What had Garibaldi contributed to Italian Unification by 1861

Authors Avatar

What had Garibaldi contributed to the Unification

Of Italy by 1861?

        As a result of the war of 1859 and its aftermath, Piedmont has taken control of much of northern Italy including the Central Duchies and Lombardy. Cavour was keen to stop there because he believed he controlled much of Italy that was of value to him, he aspired to capture Venetia and Rome but at that time they were out of his reach so he was content. The Italy Cavour had created looked different from the Italy of the 21st century; it lacked a large amount of territory, the state of Naples and Sicily. Despite Cavour not wishing this kingdom as part of Italy, it was declared part of the Kingdom of Italy in March 1861. This begs the question; what caused the Kingdom of Naples to be included into the new state of Italy? The major cause being Giuseppe Garibaldi.  

        Garibaldi had spent much of his life in exile after participating in many nationalist uprisings throughout his life. He helped Piedmont fight Austria in the war of 1859 and then led a force of 1000 into Sicily and captured the island than crossed the straits of Messina and invaded the kingdom of Naples. Then he gave this large mass of territory to the King of Piedmont, Victor Emmanuel. This is a brief story of Garibaldi’s life throughout 1859, but we need to consider how Garibaldi contributes to unification throughout the years 1859-61 and how his actions influence the unifying forces on the peninsula, namely Cavour and Piedmont.


        Garibaldi had always been seen as a heroic, brave, Italian romantic. He gained this reputation whilst fighting in South America with his Redshirts. The key word of that description was the word ‘Italian’, although born in Nice he was never seen as Piedmontese always Italian. Garibaldi had been part of ‘Giovine Italia’ and so wished for a united Italy, Garibaldi was different from Mazzini because he was more pragmatic. Mazzini was idealistic, he thought about the ideas but wasn’t successful at getting further towards his goal. Garibaldi knew that a republican and democratic Italy was very unrealistic with the politics of the time e.g. middle class educated people wouldn‘t share power with ordinary peasants and the absolute monarchs would never give up their power. There had to be some compromise, Garibaldi’s compromise was that he thought a Piedmontese monarch could lead a united Italy, he said “I was a republican, but when I discovered that Charles Albert had made himself champion of Italy I swore to obey him and faithfully follow his banner.” Garibaldi began to be seen as the symbol of Italian nationalism, even more so than his mentor, Mazzini. Evidence for this is a source which is an engraving called “The Liberators of Italy” at the forefront of this work of art is Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel. Garibaldi is often seen with his Redshirts with the present flag of Italy at his side. Evidence for this is the painting “Garibaldi with the Red Shirts in the Battle of Calatfirmi,” this shows that he was not interested in his own interests but rather the concept of Italy as more than a ‘Geographic Expression‘.

Join now!

        This attitude to the idea of Italy shows Garibaldi as the most important Italian nationalist during the unifying period and through his invasions of the peninsula he brings Italian nationalism to the forefront of European affairs. This is one thing that Garibaldi contributed to unification up to 1861, is that he put Italian nationalism on the front page of every newspaper over Europe. He shows other Italians his bravery and encourages people to become nationalists like himself e.g. the Red Shirts swelled from 1000 to over 50000, showing how his nationalist ideas had affected other people. This aided unification ...

This is a preview of the whole essay