Italian Revolution – UPSC GS1

  • Italy had a long history of political fragmentation. Italy was divided into several states during the middle of the nineteenth century.
  • The major states in the early 19th century Italy were Sardinia, Lombardy, Venetia, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and Naples), Papal States, Tuscany, Parma and Modena. Of these the most powerful was the kingdom of Sardinia.

  • Of these seven states only Sardinia-Piedmont was ruled by an Italian princely house. At that time North of Italy was under Austrian Habsburg, the centre was ruled by Pope and the Southern regions were ruled by the Bourbon kings of Spain.
  • Thus the Italian people were faced with the task of expelling the Austrians and forcing the rulers of independent states to unite.
Young Italy
  • It was the movement founded by Giuseppe Mazzini in 1831 along with Giuseppe Garibaldi.
  • It aimed at the independence and unification of Italy and the establishment of a republic there.
  • Revolutionary uprisings had broken out in Italy in 1848 and the rulers were forced to grant certain democratic reforms to the people. However, the goal of independence and unification was still distant.
  • Young Italy is a brotherhood of Italians who are convinced that Italy is destined to become one nation – convinced also that she possesses sufficient strength within herself to become one. The great aim is to remake Italy as one independent sovereign nation of free men and equals. – Mazzini
  • Young Italy is Republican because it is the only form of government that ensures a free and equal community of brothers and the aristocracy is the source of inequality and corruption of the whole nation – Mazzini
  • The movement to unite Italy into one cultural and political entity was known as the Risorgimento (literally, “resurgence”). Giuseppe Mazzini and his leading pupil, Giuseppe Garibaldi, failed in their attempt to create an Italy united by democracy. Garibaldi, supported by his legion of Red Shirts— mostly young Italian democrats who used the 1848 revolutions as a opportunity for democratic uprising–failed in the face of the resurgence of conservative power in Europe. However, it was the aristocratic politician named Camillo di Cavour who finally, using the tools of realpolitik, united Italy under the crown of Sardinia.
  • “Realpolitik” is the notion that politics must be conducted in terms of the realistic assessment of power and the self-interest of individual nation-states (and the pursuit of those interests by any means, often ruthless and violent ones) and Cavour used it superbly.
  • In 1855, as prime minister of Sardinia, he involved the kingdom on the British and French side of the Crimean War, using the peace conference to give international publicity to the cause of Italian unification.
  • In 1858, he formed an alliance with France, one that included a pledge of military support if necessary, against Austria, Italy’s major obstacle to unification.
  • After a planned provocation of Vienna, Austria declared war against Sardinia in 1859 and was easily defeated by the French army. The peace, signed in November 1859 in Zurich, Switzerland, joined Lombardy, a formerly Austrian province, with Sardinia. In return, France received Savoy and Nice from Italy–a small price to pay for paving the way to unification.
  • Inspired by Cavour’s success against Austria, revolutionary assemblies in the central Italian provinces of Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and Romagna voted in favor of unification with Sardinia in the summer of 1859.
  • In the spring of 1860, Garibaldi came out of his self-imposed exile to lead a latter day Red Shirt army, known as the Thousand, in southern Italy. By the end of the year, Garibaldi had liberated Sicily and Naples, which together made up the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
  • Cavour, however, worried that Garibaldi, a democrat, was replacing Sardinia, a constitutional monarchy, as the unifier of Italy. To put an end to Garibaldi’s offensive, Cavour ordered Sardinian troops into the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples.
  • After securing important victories in these regions, Cavour organized plebiscites, or popular votes, to annex Naples to Sardinia. Garibaldi, outmaneuvered by the experienced realist Cavour, yielded his territories to Cavour in the name of Italian unification. In 1861, Italy was declared a united nation-state under the Sardinian king Victor Immanuel II.
  • Reapolitik continued to work for the new Italian nation. When Prussia defeated Austria in a war in 1866, Italy struck a deal with Berlin, forcing Vienna to turn over Venetia. In addition, when France lost a war to Prussia in 1870, Victor Immanuel II took over Rome when French troops left. The entire boot of Italy was united under one crown.
Role of Mazzini
  • Mazzini was one of the most important philosopher nationalist of the 19th century.
  • He was inspired by the cause of Italian unity and was disgusted by the foreign domination over Italy.
  • He emphasized the glory of Italian past. He put forth the glorious achievements of history in front of the masses to motivate them and to instill a sense of national pride among them.
  • Mazzini was republican by principles and opposed the monarchial institutions and emphasized upon the natural rights of the citizens and the end of all forms of exploitation.
  • Mazzini established Young Italy in 1831 to spread his message among Italians and to strengthen the spirit of nationalism. His association attracted the young people and played an important role in motivating them to fight for the cause of Italian nationalism.
  • The speeches and writings of Mazzini brought intellectual revolution in Italy and ideological unification could take place before political unification. The works of Mazzini eased the task of Cavour. The spirit of nationalism generated and strengthened by Mazzini could be used by Cavour to instigate popular revolts against foreign rule and to unify various small principalities through referendum.
Role of Garibaldi
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi has been referred to by many historians as ‘the foremost military figure and popular hero of the age of Italian unification’.
  • Indeed, unlike Mazzini known as the “thinker” of the movement towards a united Italian state, Garibaldi can be seen as the “sword” of the ‘Risorgimento’, whose efforts resulted in many practical contributions to the cause for Italian independence.
  • Firstly, after his return to Italy in 1848, Garibaldi made his opening contribution to the cause by inspiring corps of volunteers to serve under the Piedmontese ruler.
  • Although unsuccessfully, he waged war against the Austrians in Lombardy and then led his volunteers to Rome in order to support the Roman Republic as established by Mazzini.
  • In 1859 and 1860 that Garibaldi played another yet more significant role in the Unification of Italy. First of all, He fought against Austrian forces on the Alpine Front in 1859. Then, in 1860 came his most significant achievement whereby he seized southern Italy from the Bourbons.
  • Against all the odds, Garibaldi and his ‘Thousand’ defeated the Bourbon forces and then in a patriotic gesture, made a gift of it to King Victor Emmanuel II.
  • This in effect set the ball rolling for the whole Unification of Italy to take place as plebiscites were held in central and southern Italy which resulted in the overwhelming favour of annexation to Piedmont in order to form the Kingdom of Italy. King Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of Italy and thus Garibaldi had achieved his practical goal, saluting his new monarch as ‘the first King of Italy’.
  • Therefore, in conclusion it is evident that Giuseppe Garibaldi’s role in the Unification of Italy was a most distinctive and important one, whereby his heroic and courageous actions where most vital in bringing about the proposed ‘Risorgimento’ of Italy.
Role of Cavour
  • Cavour played  significant role in the unifica­tion of Italy.
  • It is said that “Italy as a nation is the legacy, the life-work of Cavour.
  • He has been described as “the master brain which mobilized the inspiration of Mazzini into a diplo­matic force and changed the award of Garibaldi into a national weapon.”
  • He provided leadership to the other States of Italy by making Sardinia and Piedmont an ideal state so that other states may follow it. For this purpose he made it an ideal democracy and took numerous steps to create an infra-structure for the economic progress of the state
  • The unification of Italy was a result of many wars. Chief Minister Cavour made a tactful diplomatic alliance with France, and Sardinia-Piedmont succeeded in defeating the Austrian forces in 1859.
  • Above all, he tried to win the support and confidence of the foreign powers to attain his objective. Cavour alone understood the relationship between national and international events, and was thus able to manipulate foreign policy for his own ends.
  • Cavour was a realist who practice realistic politics. He allied with France when necessary and with France’s key enemy, Prussia, was necessary. By keeping the goal in mind, Cavour used international power to achieve his domestic goals.
  • Cavour used the tools of realpolitik to unite Italy under the crown of Sardinia. Mazzini’s ef­forts would have run to waste in a questionable insurrections and Garibaldi’s feat of arms must have added one chapter more to the history of unproductive patriotism.” In short, we can say with confidence that of all the political and national leaders of Italy, Cavour contributed most to the unification of Italy.

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