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Italian Unification

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Italian unification

1) There were a number of reasons as to the fact that Italian unification seemed so far away in the early 1850s, and reasons why nobody felt that Italy as one state would ever be possible. There had been a number of attempted uprisings between 1948 and 49, however all of these had been unsuccessful. The area that is now Italy was still separate parts, each part with their own culture and traditions. Around ninety percent of the population were uneducated and many did not even know the term Italy, many of these people did not have any concerns over who ruled them, and just wished to be ruled well. Austria was still very much the dominant power in Italy, and a dominant power in Europe, at the time it seemed impossible that they could ever be removed from Italy.
2) Cavour saw Mazzini’s ideas as negative, and idealistic, Cavour wanted Piedmontease expansion while Mazzini and his followers wanted a united Italy. Cavour detested Mazzini because of his extremist views, the opposite to Cavour’s middle of the road politics. As well as this Mazzini’s practical record had been one of complete failure, and many young revolutionaries died to no effect. Cavour believed that Mazzini was in fact a help to his cause, and so looked for support from different areas.
4) At Plombieres an agreement was signed in which the French under Napoleon the third agreed to help Piedmont eject the Austrians from states in the northern part of Italy, the meeting was vital because Cavour knew that he had no chance of removing the Austrians without outside support, which France agreed to give at the meeting at Plombieres. However they agreed only to do this on the condition that Austria were seen as the aggressors. To ensure that this was the case Cavour had troops mobilise inside piedmont which then resulted in Austria attacking, this gave France the excuse they needed to attack Austria and take many of the northern states. However fear of intervention by the Germanic states and fear of troubles at home lead Napoleon to him pulling out and not fulfilling the agreements made at Plombieres, and therefore not gaining niece and Savoy. When Cavour wished to continue the battle against the Austrians he was prevented from doing so by Victor Emanuel, and consequently resigned.
6) Cavour was a very skilled politician who wished Piedmont to be seen as a force in Europe, and to achieve this he did a number of things, firstly he involved himself in the Crimean war in which both Britain and France had a great interest in. This gained the gratitude of both of the nations, from then on Britain was sympathetic towards Cavour and Piedmont, and France even more so. Cavour managed to meet with Napoleon the third at Plombieres, shortly after an assassination attempt of the French leader’s life. Both France and Britain quite probably had personal reasons for wanting Piedmont to succeed in Independence, as there was no risk, in their eyes, of Italy becoming too powerful, and it would reduce the amount of influence that the Austrians had over Europe.



7) Piedmont were successful for a number of reasons, the first, and possibly most influential, was the presence of Cavour who successfully managed to win the French over as allies. Cavour was exceedingly skilled at diplomacy and getting what he needed and wanted out of others. By persuading the French to join in the removal of Austrians from Northern Italy, he managed not only to gain much of northern Italy, but also he proved that the Austrians were by no means undefeatable, and made a large single of intent to those both inside and outside Italy.
Cavour was also able to see the smaller picture, in terms of ensuring that Piedmont had a sturdy economy and infrastructure, by doing this it meant that Piedmont, before and after explanation, would be strong enough to fight many of her own battles. In 1859 Piedmont was able to annex Lombardy and soon after Savoy, Parma, Modena and Tuscany. By increasing her size by such a great amount, Piedmont was automatically put on put firmly onto the political map. Cavour was also able to keep the French onside by giving them Savoy and Nice in exchange for Napoleon the thirds approval of the annexations. Piedmont, and Cavour’s, greatest and final major triumph in the unification of Italy/Piedmonts expansion was the gamble that Cavour made when being forced to face Garibaldi, Garibaldi was attempting to unify Italy as fast as possible, and this would result in Garibaldi waging war against the pope, which Cavour believed would unite many of the European forces against them.
Cavour believed that the only way to stop garibaldi was to place an army between Garibaldi and Rome, however this meant invading the Papal States which was declaring war on the pope, which was extremely risky. However the gamble paid off, Cavour was able to defeat the papal army and could therefore attack Garibaldi, however this was not necessary as Garibaldi handed over all of southern Italy which he had conquered and Garibaldi warmly welcomed ‘the king of Italy’, and retired to Caprera. This resulted in almost all of Italy being under Cavour and King Victor Emanuel’s control, with only a few areas left to defeat after October 1860, and finally Italy had become one.
9) Cavour did not trust Garibaldi, for a number of fundamental reasons, and it was for these reasons that he did not want Garibaldi to launch an expedition into the south of Italy. Cavour saw Garibaldi as a republican at hart and did not believe that he would be happy about having Victor Emmanuel as king of Italy, he also believed that if Garibaldi was successful then Piedmonts expansion would not take place, and it would instead be the unification of Italy which was not what Cavour wanted. Cavour also believed that Mazzini and Garibaldi were working together, in a similar way to how they had during the Roman Republic in 1849. Cavour feared that if Garibaldi was successful in his revolution then some of Mazzini’s ways would also become part of the new Italy.
However Cavour was not able to act when he saw Garibaldi set of for his expedition for a number of reasons, firstly it was that Garibaldi was extremely popular amongst the people of Italy, his style of always leading from the front, and his ability to stir up support from many of the peasants in the southern parts of Italy of which there were many. Garibaldi’s extreme popularity, and the way he would fight on the front line for his cause was the very opposite to Cavour, who preferred to use devious political tactics to achieve his aims, rather than all out war. As well as this many historians believe that Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi were in fact in agreement in much of what Garibaldi done, and secretly did not like Cavour at all. This would have meant that Cavour could not have acted in fear of upsetting Victor Emmanuel to the extent that he was removed from his position of power.
10) Garibaldi went to Sicily with his ‘one thousand’ (approximately) with the expressed intention to move north up through the peninsular and eventually up into Rome. Garibaldi’s ‘thousand’ were named the Red Shirts, who were well trained and disciplined, but most importantly extremely well lead. Despite the fact that Garibaldi was hugely outnumbered even with the aid of peasants that he enlisted the help of along the way, he was skilled enough to out manoeuvre and attack the Sicilian forces. The Sicilian forces were lethargic and lead by old and incompetent commanders. These commanders would refuse to change their tactics and remained inflexible and poor when it came to deciding how to combat the threat that Garibaldi faced. As well as this the ‘Thousand’ under the command of Garibaldi had a cause to fight for, and total faith in their leader, this was the almost entire opposite for those in the Bourbon army who often had very little choice about whether or not they wished to be there, and were aware that their leaders were poor, especially in comparison to Garibaldi.
Garibaldi fought a fantastic guerrilla campaign, ensuring that the huge advantage that the Bourbon army had over his men would not count. Garibaldi was hugely charismatic and invariably in the thick of the action, this conveyed a great feeling of self belief to the men that were fighting alongside him. By having such a fighting spirit and by using such diverse and intelligent tactics Garibaldi was able to defeat Sicily in only two months and continue his campaign in uniting Italy.
22) After the unification of Italy, Italy faced many problems that the young country had to try to deal with, and these problems invariably affected the poorer Italians, especially in the south. Cavour’s modernisation of Piedmont had come at a cost which he had not been able to meet, this meant that Piedmont was in a huge amount of debt to other major European powers. This debt was then passed on to the whole of Italy with the result being a large increase in taxes, especially for the working classes. At this time new resources such as Oil and Coal were beginning to be exploited, however Italy did not have any natural Oil and Coal which set her even further back financially. Especially those in the south found it difficult to gain economic security, at points they tried to have revolts against old rulers hoping to maintain land, however the new government supported the higher classes and offered little help and support to the peasants in the south. To try to solve mounting economic issues the government dissolved over two thousand monasteries and sold all they had inside, however this made little difference and taxation remained extremely high compared to the wages being paid which were amongst the lowest in Europe.
King Victor Emmanuel wished to prove that Italy had an army that could compete with all of the rest of Europe, and spent huge amounts of money on the army, many finance ministers attempted to reduce the amount spent on the military, however it was never allowed by government. To try and create a large and strong army Italians were conscripted from throughout Italy, however they were poorly trained, poorly lead and ill equipped. This was shown up in the war against Austria in 1866 where Italy and Victor Emmanuel was determined to have a conflict where Italy could cement them on centre stage. However the war was a military disaster for Italy, and they lost many men both in the army and in the navy. These defeats cost Italy dearly, both economically and in terms of how they were viewed both inside and outside Italy, Napoleon the third remarked that Victor Emmanuel would never know the first thing about war, and Queen Elizabeth of England also took a dim view of what had taken place inside Italy at the time. Furthermore it reduced public opinion of the new government and was undoubtedly a contribution to the start of the ‘Brigands’ War’.
The ‘Brigands’ War’ was a civil war that lasted for years in the southern area of Italy, it was evidence of how badly the new government had gone wrong that many of the same peasants who had fought so pationatly with Garibaldi to secure a new Italy now fought against the government that had been created. To try and prevent the threat from getting out of hand, half of the Italian army was forced to remain in the south permanently. The guerrilla warfare that ensued in the south cost many lives, probably more then all of the three wars fought previously against Austria. To keep the army’s numbers up conscription was once again extended to the whole country and many young men forced to fight to keep Italy as one. This civil war in the south demonstrated just how poor the government standing with the people of Italy was at the time and demonstrated how unpopular Victor Emmanuel was.
The Italian Kingdom at the beginning also faced a number of problems with the papacy, Pope Pius IX had major disagreements with the new regime and were not happy that the Papal States were now under another’s control. Furthermore, in the new Italy very few spoke Italian, and by the end of the nineteenth century only around two percent of Italians spoke literary Italian. Without one language linking the nation together there was no feeling of being one state, many of the new areas wished to keep their old traditions and ways of living, many of these newly annexed states had the feeling of conquered states, a feeling increased by the fact that King Victor Emmanuel surrounded himself with Piedmontese advisers and Piedmontese constitution was extended throughout the country.
There were also very few people in the new state that voted, or took any active part in the politics of the new nation, 22 million had the vote but only 300 000 ever used it in any kind of election. This lack of interest implies that many Italians did not see themselves as Italians, but far more members of their individual states.
I believe, that in the new Italy very few things really changed or made much difference to the life of Italians in the short term, in the long term however I think that life greatly improved by being one nation rather than many. However, the question of whether it was the right idea to unify Italy at that point in time is one that is almost impossible to answer, for while the situation may not have been a positive one in the short time, it may be that it was the best time for a revolution to happen.

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