Causes of Italian unification with historical context and stages

Italian unification

Historical process that made possible the unification of the Italian territory under the same state, the Kingdom of Italy. In this article we will provide you the Causes of Italian unification.

The historical process that made possible the unification of the Italian territory under the same state, the Kingdom of Italy, is known as Italian unification .

This process, developed in the Italian peninsula during the 19th century , was possible thanks to a political, military and ideological movement that in a few decades managed to unify the following independent States as the Kingdom of Italy : the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Lombardy- Veneto, the Duchy of Parma, the Duchy of Modena, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Papal States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

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Historic context

After the fall of the Roman Empire , the current Italian territory was fragmented into various independent states that for centuries failed to form a political unit. But, at the beginning of the 19th century, the liberal ideals of popular sovereignty and nation, spread by the French Revolution , echoed in Italian intellectuals, who, immersed in the spirit of romanticism , began to cherish the idea of ​​building an Italian nation. 

However, the idea of ​​forming a “single Italy” was difficult to realize not only due to regional fragmentation, but also because part of the territory was under foreign occupation . In addition, the conservative climate established after the Congress of Vienna added another obstacle to the expression of nationalist ideas. Therefore, the supporters of the unification were grouped in secret societies.

Not all the governments of the Italian states were opposed to unification. The Savoy house of the kingdom of Sardinia, in northern Italy, for example, actively participated in the unifying campaign. This participation is interpreted by some authors as an act of conquest devised by the Count of Cavour, since finally the new Kingdom of Italy came under the rule of the King of the Savoyard dynasty, Victor Emmanuel II .

Causes of Italian unification

The main causes of Italian unification were the following:

  • The rejection of successive foreign occupations : the Napoleonic in southern Italy and the Austrian in the northeast region of the peninsula.
  • The rejection of the territorial division ordered in the Congress of Vienna, which had established a division of the Italian territory without considering its history or the peoples of each region.
  • Adherence to the liberal ideas in force at the time. In that sense, “nation” building was a process that Italy, like many other countries, carried out throughout the nineteenth century.
  • Adherence to the principles of the free market : since the unification of Italy implied the elimination of the multiple customs that existed in each of the independent states.

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Stages of Italian unification

Italian unification can be divided into the following stages:

  • Period of the secret societies : during the first decades of the 19th century, the radical nationalists organized various secret societies in different parts of the peninsula. In the south, they formed the Carbonería in opposition to the Napoleonic occupation, and in the north, the Young Italy against the Austrian occupation. The radical nationalists not only wanted the expulsion of foreign powers from Italian territory, but also the formation of a republic to replace the conservative monarchies.
  • First War of Independence : in 1848, the unifying movement passed into the hands of a more conservative line when King Carlos Alberto of Sardinia took over its leadership. That same year, the troops of his kingdom together with those of the Papal States and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies faced the Austrian army, but they did not manage to defeat it and Carlos Alberto had to abdicate in favor of his son Victor Emmanuel II.
  • Second War of Independence (1859-1861) : ten years later, the kingdom of Sardinia faced a new campaign in order to continue with the unifying project. On this occasion, the figure of Minister Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, stood out for his skillful diplomatic work with Napoleon III, an ally in the confrontation against the Austrians. The kingdom of Sardinia managed to annex the Lombardy region and the duchies in the center of the peninsula. Another key figure of this stage was Giuseppe Garibaldi, who conquered the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. On March 17, 1861, after the unification of almost the entire territory, the Kingdom of Italy was declared and Victor Emmanuel II was appointed as its king.
  • Third War of Independence : in 1866, the kingdom of Italy, after intervening in favor of Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War, was able to recover the territory of Veneto that until then was under Austrian rule.
  • Annexation of Rome : finally, in 1870, the kingdom of Italy managed to conquer the last remaining territory to annex: Rome, which on February 3, 1871, was designated capital of the kingdom of Italy.

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