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Important Topics: World History (Unification of Italy)

World History

(Unification of Italy)

What do you mean by Italian Unification


It was a Political and Social movement, agglomerated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century. Began in 1815 with the Congress of Vienna and the end of Napoleonic rule. It ended in 1871 when Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

Reasons: Common Religions of Italy, Language: Italian (Christianity). Geographical basic is also a common reason because it was relatively isolated from entire Europe because of Alps and exploitation by Austria and France.

Phases of Italian unification


  1. Carbonari: Secret Organisation
  2. Intellectual awakening
  3. Role of Cavour (Chancellor of Piedmont and most important person in Italian unification)
  4. Revolutionary council of 1860
  5. Garibaldi and his force

Carbonari: Napoleon united the Italian states somewhat, but Vienna Congress of 1815 washed away the order established by napoleon. when more than 3/4th population was suffering from poverty and illiteracy, the liberals and nationalists of Italy tried to achieve their goal through armed rebellion. Carbonari, the secret organisation in Italy became the medium of their revolt. But rebels lacked mass support from inside Italy, and also were facing powerful threat from European alliance, so the revolt was crushed. Clear message to Italian Nationalists was that Italian unification require sound strategy, plan and organisation.

Intellectual Awakening: Intellectual like Ziobarti, Mazzini etc. played the role of awareness and awakening of masses in Italy. Mazzini is called 'Prophet of Italian Unification', as he established Young Italy movement; preached the idea that Italian unification can only be possible with foreign help and Austria is the biggest obstacle in unification.

Role of Cavour: Proposal of Mazzini inspired Cavour who started moving on the path of Bismarck by emphasising on military and economic empowerment. He took advantage of Crimean (Marshy land in Black Sea) war between Russia and Turkey and sent his army for assistance of Britain and France which supported the cause of Turkey. With Russia's defeat, Paris Peace conference was organised and Cavour was invited as a representative of Italy. he wanted European support for Italian unification.

Italy was born in marshy lands of Crimea as Italy got acceptance of European community with this war and Cavour got assurance from Britain and France to get help in this ambition of Italian Unification. Yet practically there was no sign of help from Britain and France. So, Cavour now focussed on Napoleon III and by Treaty of Plombiers, napoleon III assured Cavour of France's help in Italian unification. But during was between Piedmont and Austria, Austria convinced Napoleon III about the ill consequences of Italian unification. Due to this, Napoleon III pulled out from Italy of Plombiers and this ended the dream of Cavour of Italian unification by war with Austria.

Revolutionary council of 1860: The phase starts as an impact of revolts 1830s and 1848 which emphasised on the will of the people. This lead to formation of revolutionary councils in Italy (1860), which adopted the path of Plebiscite (means each and every decision should be taken with the help of eligible voters in that particular area or territory). But this was not successful as important Italian states like Naples, Venice or Venezia, Sicily etc. refused to budge to 'will of the people'.

Garibaldi and his force: Final role was played by the Garibaldi and his powerful force of thousands which attacked the adamant states. They also got inside mass support and completed the task of Italian Unification. In this way, Germany and Italy were new nations in Europe in 1870s. it was changing the political eequation and it laid the foundation of World War I.

How the unification occur (Italy by 1829)


  • 1829 Duchy of Massa and Carrara was annexed by Duchy of Modena and Reggio.
  • 1847 Duchy of Lucca was annexed by Toscana and Modena. Parma and Toscana were changes.
  • 8th December, 1859 United Provinces of central Italy were created.
  • 22nd March, 1860 Central Italy was united with Kingdom of Sardinia.
  • 24th March, 1860 treaty of Turin. Savoy and Nice were annexed to France.
  • 18th July, 1860 Kingdom of Sardinia removed its troops from Monaco.
  • 18th August, 1860 Basilicata proclaimed joining to Kingdom of Sardinia.
  • 21st August, 1860 Apulia proclaimed joining to Kingdom of Sardinia.
  • 2nd September 1860 Pontecorvo was joined to Kingdom of Sardinia.
  • 3rd September 1860 Benevento was joined to Kingdome of Sardinia.
  • 7th September 1860 Naples was liberated.
  • 16th September 1860 papal troops retrieved Pontecorvo.
  • 21st October 1860 after the plebiscite Southern Italy was joined to Kingdom of Sardania.
  • 7th December 1860 papal troops were kicked out from Pontecorvo.
  • 17th December 1860 after plebiscite of 4th November - Marche and Umbria were joined to Kingdom of Sardania.
  • 2nd February 1861 Monaco transmitted Mentona to France.
  • 17 march 1861 proclamation of Kingdom of Italy.
  • 3rd - 4th February 1865 Florence became the capital.
  • 23rd August 1866 Peace of Prague. After Austro-Prussian War Veneto was ceded to France, then France ceded it to Italia.
  • 20th September 1870 Papal State was annexed by Italy.
  • 3rd February  1871 Rome became the capital of Italy.

Compare and Contrast Italian and German Unification


Similarities: Central theme was same namely the struggle foe and attainment of national unity. Both countries began the period in disunity, made unsuccessful attempt to attain their ends in 1848, and finally secured it almost at the same moment, with same military operations. Strong state i.e. Piedmont in Italy and Prussia in Germany, Supported the cause of national movement. Cavour and Bismarck both had to conquer initially the resistance from a stubborn Austria.

These resemblances are extremely superficial. Differences - Points in favour of Bismarck.
Cavour's task was more difficult, as Piedmont was so weak that foreign aid was needed for Italian Unification. While Bismarck just needed neutrality of other states. Piedmont was not very different from other Italian states, while Pressia already commanded respect and prominent position in Germany. Zollverein provided economic unification, absent in Italy. In Germany, already greater measure of unity than Italy as there was no foreign rule to be overthrown, no influence of Pope creating difficulties.

Differences: Point against Bismarck

Bismarck has to work against the popular will and force unity upon a reluctant nation, while Cavour gave effect to ardent desire of people. Austria was deeply entrenched in Germany than Italy, hence Austria's expulsion from Germany would have created more opposition in Europe than in Italy. So, diplomatic difficulties of Bismarck were more than of Cavour.

Inspirational prophet like ideas of Mazzini and a loving figure like Garibaldi were a valuable asset in favour of Cavour; Bismarck was all alone and unaided. King William I, bitterly and reluctantly supported Bismarck, while Emmanuel II gave full support to Cavour.

Principles and Methods (How they were different)

  • Cavour was a liberals and ardent believer in parliamentary government, so worked by means of parliament and plebiscite, he gave importance to will of people, looked up to liberalism and enlightenment of Piedmont.
  • Bismarck was reactionary, hated the ideas of parliament, votes and will of people, Polity of "Blood and Iron".
  • Cavour could have scarified the interest of Piedmont for achieving Italian unification, Bismarck on the other hand was Prussian first, wanted German unification by subjecting its populace to Prussian rules, so he was brutal, violent and even suppressed the liberal and democratic elements of Germany.

Know more about Religion in Italy