Notes on Italian unification - background and main events

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Italy and the Congress of Vienna 1815

  • Napoleon had conquered Italy and rearranged it into a small number of Italian republics
  • To some degree, he left behind a sense of Italian nationalism in the country
  • Napoleon has just been defeated at Waterloo in June 1815 and was exiled to Saint Helena
  • Main representatives at Vienna:
  • Britain; represented by Lord Castlereagh
  • Habsburg Emperor
  • Russian Emperor
  • King of Prussia
  • France; represented by Talleyrand
  • Louis XVII is restored as King of France for the second time in 1815 after Napoleon’s exile
  • All the leaders wanted to establish a Cordon Sanitaire on France to prevent the spreading of revolution
  • The decision- makers at Vienna decided to return Italy to strong dynastic rulers;
  • The Habsburgs were given two states of Northern Italy; Lombardy and Venetia. They had four fortresses in these two states; Mantua, Pieschiera, Legnano and Verona  
  • Most other Northern Italian states were given to minor Habsburg rulers
  • Central Italy was more or less part of the Papal States; under the Pope’s rule. They would support monarchial principles and be ruled as a monarchy by the Pope
  • In the south, Naples and Sicily were ruled by Spanish Bourbons
  • What were the main obstacles to Italian Unification and how were they overcome?
  • The territorial adjustments of Italy made by the peacemakers in Vienna were deliberately set up to hold back Italian Unification
  • Austria was put in the North with a great deal of power and was prepared to send troops outside their assigned territory to put down revolutions, especially between 1815 and 1848
  • Austrian armies always defeated Italian armies
  • Count Metternich was Chancellor of the Habsburg Empire. His political system was to use secret police against revolutionaries to support Monarchial rule  
  • Rulers, courters and often officers opposed revolutions, as they were aristocrats living in an autocratic system which they benefitted from
  • There was no sense of Italian Nationalism; the average person in Italy had no perception of being Italian. Particularism; e.g. people from Milan would consider themselves Milanese, and etc… especially among the peasantry; the peasants were more interested in the harvest rather than Italian unification and Italian Nationalism  No demand for Italian Unification
  • Economic and social backwardness; terrible poverty in the South (the Papal states were particularly backward)
  • The lack of an effective common language; the regional accents and dialects created communication difficulties
  • There was a 19th century mindset; the idea that Italian nationalism was associated with political radicalism and immense social changes

Giuseppe Mazzini and the Awakening of Italian Nationalism 1815-1848   

  • Mazzini- soul 
  • Cavour- brain of the unification  
  • Garibaldi- the sword 
  • Carbonari: a brotherhood created for the purpose of overthrowing the Italian government. They were charcoal- burners, and a small number of them were peasants. They sought to create a liberal, unified Italian, lower-class uprising. Their program was an anti-clerical movement where they believed that priests should not have exclusive power in a church system. They were concentrated in the South (the most economically and socially backward part of Italy). It is believed that there were between 60, 000 and 150, 000
  • The Carbonari failed for several reasons:
  • They weren’t well organized
  • They were easily infiltrated by the authorities (spies, etc…)  
  • They betrayed each other quite easily
  • Due to the numerous failures, Mazzini began to abandon the Carbonari

The Revolution of 1820- 1821

  • There was a revolution against the Spanish Bourbons in Spain itself, which triggers the revolutions that occur in Italy
  • There was a revolution in the Kingdom of the two Sicily’s but only in the province of Naples
  • This revolution was led by a Carbonaro, Pepe
  • Naples was conquered by the revolution
  • The King of Naples and Sicily was Ferdinand I; he agreed to a constitution which looks very good to the revolutionaries
  • As things settled down, Ferdinand invites Austria to send troops which are easily able to defeat Carbonaro and put down the revolution and the revolutionaries were persecuted. He then abolishes the constitution
  • Another revolution occurs in 1821, in the Kingdom of Piedmont by Santarosa
  • Aims of this revolution:
  • Remove Austrian influence
  • Unite Italy under the house of Savoy  
  • They adopted the Tricolor Cisalpine Republic flag
  • Regent of Piedmont, Charles Albert approved a constitution. But then the King himself, Charles Felix, returns. He then dissolves the constitution. He appeals to the Holy Alliance; Austria sends troops which easily put down the revolution. Santarosa fled to Paris
  • The revolutions of 1820 and 1821 did not achieve anything significant

The Revolutions of 1830- 1831

  • The revolution in France has an impact on Italy
  • “If France sneezes, Europe catches a cold”; if France has a revolution, everywhere else will copy
  • Francis IV was Duke of Modena. He had hoped that one day he would be King of North Italy
  • There was a revolt in Modena but Francis IV had the leader of this revolt, Menotti arrested then executed  the revolt in Modena fails and Francis IV remains the Duke of Modena. Austrian troops are used to put the troops down
  • There was a revolution in the Papal States including the city of Bologna. The Papal flag was replaced by the Tricolor flag of revolution
  • There was a revolution in Parma as well
  • Duchess Marie Louise of Parma flees from the country and the Tricolor flag is also adopted
  • Spring 1831; the Austrian army started to march across the Italian peninsula.  It crushed the resistance in each state as it went and all the previous rulers were restored
  • Giuseppe Mazzini (1805- 1872) had been a Carbonaro but the events of 1830-1831 made him leave the Carbonaro. He also felt that the Carbonaro were traitors
  • Mazzini called on Charles Felix to lead efforts to remove Austria from Italy. Charles Felix said Mazzini should be arrested if he enters Piedmont; he was clearly against overthrowing the Austrians
  • Mazzini spent 3 months in prison in Piedmont in 1830-1831. After leaving prison, he went off to Marseilles
  • To Mazzini, the unification of Italy had to involve radical, social and political change and had to be Republican no monarchist
  • He was born in 1805, Genoa. His father was a University Professor but had radical political views; he was influenced by the Jacobins (an extreme group in the French Revolution). When Mazzini was born, Genoa was in the Ligurian Republic, which was under the influence of Napoleon
  • To Mazzini, Italian Unification only has meaning if there is a popular revolution and a Republic
  • Mazzini’s contributions to the Italian Unification; a writer, agitator, philosopher and a theorist
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Young Italy

  • Young Italy was an organization established by Mazzini. Joining patriots and nationalists were young people; they didn’t allow people above the age of 40 to join
  • Young Italy- a new young state
  • Mazzini founded Young Italy after leaving prison and after giving up on the Carbonari (he considered them failures). He did so when he was in exile in Marseilles
  • His greatest achievement was putting forth the idea of Italian national identity
  • Young Italy really only had emphasis in Central and Northern Italy
  • According to Mazzini, there were 40 members in 1831, ...

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