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Q1. What were the implications of German and Italian unification?


Like Germany, Italy was also divided into a number of states. It was a patchwork of states under Byzantine, Lombard, Norman, German, French, Spanish, and Austrian rulers.  Political fragmentation brought economic and cultural fragmentation as well.

The major states in the early 19th century Italy were Sardinia, Lombardy, Venetia, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and Naples), Papal States, Tuscany, Parma and Modena.

Of these the most powerful was the kingdom of Sardinia. Venetia and Lombardy were under Austrian occupation. Thus the Italian people were faced with the task of expelling the Austrians and forcing the rulers of independent states to unite.



The struggle for Italian independence and unification was organized by the two famous revolutionaries of Italy:—


Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.

The movement led by them is known as the ‘Young Italy’ movement. It aimed at the independence and unification of Italy and the establishment of a republic there. In 1848, as in other parts of Europe, revolutionary uprisings had broken out in Italy and the rulers were forced to grant certain democratic reforms to the people. However, the goal of independence and unification was still distant

The king of Sardinia had introduced many reforms in the political system of his kingdom after the revolution of 1848. After 1848, his prime minister, Count Cavour, took the initiative of uniting Italy under the leadership of Sardinia.

Cavour’s policy in some ways was similar to that followed by Bismarck in Germany. Hoping to gain the support of Britain and France, he entered the Crimean war in 1853-56 against Russia even though Sardinia had no dispute with Russia. However, nothing came out of this war. In 1859, Cavour entered into an alliance with Louis Bonaparte and went to war with Austria. Although France soon withdrew from the war, Austria was ousted from Lombardy, which was taken over by Sardinia.

Tuscany, Modena, Parma and the Papal States of the north also joined Sardinia. Venetia, however, was still under Austrian occupation. The other states that remained to be united with Sardinia were the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Rome which was under the rule of the Pope.

Garibaldi marched into the island of Sicily with his revolutionary fighters and liberated it from the rule of the king within three months. Then he marched to Naples in support of the revolt that had already broken out there. By the end Of November 1860 the entire Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had been liberated.

The Italian revolutionaries were not perhaps strong enough to push the victory of the people in the Sicilies further with a view to establishing a united republic of Italy. They surrendered the former kingdom to the King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II, who then took the title of King of Italy in 1861.

Rome was still outside the kingdom of Italy. It was ruled over by the Pope with the help of the French soldiers provided to him by Louis Bonaparte. When the war between France and Prussia broke out in 1870, Bonaparte was forced to withdraw his troops from Rome. Italian soldiers occupied the city of Rome in 1870, and in July 1871, Rome became the capital of united Italy.

“Italy is made.  We still have to make the Italians.”  Comment.

After centuries of disunion, huge cultural, political, and economic differences existed in Italy.  The biggest gap was between the urban north and agricultural south.  The Bourbons in southern Italy and Mafia in Sicily fanned discontent into revolts and violence exceeding that seen in the actual process of unification.

The new government did three things to pull Italy together.  It built a national railroad system to physically link its parts.  It established a national educational system to give its people a similar cultural outlook and loyalty.  And it formed a national army to enforce its policies and also unify men from all over Italy in a common cause.  However, 1300 years of disunity were a lot to overcome in a few years, and Italy’s efforts at forging a nation met with limited success.  Despite this, a patchwork of little Italian states had been unified into a new nation, a nation with ambitions to become a great power.  Such ambitions would help lead to World War I.

In spite of the important role played by democratic and revolutionary leaders such as Mazzini and Garibaldi in the struggle for Italy’s liberation and unification, Italy also, like Germany, became a monarchy. The unification of Germany and Italy, in spite of the fact that democracy was not completely victorious there, marked a great advance in the history of the two countries. These revolutions and movements, along with the Industrial Revolution, deeply influenced the course of the history of mankind. The forces that generated these revolutions and movements were also at work in other countries. Their success in one place fed the fires of revolt and encouraged change in the rest of the world transforming social, political and economic life everywhere.

Another important aspect of these movements was the gradual growth of political democracy, that is, the ever increasing participation of increasing number of people in the political life of a country.

This happened in countries where the form of government became republican as well as in those which remained monarchies such as England, Germany and Italy. The period of autocracies and privileged aristocracies was gradually coming to an end and leading to national unity and national independence.

The new political and economic system that was emerging in Europe in the 19th century was also creating imperialism. The period of the triumph of democracy and in Europe was also the period of the conquest of Asia and Africa by the imperialist powers of Europe. The 19th century saw the beginning of the revolts against imperialism in Asia and Africa.

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