unification of italy

Topics: Italy, Naples, Sicily Pages: 13 (5306 words) Published: April 2, 2014
The unification of Italy in the 19th century was one of the most significant events in the history of the peninsula and of Europe as well. Not only did it alter the European balance of power but it also paved the way for the future. Unification was achieved through the interplay of complex factors: ideology, war, diplomacy, personalities and European politics. There were a number of factors that created obstacles in the unification of Italy. The mountainous nature of central Italy created two distinct civilisations on either side. While North Italy was fertile, prosperous & cosmopolitan; Southern Italy was arid, with a tremendous polarisation between absentee landlords and the poverty stricken peasantry, low rate of illiteracy and a culture dominated by religion. Further Italy displayed a unique range of constitutions. It was characterised by local customs and traditions, which prevented the growth of a national culture. The numerous dialects of Italy prevented language from being a unifying factor. Thus, Derek Biels has argued that in the late 18th century and beginning of 19th century the patriotism of the people were focussed on their cities or villages and this is what came to be known as ‘campanilismo’. Moreover, the foreign powers also had a vested interest in keeping this region divided. This was due to the fact that different regions of Italy were under the control of different leaders. For instance, south Italy was under the Spanish king; North and Lombardy under Austria and the Pope had authority over Rome. Moreover, Italy herself was fragmented into smaller principalities under different rulers and princes, who had no concept of nationality as they were interested in extending their influence outside of Italy as well. The pope’s influence over all Italian states and temporal control over Rome posed yet another barrier to Italian unification. Finally, these structural barriers to unification were accompanied by disagreement among elites and nationalists about whether a unified Italy would be governed by a monarchy, a Republic or even by the pope. Thus, according to Metternich, Italy in the early 19th century was nothing but a “geographical expression”. Anything that can be remotely called nationalism was lacking in Italy in the 18th century. There was no society or newspaper that catered to the need of the entire nation; when universities were founded they were locally based and art also flourished only in a particular state. In Italy the national movement started as a cultural awakening-the Risorgimento, which was a reaction against a dominant French culture. It was in this period that Vittorio Alfieri called for national unity and gave the Italians a common language in the form of the Tuscan dialect. This was the beginning of the linguistic nationalism. However, his attempts did not have much success at this point of time due to the lack of education and absence of a popular support base for a national movement to take place. The first major step towards the unification of Italy came with the French occupation. The impact of the FR intensified the influence of the rationalist enlightenment and reduced the power of the pope and the church. However, this enlightenment movement was on the face of it an artificial movement as it differed from state to state and depended upon the will of the people. Hence, it wasn’t a popular movement that involved the masses nor was it able to achieve anything significant. Moreover, it did not criticise the political division of Italy nor did it demand any representative institutions. This movement was definitely anti-national in nature and encouraged the rule of a despot. However, towards the end of the 18th century there was a growing intellectual opposition to the ideas of Enlightenment that were being followed in Italy. These intellectuals believed that a lot of these reformers had ignored the values propounded by the earlier thinkers that...
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