What Was the Main Reason for Italian Unification

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  • Topic: Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian unification
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What was the main reason for Italian Unification?

In 1815 after the battle of waterloo and the end of the Napoleonic wars, the victorious powers met to discuss what to do to at what became to be known as the Congress of Vienna. To ensure that war on the same scale never broke out again they decided to make very little changes to the current map of Europe, except strengthening all of France’s neighbours. I was agreed at the conference that the ruling powers should meet in the future whenever a situation arose that could possibly threaten the peace in Europe. The president of the congress was the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, an extreme conservative who believed that everything should be kept the way it was, with the aristocracy in control and the rest of the population with little or no power. Metternich once described the area we know today as Italy, back then a disunited group of various states, as a ‘Geographical Expression’. At the time the disunited group of states were economically backwards compared to the rest of Europe, there was little trade between them and a slow developing industry. Despite the disunity amongst the states there had been a growth in Nationalism brought on my French occupation of the states during the Napoleonic era and the Austrian domination of the two most northern states of Lombardy and Venetia. Out of this small growth in Nationalism came the first secret organizations like the Carbonari. The period between 1815 – 1848 is known as the Risorgimento or rebirth or resurgence in Italian. It was during this time the Carbonari existed, against their chief enemy, Austria. They were mostly made up of Doctors, Lawyers, and Teachers, the middle class. However the middle class made up such a small fraction of the population, 90% of the population of the disunited states were peasants and Peasants had no interest in the Unification of the states, as it did not benefit them. In 1820 the resentment of the Congress of Vienna and a settlement that ad been reached with Austria over the Venetian people’s heads, spilled over into rebellion. However the rebellion was crushed by Metternich as part of the agreement that every nation would work together to ensure peace in Europe, this became known as the Metternich system. In 1821 rebels in Turin attempted to take over and have a constitution granted. However Metternich again intervieened and the revolt was crushed as quickly as it had begun, Historians argue over the effectiveness of the Carbonari, GM Trevelyan wrote “Nationalism was growing by the early 19th century as evidenced by the secret organizations”. However the Carbonari were unorganised with no clearly defined aims and were only interested in a little bit of political control, the idea of unifying the states was of no interest to them if they did not get something out of it. However the Carbonari did put the idea of Nationalism into people’s heads. Although the success of the rebellion led by the Carbonari was very limited it spread the feeling of Nationalism amongst the states, none of these actions were the main reason for Italian unification. The main reason for Italian unification was the military leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was born in Nice in 1807. He became a ships boy at the age of 15 which led to him experiencing the world as the ship travelled around the globe from port to port. In 1832 he became a Merchant ship captain. In 1833 Giuseppe Garibaldi came into contact with a secret organization that believed in unifying the states, called Young Italy. Giuseppe Mazzini had started Young Italy, and as young man had been in the Carbonari before had starting his own group, which, unlike the Carbonari, had clearly defined aims and was better organised. Garibaldi became greatly influenced by Mazzini’s ideas. In the same year he met Mazzini but they did not get on, their personalities differed immensely. Garibaldi travelled to South America and joined a recently...
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