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Italian Unification Essay

By 1870, Italy had finally captured Rome and so with it the whole of the Italian Peninsula was now under the control of an Italian state. Previously, the Austrians controlled Venetia and Lombardy and Italy was divided into many different states. However, by 1870, Piedmont had managed to unite all of Italy under one ruler. On the other hand, there were many divisions in this new state leading up to 1870. For example there were many people in the South of Italy who felt that they were being forced to pay and adapt to the Northern Italy way of life as the leading Italian state, Piedmont was in the North of Italy. Another issue was that Italy could be a federal state therefore weakening its power and also it would not be as unified. Leading on from this in 1870, Italy had a weak government that could not control key political figures such as Garibaldi. There were also problems over the economic integration of this new state and that the transport was poor and there were many land divisions.

Another issue was that Rome and Venice had only been recently captured by the Italians and there was fallout over these recent events. The Pope had failed to recognise that Rome was even part of Italy and many people may have agreed with the Pope such was his influence in those times. By 1870, there were many problems with the South of Italy. It had a poor economy and there was widespread poverty that was incompatible with the North. Another reason why it was a problem was that there was a lot of ignorance from Piedmont politicians as to the actual state of the South. In fact, the South had acquired a reputation for being unhealthy when Cavour had visited in 1861 and then had died from poor health a few months later. The Southern problem was not solved by the politicians and still remains a problem in modern day Italy. In fact the South became such a large problem that there was a Brigands War in the years 1861-1865.

This was where people living in Southern Italy became bandits and brought about a lot of death. The consequences for the surrounding citizens were more suppression and taxes that divided Italy even further. The result of this taxation meant that the difference between North and South was even greater. Therefore, Italy was not unified in this context meaning that the question is irrelevant. The second issue in the 1860s before 1870 was that Italy was becoming a Federal State that would be harder to govern. This would be a problem for a unified Italy as each state would have different laws and that this could cause even more dissonance between the South and the North. The resulting consequence for the North could be that they would have to send money to the South to help their struggling economies. However, by 1870, the problem of Italy being a federal state had been solved. It was solved mainly by a new constitution that would be able to control all the states.

The constitution was set out that it would have an elected Head of State where power would emanate from. This was more in touch with the South and therefore unifying the politics of Italy. Another solution to a state that would have been divided was the introduction of single weights and currency which meant that all of Italy could work and trade together easily and as a result there would be less dissonance between the North and the South. In political terms, Italy was unified to a great extent as it was controlled by a Head of State and now had a single weight and currency. Leading on from this was another problem facing a unified Italy before 1870. There was a total lack of economic integration between the South and the North of Italy. The transport system was poor as there was no interest in promotion and as a result agricultural productivity decreased.

Also, there were many divisions with the land. By 1870, the transport system in Italy had been improved greatly. In 1865, the railways had become privatised and there was a significant amount of capital from the state. The national rail system became a political priority and it had a huge impact on the economy and society. Therefore in the transport aspect of economic integration it had been solved. However, the land still remained a problem despite efforts to balance it out. In 1867, an act to begin the nationalisation of Church land. In the South, peasants bought land they couldn’t afford and had to sell. Therefore, Italy still needed significant land reform. Even though in transport terms, Italy was unified to a great extent, there were great divisions in the South again over the ownership of land and so the question is not correct in assuming Italy was unified. Another issue facing complete unification of Italy was a weak government.

Ever since Cavour had died in 1861, no one had managed to become the leader he was. Ricasoli who was Cavour’s successor had little parliamentary experience and was replaced quickly by Urbano Rattazzi. The main problem with the government was that no one could fill the role that Cavour had played in Italian politics. The result was that there was a lack of discipline and there was a lack of control over Garibaldi who nearly provoked war with France. This happened in July 1862, when Garibaldi went to Sicily with the approval of Victor Emmanuel and Rattazzi. He gathered enough support and then crossed to the mainland to capture Rome; Rattazzi was then worried about alienating the French and so arrested Garibaldi to stop him. Rattazzi was then thrown out but all of the following successors could not unite the government due to a lack of support from Victor Emmanuel and a weal parliamentary discipline.

Therefore this issue was not solved and shows that even in the higher branches of Italian society there were still many divisions resulting in the fact that Italy was not unified in this aspect. Of course, by 1870, all of Italy had been unified but it had not been so for that long. Venetia had been given to Italy for its role of supporting Prussia in their war against Austria. Despite fighting badly particularly at the Battle of Custozza, they received Venetia and it officially became a part of Italy. Rome however, would remain under French control until 1870, where the French troops stationed there had to withdraw to help fight against the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War. As a result, Italy pounced on Rome and invaded. On the other hand, some people were against this, particularly the Pope who ignored all laws passed concerning Rome and Church land. This aspect shows that Italy had been unified physically due to the fact that all lands considered Italian were now under their control.

However, they had made enemies in doing so; they had probably angered Catholic France in their humiliation of the Church and Pope and had probably angered the Austrians for firstly fighting against them in the war and taking Venetia away from them. To conclude, Italy had been unified physically by 1870, but there were many internal problems showing that the unification had not been completed. The overriding theme in the problems faced by the newly formed Italy was that there was such a difference between the North and the South. Even though some of the problems had been solved, for example the North and South had less dissonance politically due to the new constitution that had stopped Italy becoming a federal state, there were still many divisions economically that meant that a North-South divide was becoming increasingly apparent.

This was mainly due to the fact that many Piedmontese politicians had no idea of the shortcomings of the South and that in the Southerners eyes, the Austrians had just been replaced by the Northerners. However, this lack of unification was not just constricted to the poverty stricken south; it reached into the upper echelons of Italian politics. The weak government was due to a lack of discipline as no one could unite the parliament like Cavour had. Therefore, the question stating the Italy was unified is false due to the fact that Italy itself was divided to the point where it was hurting its own progress. This is evident into today’s Italian society where much of the wealth is in the North and the South is still backward and pales in comparison.


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