Italian Unification Revision Booklet: Main Sections

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Italian Unification Revision Booklet:

Main Sections:

*1815-48: Factors opposing and helping unification

*1848-9 Revolutions: causes; events; reasons for failure

*1850s: Rise of Piedmont and the changing international situation

*1859-61: Unification process – Lombardy, Central States and Naples + Sicily

*1861-70: Annexation of Venetia and Rome and the Piedmontisation of Italy

-Although this booklet is organised chronologically, it is important also to revise thematically (see the past paper questions). Examples of themes include, for example: the contributions of Mazzini, Cavour and Garibaldi; the methods Austria used to keep the Italian states under control; and the contributions of foreign powers to Italian Unification.

-Remember also that the questions on this paper are mostly about change over time – either why things were or were NOT able to change. For example:

*Why was most of Italy unified by 1861?


*Why was the Austrian Empire able to maintain its power in Italy for so long?

Section 1 – 1815-48

  1. Forces opposing unification:


Principally engineered by Metternich, this involved the dominance of the Italian states by Austria and the restoration of reactionary rule following the more liberal rule of Napoleon I. The states were ruled like this:

#Lombardy and Venice: ruled directly by the Austrian Emperor

#Piedmont [More accurately known as The Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia as, from 1815, it also included the island of Sardinia]: under the reactionary rule of Victor Emmanuel I, who withdrew the Code Napoleon and returned the Church to its privileged status

#The Papal States: the Pope (Pius VII) was restored to his TEMPORAL power in this region, where Austrian troops were also stationed

#The Central Duchies: TUSCANY was ruled by Grand Duke Ferdinand III, brother of the Austrian Emperor Francis I; PARMA was ruled by Duchess Marie-Louise, the daughter of the Austrian Emperor (but also the former wife of Napoleon I!); and MODENA was ruled by the ultra-reactionary Duke Francis IV

#Naples and Sicily: Sicily (which had, prior to 1815, enjoyed relatively liberal rule provided for them by the British) was placed under the reactionary rule of King Ferdinand I of Naples.

Following the outbreak of a Carbonari-led revolution in Naples in July 1820, Metternich called a Congress meeting of the great powers at Troppau at which Austria, Russia and Prussia signed the Troppau Protocol obliging these powers to give assistance to any ruler in Europe being threatened by revolution. Following this agreement, Austrian troops played the major role in crushing the revolutions which had broken out in: Naples (1820-1); Sicily (1821); Piedmont (1821 – at the Battle of Novara); Modena (1831); and the Papal States (1831).

After crushing each revolt, Metternich ensured that tough reactionary rule (similar in spirit to his Carlsbad Decrees) was restored.
*Divide among the states, particularly the North/South divide:

#The South of Italy was an overwhelmingly rural society run of a feudal model (with vast tracts of land being dominated by local landlords) while the North was, like the rest of Europe, beginning to industrialise. D’Azeglio, Prime Minister of Piedmont from 1849-52, illustrated this divide when he commented that unification of the North of Italy with the kingdom of Naples would be like ‘going to bed with someone who has smallpox’.

  1. Forces encouraging unification:

*The Napoleonic Legacy:

-Under Napoleon I’s rule of the Italian states (1796-1815), the Code Napoleon (promotion by merit, equality under the law, sale of Church lands) had been introduced to many of the Italian states, encouraging the growth of liberalism among middle classes determined to regain the rights they lost with the reimposition of absolute monarchical rule after 1815.

-Many of the Italian states had been governed together – for example: The Kingdom of Italy, ruled by Napoleon’s stepson Eugene, was made up of Lombardy, Modena, Bologna, Romagna and Ferrara; Piedmont and Parma were directly ruled by Napoleon as departments of the French Empire; and the Central Duchies (Modena and Tuscany) were amalgamated into the Kingdom of Etruria and annexed by France.

Liberalism grew up largely due to the desire of the middle classes to regain the improved status they had enjoyed under Napoleon and then had taken away in the wave of reaction from 1815. Nationalism, and awareness of an Italian national identity, largely grew out of resentment of Austrian domination of the Italian peninsula.

#The most active groups pushing for constitutional change within the individual Italian states were the Secret Societies, such as The Carbonari, the Adelfi and the Italian Federation. The CARBONARI had followers in most of the Italian states, although their biggest support base was in Naples. It was 30 members of the Carbonari, along with 100 soldiers, for example, who led the Neapolitan revolution of 1820-1, which temporarily succeeded in forcing Ferdinand I to accept a constitution based on the liberal Spanish constitutional model of 1812 (a one house parliament elected by FULL MANHOOD SUFFRAGE). Revolutions which temporarily forced the rulers of INDIVIDUAL states to accept liberal constitutions also took place in Sicily (1821), Piedmont (1821), the Papal States (1831) and Modena (1831).


~Originally a member of the Carbonari, but disenchanted by their lack of success in the revolutions of 1820-1 and 1831 (and by being betrayed and imprisoned in 1830), he formed in 1831 a new organisation and journal (regular nationalist newspaper) both named YOUNG ITALY. Apart from being a nationalist, Mazzini was a staunch republican. In the opening edition of ‘Young Italy’, he wrote that ‘republican government is the only form of government which ensures the future’ of a united Italy. He was also the first Italian nationalist to envisage more than just a union of the North Italian States, but also to include Naples and Sicily in his vision of a united Italy. In 1829, for example, he wrote ‘The fatherland of an Italian is not Rome, Florence (Tuscany) or Milan (Lombardy) but the whole of Italy’. In this sense, he can be seen to have, in some ways, inspired Garibaldi’s seizure of the Southern states against Cavour’s will in 1860. It is worthy of note that many of Garibaldi’s ‘Thousand’ (a.k.a. ‘Red Shirts’ or ‘Garibaldini’) assisting him on his campaign through Sicily and Naples considered themselves to be Mazzinians. This was also the case for many of the political exiles who, in 1857 in Piedmont, formed the Italian National Society.
Mazzini also tried to have a more practical influence on Italian affairs through his organisation ‘Young Italy’, but these attempts proved less successful and long-lasting than the influence his ideas exerted on future leaders of unification. In 1831, he failed in an attempt to persuade King Charles Albert of Piedmont to put himself at the head of a movement for a united Italy and to put on his banner the motto ‘Union, Liberty and Independence’. In 1833, similarly, an attempt by ‘Young Italy’ to overthrow King Charles Albert was defeated before it began with twelve of the sixty-seven society members arrested being executed. The following year planned ‘Young Italy’ revolts in both Piedmont and Genoa fizzled out before they started. All this led ‘Young Italy’ to be seen as a laughing stock, which in turn led Mazzini to live his life in exile, first in Switzerland (1834-7), and then in England (1837-49). The 10,000 letters an 100 books of articles he wrote in exile, although intelligent and radical, did not appeal to any other than the small educated elite of European society able to understand them. It is no surprise therefore to learn that he became more popular as a revolutionary in England than he was in Italy.
Mazzini did, however, manage to recruit a young Giuseppe Garibaldi to ‘Young Italy’ in 1833, a move which was widely reckoned to have begun Garibaldi’s interest in seeking a united Italy. He also returned briefly to Rome as head of the Triumvirate leading the revolutionary Roman Republic in 1849 before the French army crushed this republic and Mazzini fled again into exile, never to return to Italy. Although he achieved little of practical value in uniting and changing the constitution of Italy, Mazzini, through his writings, can be seen to have inspired many future key figures in Italian unification.

-Vincenzo Gioberti – wrote ‘On the Moral and Civil Primacy of the Italians’’ (in 1843) arguing that, having been ridden of the foreign influence of Austria and France, Italy should be formed into a federation under the rule of the Pope.

-Cesare Balbo – wrote ‘The Hopes of Italy’, which agreed with Gioberti on the idea of a federation, but one which was limited to the Northern states (and so did not include the Pope) and favoured instead the leadership of the King of Piedmont who was to drive the Austrians and French out of Italy. Much of this was to ACTUALLY happen between the years 1859 and 1870.

-Massimo D’Azeglio (future Prime Minister of Piedmont, 1849-52) wrote ‘On Recent Events in Romagna’ (in 1845) argued of the need to drive out ‘the Austrian tyrant’ to achieve unification but that, instead of doing this through revolution, it could be done by influencing European public opinion to gain international support for the cause of Italian Unification. This was another very forward-thinking idea with regard to what would ACTUALLY happen from the late 1850s onwards.

-The formation of national (rather than simply regional) organisations with members from all over the Italian peninsula, such as the Congress of Science. Although not primarily political, these organisations did promote feelings of Italy being one nation, as well as bringing together many of the finest minds from across the peninsula.

-Music: particularly that of Giuseppe Verdi, whose nationalist-inspired works regularly provoked outbreaks of violence between Italian nationalists and Austrian soldiers on account of their stirring nationalist content.
*Despite the existence of many forces for change and unification, it must be noted that there was a great deal lacking with regard to any final possible unification, as can be demonstrated below:
Leadership: Although VARIOUS leaders of Italian Unification had been suggested, none had come forward who either possessed the ability or the true desire to lead the unification of Italy.

Unity of aim among states: As can be seen above, most revolutions in this period involved attempts to change things (the constitution mainly) within individual states rather than across Italy. Full Italian Unification was still the aim of writers at this stage.

Common purpose among nationalists: As can also be seen above, both the nationalist writers and those who attempted to bring about revolution more practically lacked a shared view on how and what a united Italy should be.

International situation: Despite d’Azeglio’s writings’ claim of the need for foreign support, there was very little interest from major powers with regard to changing the situation in Italy. Preserving the status-quo was instead very much the priority at the time, as can be seen by the Troppau Protocol agreed between Austria, Russia and Prussia.

Austrian power being too great: Every time revolution broke out anywhere on the Italian peninsula, it was primarily Austrian troops which restored the old reactionary ruler to his/her throne. Up until 1848, little headway was made into the Austrian stranglehold over the rulers of the states of Italy set up by Metternich in 1848.

Section 2 - 1848-9 Revolutions:

  1. Causes


*Long-term issues: see the growth of liberalism and nationalism since 1815 above and the long-term European economic problems (population outstripping food supply and the effects of industrialisation from the German Unification unit).
*Economic problems:

-poor Europe-wide harvest exacerbated (made worse) problems in rural areas such as Naples where enclosures of common land by the aristocrats had left the peasants struggling to support themselves. The peasants were therefore prepared to join the revolutions.
-In the more industrialised north, workers who had been left unemployed by the Europe-wide financial crisis (sparked by rising food prices in towns) were smashing industrial machines. The urban working classes were also therefore prepared to join the revolutions.
*The accession of a more liberal pope – Pius IX in 1846:

-Certain early reforms enacted by Pope Pius encouraged liberals and nationalists (especially those in favour of a Papal-led Confederation) throughout Italy to demand change:

~2,000 political prisoners were released; ~a Consulta (Council of State to advise the Pope on how to run the Papal States) was set up; ~press censorship was removed from the control of the Church; ~POPE PIUS IX LODGED A FORMAL PROTEST WITH THE AUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT AFTER METTERNICH SENT TROOPS TO OCCUPY THE PAPAL TOWN OF FERRARA IN JULY 1847 + HE SIGNED A CUSTOMS UNION TREATY WITH PIEDMONT, TUSCANY AND OTHER STATES NOT CONTROLLED BY AUSTRIA. Pius therefore seemed to be appealing to both liberal and those who wanted the reduction/destruction of Austrian influence in Italy.
*Revolutions happening elsewhere in Europe:

-Clearly the revolutions in Paris (Feb. 1848) and more particularly Vienna (March 1848) added fuel to the verve (keenness) of many of the liberal and nationalist revolutionaries in the various individual Italian states.

  1. Events (and causes) of the separate revolutions:

  1. Those aimed at removing the Austrian influence:


-This began in Milan (Lombardy’s capital city) as a protest against the Austrian tobacco monopoly, which initially took the form of the Milanese refraining from smoking and chastising any Austrian soldiers seen smoking. A revolutionary edge was lent to these protests, however, when news arrived of Metternich’s fall in Vienna on 13th March 1848. In what has become known as ‘The Five Days of Milan (17th-22nd March 1848), a force of Mazzinians, liberals and artisans threw up barricades all around the city, eventually forcing the Austrian troops under the command of Gereral Radetzky to withdraw from the city. In their absence a TOWN COUNCIL was set up to decide the fate of Lombardy and, after an argument over whether to set up an independent Lombard republic (to be one of a federation of Italian republics) or to opt for union with Piedmont, they decided to ask Charles Albert of Piedmont for protection against the inevitable Austrian backlash against their actions.

-The trouble in the city of Venice began with demonstrations in favour of the release from (Austrian) captivity of the republican patriot Daniele Manin. The many Italian sailors in the Austrian navy docked at Venice mutinied to join the protestors and, as a result, forced the release of Manin from prison and the declaration of THE VENETIAN REPUBLIC OF ST MARK on 22nd March 1848. Manin led this republic until, as had happened in Lombardy, the Venetian parliament voted for union with Piedmont in July 1848 and offered military assistance to Charles Albert against the Austrians, thus forcing Manin, a committed republican to resign.

[Manin was subsequently to become an inspirational figure in the fight for Italian Unification when, following the final defeat of Charles Albert to the Austrians at Novara in March 1849, he re-seized control of the city and bravely led the defence of the city, which remarkably held out against the Austrian siege until August 1849. The SIEGE OF VENICE was to become one of the legends of the Risorgimento.]

-Despite being reluctant to embrace change, King Charles Albert was persuaded by the need to prevent full-scale revolution against himself to allow a STATUTO – a two-house parliamentary constitution which, uniquely, guaranteed the people’s civil liberties and religious toleration – to be set up to limit his power. He was also persuaded, by the 22nd March, to declare war on Austria. His motives for doing this had little to do with a desire for Italian unification though. He was instead far more interested in the opportunity to ANNEX LOMBARDY which had arisen with Metternich’s fall from power. He was also worried that if he did not join the Lombardian struggle against Austria (started with the Five Days of Milan), the Lombardian revolt might spread to Piedmont and be targeted against him as well.

-Along with the forces of Piedmont, Lombardy and Venetia, Charles Albert saw the arrival of armies from NAPLES led by General Pepe and from the PAPAL STATES led by General Durango. This united front, however, was soon shown to be very fragile. Durango, for example, had taken troops up to the North without the Pope’s permission. When Pius IX heard the news that Papal soldiers were planning to go to war with CATHOLIC AUSTRIA he, in a spectacular U-turn from his earlier seemingly liberal and patriotic policies, issued the PAPAL ALLOCUTION (of 29th April 1848) which declared that:

-the war against Austria emphatically did NOT have the Papal blessing

-Charles Albert was clearly the (wrongful) aggressor in the war with Austria

-he was TOTALLY OPPOSED to the idea of a united Italy and would never consider being the head of a Papal Federation as many nationalists (the followers of Gioberti – see above) desired him to be.
The problem with this is that many of the soldiers in Durango’s army, unwilling to go against the Papal word, returned home to the Papal states. To make matters worse, word reached the armies in the North that Ferdinand II had re-established his power his autocratic authority in Naples. As a result the majority of General Pepe’s troops decided to follow King Ferdinand orders to return home. A large section of the army at Charles Albert’s command had, therefore, disintegrated before they had even joined battle. An additional problem was that Charles Albert and the remainder of the troops from Naples and the Papal states also had a mutual distrust of each other, causing the army to put on rather less than a united front.
Despite all this, the war began well for Charles Albert’s forces as they won the first major battle of the campaign – at Goito in May 1848 – and also captured the town of Peschiera on the Lombardo-Venetian border. By June 1848, however, with Austrian reinforcements having arrived under the command of the Austrian General Radetzky (who had earlier been driven out by the Milanese rebels), the situation rapidly deteriorated, with Radetzky’s army decisively defeating Charles Albert’s at the BATLLE OF CUSTOZZA (24th July 1848). Following Custozza, the Armistice (peace) of Salasco saw the Piedmontese expelled from Lombardy and Austrian control reasserted there. Charles Albert, however, was persuaded to fight back but only succeeded in suffering an even more humiliating defeat at the BATTLE OF NOVARA on 23rd March 1849. As a result of this humiliation, Charles Albert abdicated the Piedmontese throne in favour of his son VICTOR EMMANUEL II.
As is mentioned above, the Venetians continued to bravely defend their republic in the face of the Austrian siege of Venice but, in terms of a united front of states challenging the Austrians, the defeat at Novara saw the end.

  1. The Roman Republic:


-The Pope’s Allocution of April 1848 caused a great deal of resentment among nationalists in Rome and the other Papal states and this came to a head when Pius IX’s chosen Prime Minister Pellegrino Rossi was murdered by an angry mob on 15th November 1848. This triggered a full-scale rebellion in the city which forced the Pope to flee Rome and seek refuge in the town of Gaeta in Naples.
With the Pope away, elections based on FULL MANHOOD SUFFRAGE (as democratic as it got in the mid-nineteenth Century) were held to set up a parliament known as the CONSTITUENTE in January 1849. The following month this declared the replacing of the Pope’s power with that of a ROMAN REPUBLIC. In March 1849, a TRIUMVIRATE including MAZZINI (who had recently returned on invitation back to Rome) was put in place to reform the Republic. Before it had properly had the chance to do so, however, a French army of around 20,000 men, having answered the call for assistance from the Pope in Naples, marched on Rome at the end of April 1849. For two months they were held back courageously by a makeshift force of some 4,000 men put together by Garibaldi but, by 3rd July, the French army was able to enter the gates of Rome. Garibaldi and what remained of his army escaped to fight another day, making the dangerous journey to the coast before fleeing to America via Genoa in Sardinia and Liverpool. Garibaldi’s defence of Rome and courageous flight was to provide another inspirational legend for the promoters of unification in the decades to come. Rome, however, was very much in the hands of the French, who set up a permanent garrison there to prevent any further insurrection of the kind of 1848-9.

  1. The revolutions in Naples and Sicily:

The first revolutions to break out on the Italian peninsula, which would help encourage the revolutionaries in the North and in Rome, were actually in the South.

-The insurrection here had nothing to do with the fight for national unity but, instead, was aimed at the repressive rule of Ferdinand II of Naples. An outbreak of Cholera, a water-born disease associated with poor sanitation, in 1836 had killed 10% of the island’s population and had first turned the Sicilians against their Neapolitan king, whose apparent lack of concern for their welfare they felt had caused the poor sanitation which allowed the outbreak. By 1848 the lack of say in the way their country was ruled the people felt they had, coupled with the continuing poor living conditions caused an armed uprising began in the island’s capital of Palermo on 12th January that year. By March 1848 the rebels set up their own parliament and announced that they would no longer be ruled by Ferdinand II but that they would chose their own ‘Italian prince’ in his place. In response to this Ferdinand II sent the Neapolitan army over to Sicily, and despite brave and lengthy resistance, the Sicilians were brought back under his control by May 1849.

-The outbreak of revolution in Sicily quickly inspired secret society members in Naples to try to gain constitutional concessions fron Ferdinand II. By 27th January 1848, following uprisings first in Salerno and then in the city of Naples, Ferdinand II was forced to grant a constitution including a parliament with an upper (king-appointed) and a lower (elected) chamber. At first King Ferdinand was able to do nothing about this as Pope Pius IX had refused to let Austrian troops cross the Papal State of Ferrara (see above) to reach the South. Following the Papal Allocution of April 1848 (also see above), however, Austrian troops were quickly able to reach Naples and restore Ferdinand II with full reactionary powers by May 1848.

(c) Why did the revolutions fail / what would the later revolutionaries have to learn from them?:
Leadership: neither the Pope, nor Charles Albert nor Mazzini proved to be either willing or able enough to lead the fight to free and/or unite Italy. A key lesson learned was that the push for unification would need to be secular (without religious involvement) as the Pope was clearly not prepared to stand up against Catholic domination of Austria or, now, France. This is probably what helped unite many of the previous Papal Federation nationalists behind the cause of piedmont-led nationalism from the 1850s.

Unity of action between states: on close examination, the revolutions within every state began, not in the cause of national unity, but over local issues (e.g. Piedmont – the desire to annex Lombardy; Lombardy – tobacco monopoly; Venetia – Manin’s captivity; Sicily – hatred of Neapolitan oppression (in fact the cause for revolution in Sicily was about trying to get independence from another Italian state rather than unification etc.). Cooperation between states was generally borne out of necessity (e.g. Lombardian and Venetian troops helping Charles Albert through fear of having to face Austria alone) and was often given in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion (e.g. Charles Albert and the troops he led but distrusted from Naples and the Papal States).

Common aim among revolutionaries: In too many cases, once the revolutionaries had overthrown their absolute monarch/Austrian control, they could not agree on what they wanted to replace it with (e.g. – in Lombardy there was argument over whether to fight for union with Piedmont or an independent Lombard Republic; -in Sicily a National Guard was formed by the leaders of the new Constitution to make sure the more radical revolutionaries did not get out of control). It was probably the realisation of the problem posed by these conflicting aims which led nationalists of all different types to compromise over the formation of a National Society dedicated to supporting Piedmontese-led unification in 1857.

International situation – at no stage during any of the revolutions was help for the cause offered by any international power. In fact the French defeated the Roman Republic. The lesson learned from this was that no Italian force alone would be able to bring about unification without the backing of a major European power. It was probably this realisation which helped encouraged Cavour to begin fostering relations with Napoleon III from 1852 (the year in which Louis Napoleon made himself French Emperor, renaming himself Napoleon III).

Austria – virtually all the revolutions were only really allowed to gain momentum due to Austrian weakness – mainly following the fall of Metternich in March 1848 (also see the inability of Austrian troops to cross the Papal states to reach the Neapolitan rebels mentioned above). The resounding defeats of Charles Albert’s armies at both Custozza (July 1848) and Novara (March 1849) bear witness to the fact that Italian forces were simply not equipped to deal with the might of the Austrian Empire and her armies.

So was it all doom and gloom in 1849?
*Piedmont was allowed to keep its STATUTO (for details see above)

*Risorgimento inspiration could later be drawn from heroic stands such as those witnessed by Garibaldi in Rome and Manin in Venice

*Valuable lessons (see LUCIA) would be learned from the failures of 1848-9.

Section 3 – the rise of Piedmont

-The keeping of the STATUTO after the 1848-9 revolutions by King Victor Emmanual II. The guarantee, by this constitution, that: all taxes would be introduced by the lower, elected house of parliament; the press would be free; and that INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY would be protected under the law attracted as many as 30,000 political exiles from the other less liberal Italian states flocking to Piedmont-Sardinia’s principal cities of TURIN and GENOA. As a result of this Piedmont became the centre of the nationalist movement where radical newspapers and journals circulated at a prolific rate. It was the uniting of various diverse nationalists among these exiles which led to their forming of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, up and running by the mid-1850s but not FORMALLY founded until 1857, which was dedicated to furthering the cause of Piedmontese-led unification. The fact that this society contained individuals with such different outlooks – several Mazzinians, Daniele Manin – the fiercely republican hero of the Siege of Venice, and the long-time supporter of Piedmontese-led nationalism, Giorgio PALLAVICINO – showed the scale and significance of the compromise reached between these nationalists.
-The CONNUBIO (‘Marriage’) engineered by Cavour, as Finance Minister, at the beginning of 1852 between Rattazi’s Centre-left party and d’Azeglio’s Centre-right party, which strengthened the power of parliament greatly in comparison to that of the crown. This both made it easier to pass major reforms and attracted further political exiles from states with absolute monarchs.
-CAVOUR BECOMING PRIME MINISTER in November 1852. This occurred following a constitutional when the previous prime minister Massimo d’Azeglio had clashed with the Pope (and following pressure put by the Pope on the King) and Victor Emmanuel II over a bill d’Azeglio wanted to pass allowing Civil (non-religious) marriage. On being forced to resign, d’Azeglio suggested Cavour as his successor, making the way for a man passionately dedicated to modernising Piedmont economically and improving her standing in the international community.

-These began with THE SICCARDI LAWS of 1850 (formulated by Giuseppe Siccardi) and banned the Church from having separate law courts, restricted the rights of religious groups such as monasteries to buy property and amass wealth and abolished the right of criminals to seek sanctuary (safety) in the Church.

-In 1855 Cavour furthered these reforms by abolishing all monastic orders who were not involved in the provision of education or charity, using the resulting confiscated wealth and property for use by the state.

The effect of this anti-clericalism was both to further attract liberal and nationalist support to the Piedmontese cause and to underline the increasingly anti-clerical (anti-religious) stance of the unification movement.


-Cavour had always been fascinated by economic and industrial advances and this had led him between 1833 and 1835 to visit the industrial cities of Britain and the Liverpool-Manchester railway, leading to a life-long fascination with this form of transport. From 1835-47 he busied himself developing modern agricultural techniques for the running of his family farm while between 1846 and 1847 he wrote prolifically on the subjects of railways and the possibility of setting up a Bank of Turin, as a national bank of Piedmont.

-This led him, in October 1850, to be appointed Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and the Navy. In this role he signed BILATERAL (two-sided) TRADE TREATIES with PORTUGAL, FRANCE, BRITAIN AND BELGIUM, thus both boosting the Piedmontese economy and the country’s international reputation and standing. Between 1850 and 1859 Piedmontese imports and exports increased by 300%.

-As MINISTER OF FINANCE FROM 1851-2 he reorganised the Piedmontese governments methods of balancing the books, making it more efficient in order to allow it to free up funds for major public works projects more easily

-Other areas in which the economy expanded after Cavour became Prime Minister included:

*THE RAILWAYS: there was 850km of regularly operational track in Piedmont, as much as there was in the rest of the Italian peninsula combined. Lines linked the Piedmontese capital Turin with other important cities such as Milan (Lombardy), Genoa and the French border.

*CANALS: the building of which from 1857 not increased the flow of trade but boosted the construction industry.

*ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH communication: The TELEGRAPH LINKING TURIN WITH PARIS constructed in 1853 greatly increased contact between Piedmont and her future ally France.

*TEXTILES: following the removal of tariffs on cloth.
All these reforms, of course, helped partly to mark Piedmont as the leading industrial state on the Italian peninsula and partly to get her ready for the wars of unification in which she would later be involved.

-Cavour informally began his drive to foster relations with foreign powers when, following a temporary exile from politics after a falling out with Prime Minister d’Azeglio in May 1852, he took the opportunity to meet Louis Napoleon, President of the French Republic (soon to become the Emperor Napoleon III). This showed his shrewd understanding of the fact that Loius Napoleon, having served in Italy as a young man, and taken part in the risings in the Papal States of 1831, was naturally sympathetic to the cause of Italian liberty and nationalism.

His friendship with Napoleon III and France only became more formal, however, when, at Napoleon’s request, he sent 15,000 Piedmontese troops in January 1855 to assist the French and British against the Russians. This force played a small part in the victory over the Russians at the Battle of CHERNAYA RECHKA on 16th August 1855. Gratitude for this assistance encouraged the French and British to allow Cavour to attend and be actively involved in the peace negotiations at THE CONGRESS OF PARIS of February 1856. This not only introduced Piedmont as an internationally respected state and drew French and British attention to the question of limiting Austrian involvement in the Italian peninsula, but also gave France and Britain reason to be grateful if a time should arise when Piedmont wished to challenge the dominance of the Austrians.

Another effect of the Crimean War is that Austria’s standing in international affairs was significantly damaged having lost the friendship of Russia (thus breaking the Troppau Protocol in the process). This would done partly when the neutral Austrians signed an agreement with the British and French in December 1854 to try to hurry the Russians to the negotiating/peace table and partly when in December 1855 she unsuccessfully offered Prussia the opportunity to take a German Confederate army to war with Russia.

*This agreement between Cavour and Napoleon III ironically came after an attempt to assassinate Napoleon by the ardent republican Felice ORSINI. Napoleon claimed to be so moved by Orsini pleas in the name of Italian nationalism at his trial that he was prepared to support it by going to war with Austria. It might be more sceptically (and perhaps more realistically) observed that Napoleon stood to gain a great deal by weakening his major rival Austria through war and conquest. The agreement that was made at Plombieres included the following:

~France would join Piedmont in a war to expel the Austrians from Northern Italy if a situation could be engineered whereby Austria would be seen as the aggressor in this war

~A Kingdom of Upper Italy containing Piedmont, Lombardy, Venetia, Parma and Modena would be set up

~The Pope would lead an Italian Confederation (allowing therefore for some cooperation throughout Italy)

~France would get Nice and Savoy from Piedmont in return for adding 200,000 French troops to a force of 100,000 from Piedmont

~Napoleon III’s cousin Prince Jerome Bonaparte would marry Marie-Clotilde, the daughter of Victor Emmanuel II.
Section 4 – The Unification process of 1859-61:

-As promised, Piedmont provoked war with Austria being seen to be the aggressor when, on 29th April 1859, following the Piedmontese refusal to meet an Austrian ultimatum to demobilise their army, the Austrians declared war and invaded Piedmont.

-After victories in minor battles by the Piedmontese army at Palestro and by GARIBALDI’S private 3,000-strong ‘Alpine Hunters’ army at Como in May 1859, the two large-scale battles of MAGENTA(4th June) and SOLFERINO (24th June) took place. These were narrowly won by the 120,000-strong French and 60,000-strong (20,000 of which having been recruited by the NATIONAL SOCIETY) Piedmontese army but at great cost in a war SO bloody that it encouraged the setting up of The International Red Cross.

-Partly because of the bloodiness and narrowness of his victories, and also partly with Napoleon’s concerns at the pro-Piedmontese revolutions taking place in the Central States and the disapproval of Britain and Prussia for the war on Austria, Napoleon III then took the controversial step of SIGNING A UNILATERAL [without Cavour’s knowing] PEACE WITH AUSTRIA at VILLAFRANCA on the 11th July 1859.
The disappointing nature of THE PEACE OF VILLAFRANCA can be seen below:

~Lombardy was to be given to Piedmont BUT Venetia was to remain in Austrian hands.

~The rulers of the central states who had been driven out by the pro-Piedmont revolutions were to be restored to their positions and Piedmont was forbidden from annexing these Central States as had been agreed by the Pact of Plombieres.

~The Papal Confederation, as agreed at Plombieres WAS to be set up.

~Nice and Savoy were, for the time being to remain with Piedmont.
In his breaking of the terms of Plombieres and his obvious desire to prevent Piedmont growing too strong, Napoleon III showed some limitation to his role as Italian unifier, something which could also be glimpsed by his sending in and keeping of French troops in Rome after 1849. Cavour, for his part, disgusted at what he saw as an act of treachery, resigned as Piedmontese Prime Minister.


-Despite Napoleon III’s ban on Piedmontese annexation of any of the Central States, the behaviour of the revolutionaries in these states (much of it strongly encouraged by THE NATIONAL SOCIETY), following the outbreak of the war with Austria, very strongly suggested a desire to unify behind Piedmont: In TUSCANY, for example, in April 1859 BARON Bettino RICASOLI took power of the capital city of Florence, forcing Grand Duke Leopold to flee, and set up a government in support of joining with Piedmont; likewise, THE NATIONAL SOCIETY engineered peaceful revolutions in MODENA, PARMA and the rest of TUSCANY in May 1859, replacing rulers with provisional governments in favour of Piedmontese annexation; LUIGI FARINI was placed by the NATIONAL SOCIETY in charge of the governments of MODENA and PARMA after their monarchs had been forced to flee.
-In view of the overwhelming opposition to Napoleon III’s ban on Piedmontese annexation in these states, and also because of their support for the idea of SELF-DETERMINATION (rule of a state by its own government), the British, led by Lord John Russel as representative, pushed for the right of these states to decide their own destiny. Following this, Cavour was persuaded to do a deal with Napoleon III on 21st January 1860 whereby Nice and Savoy COULD go to France providing plebiscites on Piedmontese annexation were held in the Central States.

With the help of organisation (some might say persuasion, intimidation and rigging) of THE NATIONAL SOCIETY, TUSCANY voted 386,000+ in favour and just under 15,000 against annexation while EMILIA (a combination of MODENA, PARMA, BOLOGNA, FERRARA and RAVENNA) voted almost 25,000 to 160 in favour.
Through the skilful negotiation of Cavour, the organisation and energy of the National Society and the backing of the British, the Piedmontese annexation of the Central States as promised at Villafranca had been achieved.

-What happened next was quite unexpected and, from our knowledge of Cavour and his sympathy with d’Azeglio’s comparisons with the Southern Italians with syphilis (!), perhaps not even wanted by some. In reaction to the surrender of his birthplace of NICE to the French, GARIBALDI gathered a force of his ‘red shirts’, which became known as THE THOUSAND (although there were more than 1,000 of them), at the port of Genoa, in order initially to invade Nice to prevent it from being annexed by the French.

-Their attention, however, was taken instead by a revolt which had broken out on SICILY in April 1860. Sailing south with his Thousand to capitalise of this revolt, Garibaldi then declared that he was going to ‘liberate Italy in the name of Italy and Victor Emmanuel’. On landing on SICILY on 11th May 1860 Garibaldi’s following was greatly increased by Sicilian revolutionaries sympathetic to his (but certainly not Cavour’s and quite probably not Victor Emmanuel’s) cause. Garibaldi’s excellent leadership of his superbly drilled troops then allowed him first to defeat the Neapolitan army at the Battle of CALATAFIMI on 15th May and then to take the capital Palermo and declare Sicily conquered by the end of July 1860.

-Garibaldi then turned his attention to NAPLES. The great international interest and support for Garibaldi’s cause was seen when, on sailing across the Straits of Messina from Sicily to Naples, Garibaldi was escorted and protected by the BRITISH NAVY. Likewise, when he arrived at the city of Naples at the beginning of September 1860 he was given a hero’s welcome as, during his crossing to the island, a revolutionary government had overthrown King Francesco II and declared themselves in favour of Garibaldi’s expedition.

-It was at this stage that Cavour decided to act, and sent a Piedmontese army southwards into the Papal States to prevent Garibaldi reaching his intended target of Rome. This army defeated a Papal army at Castelfidaro on 18th September 1860, while Garibaldi was delayed in the South by a resurgence of the Neapolitan which he, however, defeated at VOLTURNO on 26th October 1860.

-This all led to a meeting of Victor Emmanuel’s Piedmontese and Garibaldi’s Red shirt armies at TEANO in Naples on 26th October where before marching into the city of NAPLES on 7th November, where, in an uneasy meeting, Garibaldi formally handed his conquests of Sicily and Naples over to Victor Emmanuel II. The bad relations between the two was glimpsed when the King refused to inspect Garibaldi’s army (as, despite the fact they had won him the South of Italy, he saw him as a rogue and a rebel) whilst, for his part, Garibaldi rather insultingly refused Victor Emmanuel’s offer of important titles and pensions, instead opting for a year’s supply of macaroni as a reward!
*Despite the uneasy nature of this transaction, the KINGDOM OF ITALY (minus only Venetia and Rome) under KING VICTOR EMMANUEL II was then able to be officially proclaimed in March 1861.

Section 5 – Unity in Italy, 1861-70:
Despite the fact that the VAST majority of the landmass of the Italian peninsula was, by 1861, ruled by King Victor Emmanuel II, there was still a great deal to do with regard to creating a cohesive nation state. D’Azeglio, for example, commented in 1861 that ‘Italy is made, now we must make Italians’, while Victor Emmanuel, rather less positively suggested that ‘there are only two ways of governing Italians, by bayonets and by bribery’. With one of the kingdom’s chief architects, Cavour, dead by June 1861, and another, Garibaldi, rendered mostly a political non-entity, it was difficult to see how full unification was going to be possible. By 1870, however, by various methods, Italian unification was much more complete. Below is an outline of the problems faced and overcome in this process:


*One of the biggest problems related to the South was the lack of understanding the Piedmontese government had for it. Because Naples and Sicily were far more rural and backward with regard to economy, social structure and legal matters, Piedmontese-style government was not appropriate for their people. A graphic illustration of this was seen with a law passed in 1859, and applied to the South once it had been brought into the Kingdom of Italy, demanding that all children have at least two years’ compulsory education when the vast majority of the ADULT population in the South were illiterate. The lack of empathy for the South from its new Northern leaders came largely from the fact that it was not until 1902(!) that the first Italian Prime Minister actually visited the South.

Another problem relating to the South was the high incidence of BRINGANDAGE there. The brigands were chiefly made up of: (a) the fact that Brigandage had a long history in the South of Italy; (b) soldiers still loyal to the old Neapolitan Bourbon Monarchy; (c) those left over from Garibaldi’s red-shirt armies of conquest in the South; and (d) local peasants hoping to escape the new oppressive Piedmontese government taxes and/or conscription. As a result of this, law and order had largely broken down in the South.

*This was neither subtle nor particularly tactful. Cavour despatched Luigi FARINI and 120,000 mostly Piedmontese troops to the South, who began a long drawn-out campaign of aggression against the brigands in a BRIGANDS’ WAR (1860-5) which claimed more lives than all the wars of unification combined.

*With the brigands suppressed, the South of Italy was subject to heavy taxation and laws which suppressed their civil liberties enforced by mostly Piedmontese local governors put in place to taek power away from the traditional local ruling classes. Resentment against this brutal suppression on the Southern people still exists today.
OBSTACLE (B) - The desire of other states in the North and Central regions to maintain some autonomy of their own

*Lombardy, for example, had in 1859 been promised a Constituent Assembly of its own and also had its own relatively sophisticated education system, legal system and local governmental structure. Likewise, Baron Ricasoli in Tuscany, who had been instrumental in ensuring the state had been absorbed into Victor Emmanuel’s kingdom in 1860, was strongly arguing that Tuscany’s Customs and Legal System should be kept in place.

*The unquestioning and ruthless PIEDMONTISATION of the legal, education and local government systems in all these territories. No state was allowed its own parliamentary assembly and the systems of government and economic rule were all brought into line was those traditionally followed in Piedmont. Piedmontese regional governors were also often put into place. The only exception here, for a short period at least, was in Tuscany where the influential Baron Ricasoli was able to argue successfully for the preservation of the Tuscan Customs and Legal Systems.

This wholesale Piedmontisation had been alluded to from the beginning of the setting up of the Kingdom of Italy when, rather than being crowned VICTOR EMMANUEL I (as he was the FIRST king of Italy), the new king chose to take his Piedmontese title of VICTOR EMMANUEL II.


*On the declaration of the new Kingdom of Italy in April 1861, Pope Pius IX placed an anathema on it calling on priests throughout Italy to denounce it from the Church pulpits and to call on the people to rise up against it. In 1864 he published a pamphlet called ‘The Syllabus of Errors’ which emphatically rejected the liberalism underlying the new Italian state and claimed the right of the Church to control education, refuse to tolerate other religions and to hold TEMPORAL power. This could potentially have been a problem as Italy was (and still is) a Catholic country where the voice of the Pope was a strong influence on many of the ordinary people.

*This was largely solved by the increasing distance the Pope had unwittingly placed between himself and Italian politics from the time of his Allocution of April 1849. With pious pronouncements such as the Allocution, Syllabus of Errors and The Vatican Council meeting of 1869-70, the Pope reinforced the respect held for him as a religious leader but destroyed him image as a serious political figure. His views on the Kingdom of Italy were thus largely ignored.

*Venetia – Very little was achieved with regard to wresting control of Venetia from the Austrians until the diplomacy of OTTO VON BISMARCK and NAPOLEON III came to the fore. In October 1865 the two men met at Biarritz and agreed that France would remain neutral in any forthcoming Prussian war with Austria in return with the transfer of Venice to the French (and then ultimately to the Italians) in the event of victory. Napoleon later turned this into a “no-lose” situation for the Italians by securing in June 1866 an Austrian promise of the territory of Venetia in return for his neutrality in their forthcoming war with Prussia! Before this, in April 1866, Prussia agreed an alliance with Italy in a forthcoming war with Austria in return for Venetia being passed to the Italians in the event of victory. After Bismarck had tricked Austria into declaring war in June 1866, Italy also declared war on the 20th of the month. Their campaign was, sadly, short and inglorious. First of all their army of 40,000 was defeated by a smaller Austrian force at THE SECOND BATTLE OF CUSTOZZA and soon afterwards the Italian Navy (the Piedmontese section of which had undergone extensive reform with Cavour as Prime Minister) were defeated, again against a smaller Austrian fleet, off the port of LISSA. Luckily for the Italians, soon afterwards the Austrian army was CRUSHED by the Prussian army at THE BATTLE OF SADOWA on 3rd July 1866.

*At the resulting TREATY OF PRAGUE (August 1866), VENETIA was, as promised handed by the Austrians to Napoleon III, who later transferred it to the Kingdom of Italy. Thus had Venetia been accepted by Victor Emmanuel II from the hands of a foreign power and following two disastrous Italian military defeats. Once again foreign powers (this time PRUSSIA and France) had been largely responsible for furthering the cause of Italian unification.
*The particular problem with Rome was not so much the vigorous opposition of Pius IX to the Kingdom of Italy but to the strength of the state of France, which, since 1849, had kept a garrison of some 20,000 soldiers in and around the city. Two attempts to capture the city by Garibaldi in 1862 and 1867 (during which he coined his phrase ‘Roma o morte’ – ‘Rome or death’) were easily crushed by the French.

*It was thus, once again, only when the PRUSSIANS became diplomatically and militarily involved that Italy got her chance to take Rome. Bismarck first lured Napoleon III into war from 19th July 1870 over the HOHENZOLLERN CANDIDATURE CRISIS and the EMS TELEGRAM (see German Unification notes). Following an overwhelmingly successful campaign against the French, the Prussian/German army captured Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan on 2nd September 1870. Following this event, the Italian government, led by Prime Minister LANZA, who had sensibly remained neutral during the Franco-Prussian war, seized the opportunity to send his troops into Rome and seize it as it lay undefended by the French. The lack of enthusiasm for the Roman people for the Kingdom of Italy was plain to see by the fact that Roman people STILL put up some resistance to the Italian troops despite the hopelessness of their cause. Nevertheless, Rome was captured and pronounced the new capital of a FULLY UNITED ITALY by the end of September 1870.

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