HOW IMPORTANT WAS FOREIGN INTERVENTION IN THE UNIFICATION OF ITALY BY 1870?
BY ABUBAKAR A ABUBAKAR
By 1870, after years of struggle, the Italian state was finally united. Unlike German unification Italians were not to be responsible for the entire process of national unity. Other powers were to play their parts in helping Italy unite. Some nations played a greater part than others, and therefore it will be necessary to address contributions of countries like France, Britain and Prussia.
French intervention and of course that of Napoleon III played enormous roles during the various stages of the Italian unification. In 1849, France dispatched its forces to topple the new republican government of Mazzini and restore the Pope. This of course destabilised nationalists’ aspiration of a united Italy. In 1858, Cavour and Napoleon arrived at what is known as a gentleman’s agreement held at Plombieres in which France will support Piedmont with two hundred thousand troops in the event of war between Austria and Piedmont. Both men also agreed that after this war with Austria which hopefully will oust the Austrians from Italian territories, Italy will become a federal state made up of the kingdom of north Italy, the central duchies, Rome and the south Italian kingdom with the Pope as its president. In 1859, the war was fought and Napoleon III honoured his words and supplied Piedmont with two hundred thousand men against the Austrians. However in the same year, Napoleon III came to terms with Austria (also known as the Villa Franca armistice) and he agreed to pull out of the war, thus the actualisation of the proposed Italy as a federal state did not occur but there was progress as Lombardy was united with Piedmont.