Italian unification – causes, stages and dates –

Italian unification was a long-term process in which battles and alliances, along with much diplomacy, took place over the years. In this article we tell what the causes were, the different stages with their most relevant characters and the main dates.

Italian states before unification

The unification of the Italian states took place in the 19th century, at that time Italy was divided into different states depending on their location:

  • Sardinia – Piedmont,
  • Lombardy and Venice
  • Parma, Modena, Tuscany and the Papal States;
  • the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

Characteristics of Italian unification

At the beginning of time, under the Roman Empire, Italy was unified as a single state, but after the fall of the Empire, it became different independent kingdoms.

Victor Emmanuel II

Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Luca Tommaso di Savoia-Carignano was better known as Victor Emmanuel II, King of Piedmont-Sardinia. One of the most important aspects of his reign is that he was the first king of a unified Italy.

He governed within a framework of constitutional monarchy of moderate regime, which was the most liberal government in Italy to date.

Piedmont was one of the richest and most prosperous regions. Counting on the support of Napoleon against Austria but not against Prussia, the struggles began to unify the entire peninsula. In turn, he limited the power of the Catholic Church (which led to his excommunication) and made Rome the capital of the kingdom, after several disputes. He promoted industrialization and worked to improve diplomatic relations.

As a curiosity, Víctor Manuel II had to become Víctor Manuel (purely) King of Italy but decided to keep the number II.

Stages of Italian unification

In the 19th century, the unification of Italy was carried out through the political and social movement “il Risorgimento” (The Resurgence), it is believed that the unity of this country began in the year 1815, when the Congress of Vienna was held and It ended around the year 1871 with the Franco-Prussian War.

The promoters of the unification were King Victor Manuel II together with Count Camilo de Cavour, the prime minister of his government.

War against Austria and incorporation of Lombardy

Taking into account the purpose that Victor Emmanuel II and his prime minister had, Austria became the main obstacle to achieving their goals. In order to confront Austria, they contacted the Emperor of France Napoleon IIIwho supported them in the contest.

Actually, the military campaign did not last long and the Battles of Magenta and Solferino in the year 1859. The surprise was that Napoleon reached an agreement with Austria, Lombardy would be for Victor Manuel but, in exchange for him staying with Soboya and Nice, Venice would still remain under Austrian power.

Annexation of the states of Parma, Modena and Tuscany

It is said that at that time there was a desire for unification throughout Italy and the previous victory only fueled nationalist sentiment even more. Through a plebiscite, the states of Parma, Modena and Tuscany were annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia in 1860.

Revolution of the two Sicilies

Giuseppe Garibaldi He was a politician and military man who also actively participated in the Italian unification. In his case, with the support of the prime minister, he took over Sicily with the help of the Thousand Red Shirts, a group of a thousand volunteers who wore such clothing.

Then he led his troops into the kingdom of Naples, troops in which the International Legion was also found, and caused the flight of King Francis II to the Papal States after the defeat of the Battle of the Volturno. This meant that a provisional government was established in this kingdom that was already incorporated into Sardinia.

Garibaldi wanted to continue his march towards the Papal States but Victor Manuel II made him desist for fear of losing what he had already achieved. It was not a confrontation between the two, but rather recognize him as his king on October 26, 1860.

A year later, on March 13, 1861, Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of Italy by the first national parliament.

Incorporation of Venice

Venice was still under the rule of Austria and to achieve its incorporation into the kingdom of Italy, an alliance with Prussia was reached. As you can imagine, the result of the contest meant that Venice joined Italy.

Incorporation of Rome

The only city and state left to achieve the complete unification of Italy was Rome and the Papal States. There were different fights and attempts that were carried out since Víctor Manuel had promised to maintain the rule of the pope in the capital, later the French guarded the city and, finally, Victor Manuel’s troops occupied Rome.

Rome was then declared the capital of Italy but the Pope refused annexation and locked himself in the Vatican, considering himself a prisoner. This marked the beginning of what is called the Roman questiona dispute between the Italian government and the papacy that lasted from the year 1861 to 1929.

Conclusion of Italian Unification

Italian unification ended with the Lateran Treaty which was signed in 1929 by Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI. From then on, the Popes began to visit other areas of Rome since they were granted the recognition of the Vatican State, a small state within the city of Rome, of which the Pope was sovereign with all that that implies.

In this way, the peninsula and the islands of Italy formed a single country but taking into account the independence of the Vatican City.