stables, or the hunting fields'.


The National Society brought support of unification under Piedmont. Austrian weakness played a part in the increasingly dominant role of Piedmont. The Crimean War had left Austria isolated. Austria had failed to support Russia and therefore Russia had forfeited her alliance with Austria. Furthermore, by failing to commit to France and Great Britain in military participation meant that she had not gained their gratefulness. The indecision of Austria would lead to consequences in the future and had Austria not been weak and isolated, the future would not see the crucial step of Napoleon 3rd contemplating war with the Habsburgs. Having explored various ideas explaining the reason to why Piedmont was able to play an increasingly dominant role within Italy, clearly the most significant contributing factor was the leadership of Cavour. Furthermore, it was Cavour who led Piedmont into the Paris Peace Conference and hence brought its title as the leading state of Italy. At this conference, Cavour managed to exemplify Italian grievances, which drew the concern and attention of Napoleon 3rd who later played a vital part in Italy Napoleon wished for French influence to replace that of Austrian influence in Italy and later to become emperor, Italian destiny rested in his hands. . His establishment of the leadership of Piedmont over Italy would lead to great prospect towards Italy's unification. Clearly the initial reason for Piedmont's ability to increase in a dominant role towards the unification in Italy up to 1857 was due to the activities of Cavour.

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