"Italy Unified Itself". To what extent is this statement true?

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Bianca Nardi                                                                                   History HL – Mr Nash

“Italy Unified Itself”. To what extent is this statement true?

The end of Napoleonic Italy and the Risorgimento movements demonstrated that the dream of Italian Unity could be a reality. The unification can be seen as the inevitable end to any means which the Italian states could have undertaken politically. Victor Emmanuel’s predecessor, Charles Albert, claimed in 1849 that “Italia farà da sò” (Italy will do itself)). To what extent was his prediction accurate?

The Risorgimento movements in the Nineteenth Century are characterized by being a national revival which led to the creation of the Italian Kingdom. Revolutionary outbursts against the absolutist rule of restored monarchs were undertaken by different revolutionary groups who had little common aims and lacked organization. Thus, the sole means by which the Italian people could share their ideas was through the secret societies. Of these, the one which stood out was the Carbonari, who had their base in Naples. The secret societies had unclear aims and hadn’t the competence to work towards and united Italy. The revolutionaries’ main flaw was that they consisted almost entirely of the educated middle class and did not gain popular support which would have been crucial for their success. However, they should be given credit for having triggered the ideas which led to unification – and for showing that the Italian middle class was willing to liberate Italy from the grip of Austria. Future revolutionaries such as Mazzini were to learn from the mistakes committed in the 1820s.

Mazzini’s disappointment with the Carbonari and recognition of the lack of organization of the latter led him to initiate the first movement with clear goals towards unification and the implementation of “Young Italy”: an association founded by him to work towards awakening the Italian’s patriotism. Mazzini invested heavily on propaganda and insurrection  and convoked all Italians – not only the middle class – thus gaining mass support. However, Mazzini’s ideas were exaggerated and overly idealistic as he thought even further than the Italian unification – he had plans for the creation for a unified Europe. Mazzini’s attempts to gather popular support in 1833 ended in failure and he was obliged to abandon Young Italy. His efforts, along with the previous revolutionaries, proved that the Italians themselves possessed the willfulness to unify Italy, although they did not directly contribute to unification. Their achievements were solely symbolic and had no real practical success.

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