BACKGROUND

  • For many centuries, the Italian peninsula was a politically fragmented conglomeration of states.
  • When war broke out between Austria and the Revolutionary French Government in 1792, the French invaded the Italian peninsula, consolidated many of the Italian states, and established them as republics.
  • French invasion and nationalism
    • After Napoleon’s rise to power, the Italian peninsula was once again conquered by the French.
    • The period of French invasion and occupation was important in many ways.
      • French ideas had crossed the Alps into Italy along with French soldiers and the Napoleonic regime had infused a new life into the devitalized Italy.
      • French invasion introduced revolutionary ideas about government and society, resulting in an overthrow of the old established ruling orders and the destruction of the last vestiges of feudalism.
      • The ideals of freedom and equality were very influential.
      • The concept of nationalism was introduced, thus sowing the seeds of Italian nationalism throughout Italian peninsula.
      • Thus for a time the Italians had realised the sense of national unity and so they felt disappointed when the congress of Vienna forced them back into the Old Regime.

ITALY FROM 1815 TO 1850

  • Reconstitution under Vienna Congress
    • Following the defeat of Napoleonic France, the Congress of Vienna (1815) was convened to redraw the map of Europe.
    • In Italy, the Congress restored the pre-Napoleonic patchwork of independent governments, either directly ruled or strongly influenced by the prevailing European powers, particularly Austria.
    • It was Italy where principle of legitimacy and balance of power had found great scope in the Vienna Congress.
    • Of the 8 states into which Italy was divided, only the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia had Italian ruler.
    • Hapsburg princes (connected with Austrian royal house) were re-established in Parma, Modena and Tuscany.
    • Papal States were restored to Pope
    • Bourbon rule was restored in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (fused together from the old Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily).
    • Genoa was joined to Piedmont to bar the coastal route to the French
    • To Austria, two most prosperous provinces Lombardy and Venice was given to secure Italy against possible French aggression.
    • Hence Italy was put back on a pre-revolutionary basis except the extinction of 2 republics of Venice and Genoa.
  • Main villain was Austria
    • Disunion of Italy and diversity of political condition caused Austrian domination.
      • Austria directly controlled two richest provinces Lombardy and Venetia, while rulers connected with her imperial house had been placed on the thrones of Parma, Modena and Tuscany.
      • Naples king Ferdinand was also treaty bound not to introduce a form of government unacceptable to Austria.
    • The Austrian Empire vigorously repressed nationalist sentiment growing on the Italian peninsula, as well as in the other parts of Hapsburg domains.
    • The Austrian diplomat Metternich, an influential diplomat at the Congress of Vienna, stated that the word Italy was nothing more than “a geographic expression”.
    • Italian states were too small to be self sufficient and so they had to lean upon Austria for help.
  • Artistic and literary sentiment and nationalism
    • Artistic and literary sentiment also turned towards nationalism:
      • There were many literary precursors of Italian nationalism.
      • The most famous of proto-nationalist works was Manzoni’s The Betrothed.
        • This novel was a thinly veiled allegorical critique of Austrian rule.
  • Disunion and provincialism:
    • King of Sardania-Piedmont, Victor Emmanuel I was a rigid supporter of the Old Regime and did his best to restore it, sweeping away French laws and institutions.
    • Attitude of Pope
      • Those in favour of unification also faced opposition from Pope.
      • The pope at the time, Pius IX, feared that giving up power in the region could mean the persecution of Italian Catholics.
    • Diverse opinions about unification
      • Even among those who wanted to see the peninsula unified as one country, different groups could not agree on what form a unified state would take.
      • Vincenzo Gioberti, a Piedmontese priest, had suggested a confederation of Italian states under rulership of the Pope.
      • Some wanted the unification of Italy under a federal republic while others supported a confederation of separate Italian states led by Piedmont.
  • Carbonari
    • The Carbonari was an informal network of secret revolutionary societies active in Italy in the early 19th century.
    • Their goals often had a patriotic, liberal and republican character.
    • But they never had a single program and lacked clear immediate political agenda:
      • some wanted a republic, others a limited monarchy; some favoured a federation, others a unitary Italian state.
    • Many leaders of the unification movement were at one time members of this organization.

EARLY REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITIES

Insurrection in Naples

  • Inspired by the revolution in Spain, the Carbonari incited a revolt in Naples in 1820 and forced the king Ferdinand I to grant the constitution.
  • Austria sent army which put down the revolution and restored king Ferdinand to absolute power.
  • Ferdinand abolished the constitution and began systematically persecuting known revolutionaries.

Insurrection in Piedmont

  • Before the movement in Naples was suppressed, Piedmont was in rebellion and Lombardy was stirring.
  • But again, Austria intervened and movement collapsed.

Echoes of the July Revolution of France (1830) in Italy

  • Revolts broke down in Parma, Modema and some of the Papal states but were quickly suppressed by the armed intervention of Austria, which from its vantage point of Lombardy kept a strict watch upon all movements in Italy.
  • Causes of failure:
    • They were too local and the forces arranged against them were too strong.
    • People as a whole as yet no ripe for revolution.
    • Italians were also initially encouraged by the new French king after July Revolution, Louis-Philippe, who had promised Italian revolutionaries such as Ciro Menotti that he would intervene if Austria tried to interfere in Italy with troops.
      • Fearing he would lose his throne, Louis-Philippe did not, however, intervene in Menotti’s planned uprising.
  • Significance:
    • In spite of its failure, it exposed weakness of the reactionary rulers and increased hatred against Austrians.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

  • Garibaldi was a native of Nice (then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia).
  • He was a disciple of Mazzini and a very able military leader.
  • He participated in an uprising in Piedmont in 1834, was sentenced to death, and escaped to South America.
  • After participating with Mazzini in an abortive republican uprising against the King of Sardinia in 1834, was sentenced to death, and escaped to South America. Garibaldi gained fame for military exploits in South America.
  • He spent fourteen years in South America, taking part in several wars and learning the art of guerrilla warfare, and returned to Italy in 1848.
  • He returned to Italy in 1848 and fought first against the Austrians and then against the French.
  • He put up a gallant but hopeless struggle to maintain the Roman Republic of 1849.
  • (more about Garibaldi in later part of the chapter)

Mazzini’s Young Italy

  • Two prominent radical figures in the unification movement were Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
    • Mazzini was an Italian nationalist and a fervent advocate of republicanism.
    • He envisioned a united, free and independent Italy.
    • Unlike his contemporary Garibaldi, who was also a republican, Mazzini never compromised his republican ideals and refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the House of Savoy.
  • At early age he was caught by the vision of a free and united Italy and joined Carbonari and he was imprisoned by Piedmontese government in 1830 and exiled.
  • Young Italy:
    • The repeated failure of isolated insurrectionary attempts made it clear that methods of Carbonari will not solve the problem of national emancipation.
    • After Mazzini’s release in 1831, he organized a new political movement called Young Italy.
    • Its motto was “God and the People” and it sought to propagate republicanism, nationalist ideas and the unification of Italy.
    • The goal of Young Italy movement was to create a united Italian republic through promoting a general insurrection in the Italian reactionary states and in the lands occupied by the Austrian Empire.
    • Young Italy was not a mere body of conspirator like Carbonari and its methods were education and insurrection.
      • It superseded the Carbonari as the nucleus of national revolution.
      • Its members spread the doctrine of nationalism and by its agents Mazzini made frequent attempts of uprisings which failed.
  • Service of Mazzini to the cause of Italian Liberation:
    • His service cant be judged by what he failed to do. His service were in realm of ideas and inspiration.
    • He infused national movement a moral fervour which so long lacked.
    • He kindled the enthusiasm of people and kept alive spirit of insurrection.

He gave a definite shape to the idea of Italian nationality and made

1848 REVOLUTIONS IN THE ITALIAN STATE

  • Problems of the Peasantry:
    • As is often the case during historic revolutions, the hunger and poverty of the lower classes in Italy of 1848 served as the central spark of revolution.
    • Due to very meager seasonal harvests in 1846 and 1847, poor Italians faced hunger paired with dramatically inflated food prices, causing many demonstrations.
    • Industrial workers struggled with lay-offs as a result of over-production.
    • These factors led to still more riots and protests in both rural and industrial areas across the country.
  • Reforms movements by Pope Pius IX:
    • On June 16, 1846 Pope Pius IX was chosen as Pope.
    • He was considered a liberal and aroused the hopes of political liberals and of the poor both in the Papal States and throughout Italy.
    • He began numerous political and economic reforms.
      • Most dramatically he immediately pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, creating a sensation.
      • He created a Council of State in order to share his power, as well as a municipal council for Rome and a Citizens’ Guard so that the middle class would be armed and support his regime.
    • These projects raised high hopes for greater popular influence in the papal government and for Italian unification.
    • Metternich became uneasy and sought to coerce the Pope by occupying Ferrara with Austrian troops. This evoked strong protests from Pope and caused a wave of furious indignation to sweep all over Italy.
    • Democratic enticement, mingled with a strong anti-Austrian feeling, surged all over Italy in 1847. Next year was year of revolutions in Europe and it also broke out in Italy.
  • Revolt in Sicily and Naples:
    • After witnessing the liberal friendly events that were occurring in Rome, the people of other states started to demand similar treatment.
    • In Sicily the people began to demand a Provisional Government, separate from the government of the mainland.
    • These revolts drove Ferdinand and his men out of Sicily, and forced him to allow a provisional government to be constituted.
  • Spread of Revolt in other parts of Italy:
    • Notwithstanding the events in Rome and Naples, the states still were under a conservative rule.
    • The revolutionary disturbances began with a civil disobedience strike in Lombardy.
    • In February 1848, there were revolts in Tuscany that were relatively nonviolent, after which Grand Duke Leopold II granted the Tuscans a constitution.
    • On 21 February, Pope Pius IX granted a constitution to the Papal States, which was both unexpected and surprising considering the historical recalcitrance of the Papacy.
    • By the time the revolution in Paris occurred, all states of Italy had constitutions except Austrian dominion. So far the movement was a democratic one with temporary success in form of constitutional governments.
  • The revolt develops into a struggle for Italian liberation:
    • Democratic movement developed into struggle for national independence.
    • In Lombardy, tensions increased until the Milanese and Venetians rose in revolt on 18 March 1848. The insurrection in Milan succeeded in expelling the Austrian garrison after five days of street fights.
    • Meanwhile, the Italian insurgents were encouraged when news of Metternich abdicating in Vienna and revolution in Paris spread out. Also, by this time Charles Albert of Piedmont had published a liberal constitution for Piedmont.
    • Cavour (young editor) wrote a stirring appeal to Charles Albert of Sardinia- Piedmont for war against Austria.
  • Charles Albert leads national war against Austria and his defeat:
    • Soon, Charles Albert, the King of Sardinia (who ruled Piedmont and Savoy), urged by the Venetians and Milanese to aid their cause, decided this was the moment to unify Italy and declared war on Austria (First Italian Independence War).
    • While journeying to the fortress preparing for the attack, Charles garnered the support of princes of other states. His fellow princes responded by sending reinforcements to his aid.
    • After initial successes, he was decisively defeated by Radetzky at the Battle of Custoza on 24 July.
    • At that point, Pope Pius IX became nervous about defeating the Austrian empire and withdrew his troops, citing that he could not endorse a war between two Catholic nations. King Ferdinand of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies also called his soldiers back and retired his troops.
    • Piedmont was also lost to the Austrians in 1849 and Charles Albert abdicated in favor of his son Victor Emmanuel II, and a peace treaty was signed on August 6, 1849 and Piedmont-Sardinia was forced to pay an indemnity of 65 million francs to Austria.
  • Republican movement in Rome:
    • Initially, Pius IX had been something of a reformer, but conflicts with the revolutionaries soured him on the idea of constitutional government. In November 1848, following the assassination of his Minister Rossi, Pius IX fled just before Garibaldi and other patriots arrived in Rome.
    • In early 1849, elections were held for a Constituent Assembly, which proclaimed a Roman Republic on 9 February. In early March 1849, Mazzini arrived in Rome and was appointed Chief Minister.
    • The Republic succeeded in inspiring the people to build an independent Italian nation.
      • In the Constitution of the Roman Republic, religious freedom was guaranteed, the death penalty was abolished, and free public education was provided.
      • It also attempted to improve economically the lives of the underserved by giving some of the Church’s large landholdings and giving it to poor peasants.
      • It also made prison and insane asylum reforms, gave freedom to the press, provided secular education, but shied away from the “Right to Work”, having seen this fail in France.
      • Thus Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini tried to build a “Rome of the People”.
    • Tuscany followed Rome’s example and set up a republic.
    • Fall of Roman Republic:
      • Runaway price inflation doomed the economy of the Republic.
      • In addition sending troops to defend the Piedmont from Austrian forces put Rome at risk of attack from Austria.
      • However, Pope Pius appealed to Napoleon III for help.
        • The French President saw this as an opportunity to gain Catholic support.
        • Also it would conciliate public opinion which did not like that Austria alone should control the situation in Italy.
        • The French army arrived by sea and, despite an early loss to Garibaldi, the French, with the help of the Austrians, eventually defeated the Roman Republic.
        • On July 12, 1849 Pope Pius IX was escorted back into town and ruled under French protection until 1870.
        • Thus at one stroke, Louis Napoleon III strengthened his position at home and figured as the champion of the Catholic religion.
  • Collapse of the struggle:
    • Thus premature struggle for Italian independence collapsed. Austria regained her position in Lombardy and Venetia.
    • Absolutism was restored in all the states except Piedmont where Victor Emanuel II remained loyal to the Constitution which his father had granted.

WHY DID 1848 REVOLUTIONS IN ITALY FAIL?

  • Confusion of aims:
    • Mazzini for Republic, Geobetri for a federation of states under presidency of pope and other for union of Italy under House of Savoy i.e. under King of Piedmont.
    • The nationalists were divided in their aims; the removal of Austria being the only thing they could agree on.
    • Issues were usually localised and there was lack of co-operation between revolutionary groups.
    • This lack of organisation and unity made it easy for leaders such as King Ferdinand to suppress the risings in areas such as Naples and Sicily.
  • Lack of coordination of efforts:
    • Lack of sound leadership (Mazzini could inspire, Garibaldi could fight but neither of them had sound statesmanship which could utilise the forces of the time to its advantage)
    • With no real leadership to follow it was almost impossible for the nationalists to give a united front and defeat the Austrians, leading to failure of the revolutions.
    • Of the three possible leaders for the revolutions; Pope Pius IX, Mazzini and Charles Albert, none was universally acceptable.
      • Charles Albert was defeated twice by Austrian troops and therefore became a very weak potential leader.
      • By issuing his allocution the Pope subsequently separated himself entirely from the nationalist movement, eliminating himself from being a possible ruler.
      • Mazzini acted as leader of the Roman Republic for 100 days after the Pope fled and urged states to work together to end Austrian rule until he was crushed by the French troops which the Pope demanded.
  • Austrian and French intervention:
    • One of the largest problems Italian revolutionaries faced was Austria’s strong military power.
      • Austrian intervention led not only to revolts continuously being crushed but also to the absolutist rule being restored by reinstating previous rulers.
    • Austria was not the only foreign military power Italian revolutionaries faced. France used 20,000 troops to restore the papal control in the Papal States after the Pope was forced to flee.
  • The pope’s refusal to support the revolutions:
    • Pope Pius IX initially appeared liberal due to the reforms he introduced such as 2000 political prisoners, ending press censorship by the church and giving more powers to laymen.
    • However, in his allocution issued 29th April 1848 the Pope announced that the war against Austria did not have his blessing and the papacy did not support the idea of a united Italy.
  • Lack on involvement from the masses:
    • Another reason the revolutions failed was that they did not have the support of the masses.
    • On the whole, revolutions were only organised by the social elite or radicals.

SIGNIFICANCE OF REVOLUTION OF 1848

  • First time they had combined in a common cause shaking off their narrow provincialism.
  • The war marked the failure of Sardinia to defeat Austria singlehandedly.
    • This caused Sardinia to seek allies against Austria and ultimately only with French (1859) and Prussian (1866) help would Sardinia be able to drive out the Austrians from Northern Italy.
  • Piedmont King had risked his throne for a national cause, came to the front and was seemed to be only possible leader.
    • This was a great gain.
    • Now problem regarding leadership and aim was simplified.
      • Republican looked discredited as it was too radical to attract masses and failure of Mazzini in Rome made it spent force.
      • So only solution left was the erection of a Constitutional Kingdom under the King of Sardinia- Piedmont.
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