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Nationalism in Italy during the 1900’s Essay

By 1871, the separate states of Italy had finally become a unified country. Nationalism played a ver large part in this unification process. If it hadn’t been for the people of this region having a strong sense of pride for their country, Italy would still be split up into many nations as it was in the early 1800’s. There were certain people who helped move this process along tremendously, including Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi. All these great men helped form new movements or ideas. Then in the late 1800’s, the people of Italy had a growing sense of nationalism, which led to many changes in the future of their states.

Feelings of nationalism arose while Napoleon I was in rule and then later, developed into large movements. Even more importantly, thinkers and writers who tried to create interests in the Italian traditions, ended up bringing up the Risorgimento, which in Italian means – ” the resurgence”. Risorgimento was a nationalistic movement aimed to liberation and unification. Patriots of the Risorgimento worked together in their aims of liberation and unification, however, they disagreed on what type of government that would come into place after this unification.

Secret societies called Carbonari, which was created and led by Mazzini, who furthered nationalistic feelings and was even imprisoned for the uprisings he caused. Mazzini was an idealist and envisioned a united Italy and devoted his entire life to this goal. Mazzini is also well known for creating another movement called “Young Italy”, where he called all Italian patriots to join.

Cavour, the chief minister of Sardinia, was the man who brought many of these ideas together by using the establishing of new banks, factories, railroads, ships and treaties to lessen the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and create and united, industrialized Italy. Unlike Mazzini, Cavour was a realist and was always determined to get results from the movements that took place under his rule. These strong feelings made new movements and wars inevitable.

Another man that was devoted to Italian freedom was Giuseppe Garibaldi. He was in and out of the country with exiles and revolutions, but his most important revolutionary plot was that with Cavour. This plot was forming an army, later called the Red Shirts, to free the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, invade Sicily and seize Naples. The inner conflicts of Italy were crucial to the fight for independence, but the wars with the outside countries were the ones that truly determined the fate of the nation.

In 1855, Cavour and Napoleon III secretly met to plan a war against Austria to free Northern Italy. The war began in 1859 and was successful for the first three months until Napoleon decided he didn’t want Italy to be united after all, and signed a secret armistice with Austria. During those first three months, many states overthrew their Austrian rulers and requested an annexation to Sardinia. However, after this major shift in power, many rulers returned to their states that they had originally governed. All throughout the battles fought, the people still embraced the hope they all had for Italy as a free, unified nation.

In 1860, a long awaited election was let forth to all the states excluding Rome and Venetia, which were still under Napoleon’s rule, and it was nearly unanimous that the Sardinian king, Victor Emmanuel II would rule the kingdom of Italy. The Italians had nearly achieved their aims of unity and had a parliament representing each state. Their ambition was satisfied when Napoleon III had to pull his troops out of Rome and Venetia for the Franco-Prussian war and they were captured and completed Italy.

Even though this was wonderful for Italy to be united as a whole, they were inexperienced with government and were still very much divided by traditions and independence. The Mafia and heavy taxes caused a lot of tension on the country. Although, these were not the results of an earlier disunity, because before uniting, they could have easily had internal conflicts, but when united as a country, it really brings out the problems that certain parts of the country have with one another. Nevertheless, by 1871, Italy had finally reached the point of a unified country, but it still had a long way to go before it became the strong, stable nation it is today.


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