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Nationalism: state-building in Italy- Part I

Nationalism: state-building in Italy (Part 1)

Background

  • For many centuries, the Italian peninsula was a politically fragmented conglomeration of states.
  • When war broke out between Austria and the Revolutionary French Government in 1792, the French invaded the Italian peninsula, consolidated many of the Italian states, and established them as republics.
  • In 1799 the Austrian and Russian armies pushed the French out of the Italian peninsula, which led to the demise of the fledgling republics.
  • French invasion and nationalism
    • After Napoleon’s rise to power, the Italian peninsula was once again conquered by the French.
    • Under Napoleon, the peninsula was divided into three entities:
      • Northern parts:
        • They were annexed to the French Empire (Piedmont, Liguria, Parma, Piacenza, Tuscany, and Rome),
      • Newly created Kingdom of Italy:
        • containing Lombardy, Venice, Reggio, Modena, Romagna, and the Marshes
        • ruled by Napoleon himself.
      • Kingdom of Naples:
        • It was first ruled by Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, but then passed to Napoleon’s brother-in-law.
    • The period of French invasion and occupation was important in many ways.
      • French ideas had crossed the Alps into Italy along with French soldiers and the Napoleonic regime had infused a new life into the devitalized Italy.
      • French invasion introduced revolutionary ideas about government and society, resulting in an overthrow of the old established ruling orders and the destruction of the last vestiges of feudalism.
      • The ideals of freedom and equality were very influential.
      • The concept of nationalism was introduced, thus sowing the seeds of Italian nationalism throughout Italian peninsula.
      • Thus for a time the Italians had realised the sense of national unity and so they felt disappointed when the congress of Vienna forced them back into the Old Regime.

Italy from 1815 to 1850

  • Reconstitution under Vienna Congress
    • Following the defeat of Napoleonic France, the Congress of Vienna (1815) was convened to redraw the map of Europe.
    • In Italy, the Congress restored the pre-Napoleonic patchwork of independent governments, either directly ruled or strongly influenced by the prevailing European powers, particularly Austria.
    • It was Italy where principle of legitimacy an balance of power had found great scope in the Vienna Congress.
    • Of the 8 states into which Italy was divided, only the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia had Italian ruler.
    • Hapsburg princes (connected with Austrian royal house) were re-established in Parma, Modena and Tuscany.
    • Papal States were restored to Pope
    • Bourbon rule was restored in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (fused together from the old Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily).
    • Genoa was joined to Piedmont to bar the coastal route to the French
    • To Austria, two most prosperous provinces Lombardy and Venice was given to secure Italy against possible French aggression.
    • Hence Italy was put back on a pre-revolutionary basis except the extinction of 2 republics of Venice and Genoa.
  • Main villain was Austria
    • Disunion of Italy and diversity of political condition caused Austrian domination.
    • The struggle for Italian unification was perceived to be waged primarily against the Austrian Empire and the Hapsburg, since they directly controlled the predominantly Italian-speaking northeastern part of Italy and were, together, the most powerful force against unification.
      • Austria directly controlled two richest provinces Lombardy and Venetia, while rulers connected with her imperial house had been placed on the thrones of Parma, Modena and Tuscany.
      • Naples king Ferdinand was also treaty bound not to introduce a form of government unacceptable to Austria.
    • The Austrian Empire vigorously repressed nationalist sentiment growing on the Italian peninsula, as well as in the other parts of Hapsburg domains.
    • The Austrian diplomat Metternich, an influential diplomat at the Congress of Vienna, stated that the word Italy was nothing more than “a geographic expression”.
    • Italian states were too small to be self sufficient and so they had to lean upon Austria for help.

  • Artistic and literary sentiment and nationalism
    • Artistic and literary sentiment also turned towards nationalism:
      • There were many literary precursors of Italian nationalism.
      • The most famous of proto-nationalist works was Manzoni’s The Betrothed.
        • This novel was a thinly veiled allegorical critique of Austrian rule.
  • Disunion and provincialism:
    • King of Sardania-Piedmont, Victor Emmanuel I was a rigid supporter of the Old Regime and did his best to restore it, sweeping away French laws and institutions.
    • Attitude of Pope
      • Those in favour of unification also faced opposition from Pope particularly after failed attempts to broker a confederation with the Papal States, ( territories in the Italian Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope) which would have left the Papacy with some measure of autonomy over the region.
      • The pope at the time, Pius IX, feared that giving up power in the region could mean the persecution of Italian Catholics.
    • Italy was a cradle of an ancient civilization and each city of Italy had its own tradition which made it jealous of the other.
    • Diverse opinions about unification
      • Even among those who wanted to see the peninsula unified as one country, different groups could not agree on what form a unified state would take.
      • Vincenzo Gioberti, a Piedmontese priest, had suggested a confederation of Italian states under rulership of the Pope.
      • Some wanted the unification of Italy under a federal republic while others supported a confederation of separate Italian states led by Piedmont.
  • Carbonari
    • The Carbonari was an informal network of secret revolutionary societies active in Italy in the early 19th century.
    • They were a focus for those unhappy with the repressive political situation in Italy following 1815, especially in the south of the Italian Peninsula.
    • Their goals often had a patriotic, liberal and republican character.
    • In general, the Carbonari favoured constitutional and representative government and wished to protect Italian interests against foreigners and expelling them. But they never had a single program and lacked clear immediate political agenda:
      • some wanted a republic, others a limited monarchy; some favoured a federation, others a unitary Italian state.
    • Members of the Carbonari, and those influenced by them, took part in important events in the process of Italian unification (called the Risorgimento), especially the failed Revolution of 1820, and in the further development of Italian nationalism.
    • Many leaders of the unification movement were at one time members of this organization.

Early Revolutionary Activities

Insurrection in Naples

  • In 1820, Spaniards successfully revolted over disputes about their Constitution, which influenced the development of a similar movement in Italy.
  • Inspired by the revolution in Spain, the Carbonari incited a revolt in Naples in 1820 and forced the king Ferdinand I to grant the constitution.
  • Austria sent army (as liberal ideas could spread to Venice and Lombardy) which put down the revolution and restored king Ferdinand to absolute power.
  • Ferdinand abolished the constitution and began systematically persecuting known revolutionaries.

Insurrection in Piedmont

  • Before the movement in Naples was suppressed, Piedmont was in rebellion and Lombardy was stirring.
  • But again Austria intervened and movement collapsed.
  • The aim of 1821 Piedmont revolt was to remove the Austrians and unify Italy under the House of Savoy (ruler of the Kingdom of Sardinia) but it was defeated with the help of the Holy Alliance.

Echoes of the July Revolution of France (1830) in Italy

  • By 1830, revolutionary sentiment in favour of a unified Italy began to experience a resurgence, and a series of insurrections laid the groundwork for the creation of one nation along the Italian peninsula.
  • Revolts broke down in Parma, Modema and some of the Papal states but were quickly suppressed by the armed intervention of Austria, which from its vantage point of Lombardy kept a strict watch upon all movements in Italy.
  • Causes of failure:
    • They were too local and the forces arranged against them were too strong.
    • People as a whole as yet no ripe for revolution.
    • Italians were also initially encouraged by the new French king after July Revolution, Louis-Philippe, who had promised Italian revolutionaries such as Ciro Menotti that he would intervene if Austria tried to interfere in Italy with troops.
      • Fearing he would lose his throne, Louis-Philippe did not, however, intervene in Menotti’s planned uprising.
  • Significance:
    • In spite of its failure, it exposed weakness of the reactionary rulers and increased hatred against Austrians.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

  • Garibaldi was a native of Nice (then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia).
  • He was a disciple of Mazzini and a very able military leader.
  • He participated in an uprising in Piedmont in 1834, was sentenced to death, and escaped to South America.
  • After participating with Mazzini in an abortive republican uprising against the King of Sardinia in 1834, was sentenced to death, and escaped to South America. Garibaldi gained fame for military exploits in South America.
  • He spent fourteen years in South America, taking part in several wars and learning the art of guerrilla warfare, and returned to Italy in 1848.
  • He returned to Italy in 1848 and fought first against the Austrians and then against the French.
  • He put up a gallant but hopeless struggle to maintain the Roman Republic of 1849.
  • (more about Garibaldi in later part of the chapter)

Mazzini’s Young Italy

  • Two prominent radical figures in the unification movement were Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
    • Mazzini was an Italian nationalist and a fervent advocate of republicanism.
    • He envisioned a united, free and independent Italy.
    • Unlike his contemporary Garibaldi, who was also a republican, Mazzini never compromised his republican ideals and refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the House of Savoy.
  • At early age he was caught by the vision of a free and united Italy and joined Carbonari and he was imprisoned by Piedmontese government in 1830 and exiled.
  • Young Italy:
    • The repeated failure of isolated insurrectionary attempts made it clear that methods of Carbonari will not solve the problem of national emancipation.
    • After Mazzini’s release in 1831, he organized a new political movement called Young Italy.
    • Its motto was “God and the People” and it sought to propagate republicanism, nationalist ideas and the unification of Italy.
    • The goal of Young Italy movement was to create a united Italian republic through promoting a general insurrection in the Italian reactionary states and in the lands occupied by the Austrian Empire.
    • Young Italy was not a mere body of conspirator like Carbonari and its methods were education and insurrection.
      • It superseded the Carbonari as the nucleus of national revolution.
      • Its members spread the doctrine of nationalism and by its agents Mazzini made frequent attempts of uprisings which failed.
  • Service of Mazzini to the cause of Italian Liberation:
    • His service cant be judged by what he failed to do. His service were in realm of ideas and inspiration.
    • He infused national movement a moral fervour which so long lacked.
    • He kindled the enthusiasm of people and kept alive spirit of insurrection.
    • He gave a definite shape to the idea of Italian nationality and made the causes of a free and united Italy into a popular movement.
  • Other facts:
    • Opposed Communism:
      • Mazzini was vigorously opposed to Marxism and Communism:
      • In 1871 he condemned the socialist revolt in France that led to the creation of the short-lived Paris Commune.
      • This later caused Karl Marx to refer to Mazzini as a “reactionary” and an “old ass.”
    • Metternich described Mazzini as “the most influential revolutionary in Europe.”
    • Indian independence leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was influenced by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini.
    • Mazzini’s socio-political thought has been referred to as Mazzinianism, and his worldview as the Mazzinian Conception, terms which were later utilized by Benito Mussolini and Fascists such as Giovanni Gentile to describe their political ideology and spiritual conception of life.

Mazzini’s conception of Italian nationality and his ideal of the recreation of moral unity of mankind:

  • After the collapse of the Carbonari movements and the 1830 uprisings, it was Mazzini who most insistently preached the cause of Italian unity.
  • His revolutionary society, ‘Young Italy ’, founded in 1831, was the chief agency through which he sought to educate his compatriots.
  • Mazzini’s geopolitical thinking – and activity – revolve around three fundamental points:
    • Nation,
    • People,
    • Humanity.
  • His fundamental ideas were set out in Young Italy, the society’s newspaper of the same name, and developed in his prolific subsequent writings.
  • Mazzini’s conception of Italian nationality:
    • Triple goal:
      • Independence,
      • unity, and
      • liberty (to be secured through a republic)
    • Through the republic the nation would be made, and by the nation Mazzini explained that he meant ‘the totality of citizens speaking the same language, associated together with equal political and civil rights in the common aim of bringing the forces of society… progressively to greater perfection’.
    • For him nationalism was never divorced from liberalism, although its basis was partly linguistic. On that basis might lead him to say: ‘As far as this frontier your language is spoken and understood: beyond this you have no rights.’
  • Mazzini’s ideal to recreate moral unity of mankind:
    • Mazzini’s conception of Italian nationality was not exclusive and his dominant ideal was the recreation of the moral unity of mankind.
    • He gave concept of Threefold Unity
        • Unity of man was to overcome the dispersion of modern man in an industrialized mass civilization.
        • Unity of nation was to bind all the free individuals of democracy into a community of liberty and equality.
        • Unity of mankind was to assure the peace and collaboration of all nations.
      • Mazzini said that
        • Where France had failed in not supporting the Italians in 1830—Italy would show men how to use their new-won freedom aright.
        • He believed that a free nation should help other to get freedom. This will create moral ‘unity of mankind’.
    • Mazzini was one of the first proponent of European Unity
      • Mazzini was an early advocate of a “United States of Europe“. For him, European unification was a logical continuation of Italian unification.
      • After the failure of Young Italy’s revolutionary attempt in Piedmont in 1833, Mazzini founded a still more ambitious society called ‘Young Europe’, which met on 15 April 1834 to draw up a pact of fraternity, a kind of holy alliance of the youth of the nations to fight for liberty, equality, and fraternity.
      • The mission of Young Europe was: ‘To constitute humanity so as to enable it through a continuous progress.’
      • According to Mazzini:
        • Every people has its special mission, which will cooperate towards the general mission of Humanity. That mission is its Nationality. Nationality is sacred.’
      • Like Young Italy, Young Europe was soon involved in unsuccessful revolutionary activity.
      • But, although both societies were doomed to failure, and Young Europe in particular was a typically utopian product of romantic internationalism, they set an example which was imitated far and wide, from the groups calling themselves Young Ireland and Young Serbs in the nineteenth century to the Young Turks or Young Chinese of the twentieth.
        • So, Mazzini’s concept of moral unity of mankind was partially successful.

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