Nationalism: state-building in Italy (Part 4)

Nationalism: state-building in Italy (Part 4)

Contrast The Contribution Made By Mazzini, Cavour and Garibaldi to Italian Unification

  • Three people clearly played a great role in the process of unifying the State:
  1. Giuseppe Mazzini (Heart of Italy Unification) , the ideological leader of the Italian patriots and the creator of the famous Young Italy,
  2. Giuseppe Garibaldi (Sword of Italy Unification), a skillful military man that to this day is seen as the Italian national hero
  3. Camillo Cavour (Mind of Italy Unification), the Prime Minister of Piedmont from 1852 to 1861.
  • All of them shared a great contribution towards the Unification, but they took actions at different paths: Mazzini was an ideological leader, Garibaldi – a military one and Cavour a political one.
  • Mazzini:
    • Spreading the nationalistic and patriotic ideas was Mazzini’s field of action.
    • He was born in Genua in 1805 which at that time was under the rule of the French, so from the beginning he was interested in the revolutionary movements: he became a member of the Carbonari. Because of being a revolutionary, he was arrested in 1831.
    • The events that strongly influenced a great part of his youth created a great patriot in him and awoke the thoughts of the Unification.
    • He clearly did not trust the government to introduce any changes and believed that the Italian people could make the situation of the country better, so he concentrated on creating a revolutionary movement that would be more efficient than the Carbonari were.
    • With the purpose of changing Italy into a ‘one, independent and free republic’ by a popular uprising he created the Young Italy, a movement that by 1833 consisted of 60,000 members and was spreading towards other countries, eventually creating the Young Europe.
    • Mazzini believed that the popular revolutions that he had in plans would help to achieve the state of his dreams, but all the following uprisings, e.g. the one in 1834 in Piedmont, organised in co-operation with Garibaldi, ended in failure and Mazzini, once again arrested and with a death sentence, was forced to go into exile to London.
    • Although his contribution was the greatest when it came to the ideological path of the Unification, Mazzini took actions on the political and military field.
      • The revolutions organised by him in towns like Bologna (1843) or Milan (1853) all ended in a failure, which was caused by the fact that Mazzini was an ideological leader, not a military one.
      • In politics, however, he had some achievements, for during his exiles (1837-1840 and 1850) he gained the British sympathy and support for the case and for himself, which was important, for it gave the Unification the recognition on the international arena.
      • During the siege of Rome he became the leader of the government, showing good administrative capabilities.
      • What is interesting, Mazzini had in mind a certain image of a republican Italy and when he realised that his vision is unlikely to come true, he gave up – for example in Milan in 1848.
      • After 1849 he supported Garibaldi in his attempts to conquer Rome but his role in the unification was coming to the end.
  • Garibaldi:
    • The contribution made by Giuseppe Garibaldi was a military one. He engaged himself into the Unification in 1833 when he joined the Young Italy inspired by the idea of an united Italian state.
    • As Mazzini, after the failure in Piedmont in 1834 he escaped to South America. The time spent by Garibaldi in America was not a wasted period: he learned how to fight at the land, because before, due to his marine origins, he was used to fight on a ship.
    • When he heard of the planned revolutions during the Spring of Nations, he came back to his motherland with a guerilla called the Red Shirts and helped Mazzini with defending Rome. The actions of Garibaldi were not successful and once again he fled to America to come back in 1854 and take part in an Austro-Piedmontese war.
    • Because of the favorable circumstances, Garibaldi was able to make a journey towards the South and gradually gain the southern Italian states like Sicily or Naples.
    • As a military leader, Garibaldi had to make decisions connected with politics and ideology.
    • What is worth noticing in Garibaldi is that unlike Mazzini he never gave up and was prone to go for a compromise and fought for the united Italy, not for a vision. A great example of such a political compromise is the fact that at Teano on 18th of February 1861 Garibaldi handed over his conquests to Victor Emmanuel II, literally uniting Italy with the gesture. He was aware that if he would continue the expansionist actions, it would lead to a war which would stop or even destroy the Unification.
  • Cavour:
    • The political path of the Unification belonged to a great extent to Camillo Cavour.
    • What differed Cavour from Garibaldi and Mazzini was the fact that he did not engaged himself in the revolutionary movements and did not sympathize with them. He was a moderate liberal for whom the Unification was not the primary aim – he was a Piedmontese expansionist and wanted his country to grow in strength and to force Austrians to withdraw from Italy.
    • When he became the Prime Minister in 1852, he began to introduce Piedmont on the international arena (Crimean War, 1853-6) and to gain the strength for the upcoming war with Austria (Pact of Plombieres with France, 1859).
    • As a skillful and observant politician, Cavour was aware of the fact that reaching his aims demanded a delicate policy, so he strengthened the position of Piedmont within Italy and Europe as well, knowing that without the support of foreign powers any change was impossible. The skill is visible in the situation of 1861, when to prevent the conflict between France and Garibaldi he sent Piedmontese troops with an excuse of disturbances in Umbra to meet with Garibaldi at Teano.
    • One of the good features of Cavour was his opportunism: when he recognized the nationalistic movements and demands within Italy, not only was he aware that they could endanger Piedmont’s position and policies, but also managed to use them in favor of his own aim. From a Piedmontese expansionist Cavour became a politician whose actions were concentrated on the Unification.
    • Unlike Garibaldi and Mazzini, Cavour’s actions towards militia were minor and towards ideology there were none, for the ideas of Unification and nationalism were foreign and ridiculous to him. He even had a conflict with Mazzini: they both disliked each other. He stood in opposition to the figures of nationalists and their ideas. When it came to military actions, Cavour was not taking part with them, he only planned them.
    • Comparing Garibaldi and Cavour they were complete opposites. Cavour was a politician and sophisticated intelligence which caused him to take extreme consideration before any action, Garibaldi on the other hand was more extreme he would take direct action as long as he thought it would help the cause.
    • Garibaldi, a democrat, a warrior, and an anti-Catholic, was without question on the road to conflict with the monarchies of Europe. Cavour, with the added credibility of representing a monarch, blended perfectly with the political situation in Europe at the time.
    • Cavour was a realist who practice realistic politics. He allied with France when necessary and with France’s key enemy, Prussia, was necessary. By keeping the goal in mind, Cavour used international power to achieve his domestic goals. Garibaldi was forced to use his own grass roots strength, empowered by young Italian democrats interested in an idealistic future for their nation.
  • As a long and complicated process, the Unification of Italy needed the devotion of many people, but it was also in need of leaders that would make the right decision at the right time and be aware of the consequences.
  • Although the contribution made by Garibaldi, Mazzini and Cavour were not equal, together they built an important base for the future of a united Italy. They actions were often ambiguous, but each one of them was the most important person in one field:
    • Mazzini ideologically, spreading the spirit of nationalism all over the country and making attempts to unite the state;
    • Garibaldi militarily, defending Rome, conquering the South and showing the people that victory is not possible;
    • Cavour politically, rationally planning every step of Piedmont and giving up his aims for the greater good.


  • One important element of Italy’s unification was how to deal with various cultural differences. Cavour, despite his leadership in introducing constitutional and liberal reforms in Sardinia, had no patience for such regionalism when his goal was Italian unification. He crushed regional and cultural differences with moderately conservative policies on social and political matters. In doing so, he began to alienate southern peasants and nobles, creating a regional gulf that would come back to haunt Italy in future years.

Q. Explain contributions of Victor Emmanuel in Italian unification.

  • (Can be explained from the chapter)

Compare German unification and Italian Unification (Similarities and differences)

  • Cultural effect:
    • Italy was divided into many states which were ruled by the kings but Italians shared the common language and history of the Roman Empire and they were very proud of their ancient glory. This commonness in culture united was the main factor that united the Italians.
    • Same in Germany people shared the common language and history although they were divided into many different states. Grimm brothers had a big role in German cultural unity by researching and publishing German folk tales.
  • Napoleon’s effect:
    • German and Italian unification have the similarity that Napoleon sparked nationalism and liberalism in both countries. French revolutionary ideas were the basis of nationalism in 19th century and it was Napoleon who spread those ideas throughout Europe.
    • Also Napoleonic code affected the politicians. Napoleon made Germans to realize the benefits of unity. He reduced landowner power which improved which improved workers’ lives and he dissolved Holy Roman Empire and found Confederation of Rhine reducing the number of states which made trading easier.
    • But also many German people opposed to Napoleon’s rule and Prussians felt that they were humiliated militarily. This sparked the nationalism and patriotism in German people. Same in Italy Napoleon sparked nationalism and liberalism.
  • Congress of Vienna.
    • Congress of Vienna 1814-1815 which settled European affair after Napoleonic wars affected nationalism in both countries.
    • German confederation was found as a result of Congress of Vienna but it was under control of Austria and as a result many German liberals and patriots acted against Congress of Vienna and dominance of Austria.
    • Italy was divided again into many states as a result of Congress of Vienna which frustrated Italian patriots.
    • In both Germany and Italy liberals and nationalists fought against Congress of Vienna and for unity which would lead to great revolution by 1848.
  • Certain people’s leadership:
    • In both countries certain people played main roles in unification.
    • In Germany, Bismarck who was appointed as the chancellor of Prussia by King Wilhelm I in 1862, played the biggest role. He played Realpolitik and used the phrase “Blood and iron” as the description of his foreign policy because he saw war as the solution to German unification. His crucial leadership brought Germany victory in 1864 Schleswig-Holstein war, 1866 Austro Prussian war and 1870 Franco Prussian war which would result in German unification.
    • In Italy Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Count Cavour are known as 3 great architects of unification. Cavour who was appointed as prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel II in 1852 played a tough realpolitik like Bismarck through Piedmont constitution which was the main constitution of Italian unification. He also organized the system of new Italy after unification.
  • One leading state:
    • In both German and Italian unification there was one leading state.
    • In Germany all states were unified under Prussia which had the strongest military power.
    • In Italy Kingdom of Sardinia led by Count Cavour was the leading power and it became Kingdom of Italy in in 1861.
  • 1848 revolutions:
    • In 1848, revolts broke out in every Italian state for the sake of liberty and unity. Despite some initial successes, the revolutionary movement failed as revolts were ultimately suppressed by despotic rulers.
    • Germany was equally affected by the great revolutionary tide. The two major German states, Austria and Prussia, were shocked by revolts in their capital cities. Some concessions were granted to revolutionaries, Nonetheless, counter revolution prevailed in the end when despotic rule returned to most German states, usually after the suppression of revolts by loyal imperial forces.
    • As such, the 1848 revolution failed to bring liberty or unity to Germany, as it had failed in Italy. Only in Prussia did the king grant a constitution, but it was far from what the liberals had wanted. Whereas Piedmont’s prestige among Italians had been raised after the 1848 episode, no state in Germany increased her prestige in the eyes of liberals and nationalists.
  • Foreign intervention:
    • In Italian unification foreign intervention played a big role under the Realpolitik of Cavour. For example he allied with France in order to get the Austrians out of Italy but later he uses Franco-Prussian war to get French out of Rome.
    • But in Germany it was Bismarck and Prussia’s military power which played the main role and there was no foreign intervention.
  • Economic factor:
    • In Germany the leading power Prussia’s status was raised with the success of the Zollverein which was a German customs union found in 1834 by Prussia. Zollverein made German people to realize the economic benefits after unification and paved the way for the unity in Germany.
    • But in Italy there was no such economic union like Zollverein which affected the unification. Only in Piedmont there were some economic policies were performed by Cavour which made the state economically developed state in Italy.
  • Geography:
    • In Italy it was much easier to set the borders during the unification because it is surrounded by high mountains and seas.
    • But in Germany it was really hard to set geographical borders because of geographical features of having endless plains and not having much land opened to sea.
  • Internal conflict about ways of unification
    • In Italy there was no conflict about the way of unification and it was clear which states must be unified.
    • But in Germany there was conflict between Grobdeutsche (greater Germany) and Kleindeutsche (lesser Germany).
    • Grobdeutsche is way of unification which favored unifying all German speaking states including Austria and it was promoted by Austria. Kleindeutsche is way of unification that favoured unifying only northern German states and not include by Austria and it was promoted by Prussia. This conflict between ways of unification went on until Prussia unified all German speaking states except Austria.
  • Austria had much longer connection with Germany than Italy and so was more deeply entrenched than Italy. Hence her expulsion from Germany was more difficult.
  • Italy was divided into much smaller states and there was no organisation in them at all. In many Italian states foreign rulers were ruling. In Germany there were no foreign rulers to be overthrown and also no problem of Pope.
  • In Italy, Austria had her control over major part whereas in Germany Austria was only the formal head of German confederation.

Compare Bismarck and Cavour

  • In their efforts to unify Germany and Italy, Bismarck and Cavour, both were experts at that which Bismarck called realpolitik. This was a political tactic characterized by employment of ruthless and violent means to gain political advantage. Bismarck perhaps best expressed the philosophy shared by both in his famous statement: It is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by blood and iron.
  • Although Bismarck and Cavour had similar goals (to unify their respective countries) they pursued their goals in relatively dissimilar ways.  Bismarck used aggression and force, while Cavour used diplomacy and moderation.
  • Cavour’s state of Piedmont was not really in a situation where it could unify Italy by force. Therefore, Cavour had to find other ways to unify Italy.  Mainly, Cavour did this by making political deals with other, stronger countries.  For example, he used diplomacy to get Napoleon III of France to support his aims.
  • By contrast, Bismarck’s Prussia was strong enough to use war to unify Germany.  Bismarck was able to use war to force other German states to unite with Prussia.  Finally, he was able to fight France to get the last parts of what he felt should be Germany.
  • Bismarck cared little for public opinion, and was inclined to accomplish his goals by military means if need be. His primary aim was to unite Germany under Prussian leadership and exclude Austria from the new German nation. He did so by provoking a war with Austria after first securing France’s neutrality, again under Napoleon III. He offered Austria generous terms at the end of the war, and then attacked France. This was the famous Franco-Prussian War. At the end of the war, Bismarck publicly humiliated Napoleon III, and had Frederick Wilhelm I crowned Emperor of Germany at Versailles. Germany thus became an Empire, with Bismarck as its first chancellor.
  • Cavour had help of Garibaldi and Mazzini but Bismarck had no such help.
  • Cavour was liberal and took help of plebiscites but Bismarck was reactionary and hated parliaments.
  • Cavour looked to Piedmont’s liberalism and enlightenment for attracting other Italian states. Bismarck proclaimed: Germany is looking not to Prussia’s liberalism but to her power.
  • Cavour was an Italian first then a Sardinian. But Bismarck was first Prussian and then a German. He was not prepared to merge Prussia in Germany but in other way around.
  • Bismarck had stronger force to overcome than Cavour as German particularism was more deep rooted than Italian.
  • Bismarck had to experience much greater difficulty than Cavour in securing the approval of his King.

Impact of Italy unification

  • A unified Italy, along with Germany, which unified a few years later, permanently altered the strategic dynamic on continental Europe. On the one hand, Italy never became the dominant military power that Germany, unified under Prussia, did.
  • The Italian Unification earned Italy its independence and built its capacity to influence regional politics.  A unified Italy developed its ability and capacity to trade with other nations and even build relations with nations such as the United States.
  • On the other, Italy posed a threat on Austria-Hungary’s southern flank, and its independence ended hundreds of years of French involvement with the politics on the peninsula.
  • Though they fought unification on the battlefields, Austria almost immediately made overtures to Italy, who joined them in the Triple Alliance in 1882.
  • The unification preceded a degree of cultural unity, as regions of the nation that previously had almost nothing in common with each other found themselves under the same political head.
  • Increased nationalism in both Germany and Italy made them more powerful. Germany’s unification indirectly led to Nazi Germany, while Italy’s unification led to fascist Italy.
  • Both Germany and Italy also joined race for new colonies like other European power which led to Scramble for Africa and in long term: World War.



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