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Podcast no. 1 1815 – Why Start Here?
1815 is an important year in our course, and indeed in modern European
History. It's important because 1815 saw the end of the era of Napoleon I, and
in Italy, the 'restoration' of various 'states'.
In today's podcast we're going to look briefly at the importance of Napoleon’s
occupation of Italy, and, when it was over, what ideas were driving the
'restoration', the settlement that Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia brought to
Italy in 1815.
The story of 1815 begins with the French Revolution in 1789, when the French
king was overthrown. The revolution soon sank into a dark period known as
“The Terror” in which factions of revolutionaries in France executed at least
18,000 (and possibly as many as 40,000) of their opponents (and in many
cases their followers too).
Following the initial revolution, and then the execution of the French King,
Louis XVI in 1793, the surrounding monarchies of Prussia, Austria, Spain,
Britain and Portugal became increasingly concerned as to the effect of a French
republic and eventually formed an alliance to fight France. It was during the
‘Revolutionary Wars’ that followed, that Napoleon Bonaparte, a young officer in
the French Army made a name for himself, especially after a successful
campaign led to France invading (and eventually conquering) Italy in 1796.
Napoleon's popularity and power within the French army allowed him to
become ruler of France in a coup in 1799, and to his crowning as French
Emperor in 1804.
It could be argued that the process of unification of Italy started with the
French invasion of 1796.
Although Napoleon ran an empire, and not a republic, the places he conquered
were re-organised under 'rational' lines. For instance, the French system of
civil laws, the 'code Napoleon', concerning such modern ideas as divorce by
agreement, and an end to feudal rights, was imposed across the territories
that Napoleon conquered. Duchies, Kingdoms and Papal rule across northern
Italy were brought to an end.
For instance, according to Stiles, the power of the Catholic Church was
‘greatly reduced’. Temporal power was brought to an end by the French. With
this loss of political power there came a loss of economic wealth. Monasteries
and the land owned by the Church was sold off.
Whilst the Church suffered much of the Urban middle classes (lawyers,
bankers, merchants) did very well. They worked in the governments installed
by the French, and purchased much of the land confiscated from the Church,
often at a good price. We are reminded by Stiles that Cavour’s family did well
out of the purchase of Church land. Don’t worry if you don’t know who Cavour
is right now, you certainly will by the end of the course!
Other people living in towns also did well – shopkeepers, artisans and
craftsmen profited from the higher standards of living brought in by the
French. Businesses in general did well – they found it easier to buy and sell
goods across Italy because customs duties between the states were abolished,
and new roads were built.
French rule also encouraged the idea of Italy. In 1796 Napoleon launched a
essay competition in Milan, to encourage writers to suggest the best way of
ruling Italy.
As you can see, Napoleon had a ‘modernising’ and improving agenda – he
wanted to make his empire efficient, and rational. Many Italians appreciated
the effect of this modernisation and ‘absorbed French ideals of liberty, equality
and fraternity’ as Stiles puts it. Other Italians joined the wars that the French
Empire fought around Europe and were trained in modern military methods of
war, as well as learning leadership skills.
Indeed the constant wars that Napoleon fought during the empire took their
toll on Italy. In 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, 27,000 Italian soldiers
took part, but after the defeat and march home only 1000 badly wounded or
very sick soldiers returned. Conscription by France of Italian men, to fight and
die for the French Empire was hated by Italian Nationalists. Italians also hated
the high taxes placed on Italy to pay for these wars – 60% of the tax raised in
Italy was spent on the military.
Napoleon's European Empire was finally ended after a seventh coalition of
European powers formed against him, managed to defeat France in a series of
battles and campaigns, ending with the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The European Powers of Great Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria met in
Vienna in 1815 to decide what Europe after Napoleon should be like. They
restored the Bourbons in France (not the biscuits, but the Royal Family who
had ruled there before the Revolution in1789), and in Italy, 'restored' the
states that Napoleon had conquered in 1797. The final effect that Napoleonic
rule had on the likelihood of Italian unification was that it made the great
powers very suspicious of reform and of new fangled ideas like nationalism and
republicanism. For almost a generation, until after the 1848 revolutions, it was
in the interests of almost all the great powers to stop any attempt to change
the way that Italy was ruled.
In today’s podcast we have been trying to explain why the Italian Unification
course starts 55 years before Italy became Italy, in 1815. We discovered that
France, under Consul then Emperor Napoleon had ruled Italy as part of a
greater French Empire. We learned that French rule brought some changes
that might be said to have encouraged the later process of unification. We also
saw that the same period saw events and changes that made unification more
difficult to attain.
Something to do
Read pages xx and xx of {} list the ways that the French rule of Italy between
1796 and 1815 advanced and held back the process of unification, the ways
that unification was made more or less likely.
Podcast no 2 – the idea of Italy?
In today’s podcast we’re going to take a look at the ‘idea’ of italy in 1815, what
people living in the peninsula might have said if they’d been asked ‘what is
Italy?’. We’re also going to be finding out about how this idea of ‘italy’ was
changed by Napoleonic rule.
Those living in Italy might not have seen Italy was we do now. When
Napoleon first invaded, he announced an essay competition. Writers entered
their ideas for how to rule “Italy”. Even those who wrote essays about her
often assumed that ‘Italy’ meant only the northern part of the peninsula.
In some ways French rule continued the idea that Italy was a collection of
states, rather than something that might become one country. For example,
Italy was never unified under the French, it was split into an often changing
group of states, all of which were ruled either directly or indirectly by France
itself. For instance. When he first invaded, Napoleon created the Cisalpine
republic, made up of bits of Lombardy, and the Papal States, eventually
Napoleon added other parts of Italy to this ‘republic’ and it became the
Kingdom of Northern Italy, ruled by Napoleon himself, as King.
Although, as we have seen, some Italians did very well from Napoleonic rule,
not all of them benefitted, and French modernising challenged some very deep
seated ideas held by those living across the peninsula. The Catholic Church
did especially badly – its monasteries were closed and the land sold, often
cheaply, to the middle class and middle ranking aristocrats we mentioned
earlier. Priests lost jobs that they had held in the governments of various
Italian states, and the Pope’s temporal power, his right to rule like a king, in
the Papal States, was brought to an end. This meant that later on, when
unification became a possibility, the Church was much more afraid of change.
Indeed the Church resisted unification, in case such change again damaged its
wealth and power, as reform had during Napoleonic rule.
For ordinary, peasant, Italians the church was important; it heavily influenced
their ideas and helped them when times were difficult. Life for the peasantry
was probably not very much improved by French rule – they remained often
very poor, unable to read, and much more concerned with their own survival
and with very local concerns, rather than with ideas of Italy, reform or
rebellion. To that extent French rule made Italian peasants probably
suspicious of change, rather than hoping for a unified Italian state.
So, thinking about what we’ve learned in the last two podcasts, how can we
summarise the effect of Napoleonic rule on the chances for unification.
On the one hand the French put in place ideas and laws that might have
encouraged unification. They removed trade barriers, introduced a criminal
law right across the peninsula and put in place modern government. Civil
servants and tax collectors made the states of Italy run well. They made it
easier for ideas to spread by relaxing press laws. Even the hatred created by
French rule in some Italians might have encouraged unification. Many Italians
were united in their hatred of French taxes, French conscription and French
This hatred had created many secret groups and societies that were working to
kick-out the French. These societies, and those that followed on would go on
to play a part in the unification process.
On the other hand the French deliberately kept Italy split into different
countries. The states changed frequently, so that people didn’t become loyal
to them. Finally, as Pearce and Stiles point out ‘for most Italians life was a
constant struggle for survival, and politics seemed entirely irrelevant’ French
rule hadn’t really done anything to improve the lives of most ordinary Italians,
living as peasants. The idea of a ‘united’ Italy mattered little to most people.
In any event, Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, at the battle of Waterloo, saw the end
of French rule in Italy, and across Europe. The great powers, gathered in
Vienna in Austria to work out how Europe would work now that Napoleon was
gone. In the next podcast we’ll look in some detail at the kind of Italy that the
great powers, Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia had in mind, as part of this
greater European settlement.
Something to do?
Read pages 16 – 19 of Derby’s Textbook and make notes on the different
states of Italy. You could download the map document and use this to make
your notes on.
Podcast 3 – The restoration of Italy in 1815.
In the last podcast we looked at Napoleon’s rule in Italy, which ended with
defeat in 1815. In today’s podcast we’re covering what happened after the
French were driven from Italy. We are going to learn about the decisions that
were made for Italy at the Vienna Congress in 1815. At this important
meeting between the Great Powers of Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia,
important ideas were discussed, borders between countries settled, and Kings
and Dukes put back on thrones that had been toppled by French armies in the
previous wars. This plan, to turn back the clock in Italian affairs, is called the
‘restoration’, because so many rulers were restored, or brought back to power.
Before we look at what this meant for Italy it is important for us to realise that
one of the important aims of the Vienna Congress and Treaty was the
‘containment’ of France – the hope that France’s power could be limited so that
another French Empire could not arise. A related idea was that of ‘balance of
power’ that none of the powers of Europe should be much much more powerful
than the others. It was hoped that this balance would lead to peace.
Let's look in more detail at the kind of Italian restoration the Great Powers had
in mind. Before 1797 Italy was made up of many different states, although
many were dominated by Austria. Crucially some of these states were
republics such as that of Genoa, or of Venice, in which rich and powerful
citizens voted for their leaders.
The 'restoration' of 1815 did not see the restoration of these republics – these
were definitely out of fashion. Dukes and kings were restored, and the old
republics were absorbed into these restored monarchies and duchies. Austria's
domination over Italy was restored, and strengthened with its acquisition of
Venice, and its family connections with the rulers in many other parts of the
The Italy of 1815 was very much Austria's back-yard, a divided collection of
weak states. The gentleman in the picture is Metternich, the man who
represented Austria at the Congress of Vienna, and who oversaw his countries'
domination of Italy under the Treaty of Vienna that followed the Congress. It
was Metternich who described Italy as being nothing more than a 'geographical
expression', rather than a nation in waiting. We'll find out more about why he
believed this later on in the course. As we will see, even if Austria didn’t rule
an Italian state directly, often treaties or even marriage or blood relations
between the Austrian royal family and Italian Dukes meant that it could
indirectly influence the rulers of most of the peninsula.
Let’s take a quick tour of Italy in 1815, to find out what some of the states that
were ‘restored’ were like. You might find it useful to look at a map of Itlay in
1858 whilst you listen to this part of the discussion. You’ll find one on page 35
of Pearce and Stiles, page 2 of Collier or page 7 of Derby. You can find amazon
links to these books on the website.
The northern most states were Piedmont, Lombardy and Venetia. Piedmont
was restored to its King, who had been taking refuge on the island of Sardinia,
the other half of his Kingdom. You’ll sometimes see Piedmont referred to as
“Piedmont-Sardinia” in some textbooks. Victor Emmanuel I was, as Pearce and
Stiles tell us determined to ‘turn the clock back to pre-Napoleonic days’. He
set about literally ripping up the changes that the French had brought,
including parks and street lights (run by gas) that they had built. Victor
Emmanuel brought back the feudal taxes, church privileges, dug up roads,
cancelled the Code Napoleon, discriminated against Jews and Protestants and
sacked all those appointed to government jobs. In short, Victor Emmanuel
wanted things to be just like they were in 1796, before the French invaded.
Some things did change in Piedmont; the City State of Genoa was absorbed
into the restored Kingdom. Genoa (which is where my branch of the Podestà
family come from by the way) had been a republic before 1796. Many of the
laws and ideas of the French had been welcomed there. The Piedmontese had
a hard time changing the minds of the Genoese – who were therefore allowed
to keep some of the changes the French had brought.
The other two states in the far North of Italy also saw changes in 1815.
Venetia had been a republic (not as we’d understand it though. Not everyone
had the vote, only the rich could have a say in the rule of the state). After
1815 it was ruled directly by the Austrian Emperor as part of the Kingdom of
Lombardy Venetia. The Austrian Emperor ruled without a constitution and the,
quite wealthy, area became an important source of tax income for the Austrian
Empire – according to Derby the Austrians got one third of their tax income
from Lombardy Venetia, even though it only contained one sixth of the
Empire’s population. Rich aristocrats probably welcomed the Austrians, but the
middle class and lesser aristocrats who had held positions in the French
government in Lombardy and Venetia, or who had been in important positions
in the Army quickly felt that they had been left out of important jobs, and
began to press for change, for reform.
A similar grievance came up in the Papal States, especially in the important
cities of the Romagna, Ferrara and Bologna. During French rule, across the
Papal States, priests, bishops and cardinals had been thrown out of important
jobs, and replaced with middle class professionals, lawyers and bankers,
businessmen and university graduates. When the Pope was returned to power
he, in turn, sacked these professional men and replaced them with the priests
and cardinals that the French had removed. This caused a lot of resentment,
especially in the Romagna and its capital of Bologna; as we will see this area
became a hot-spot of trouble. The Pope ruled the Papal states from Rome, as
an absolute monarch, without a constitution to limit his rule. In this way the
Pope had ‘temporal’ power on earth as a king as well as the ‘spiritual’ power he
got from being God’s representative on earth. The power of Austria to
dominate the peninsula was partly ensured by its role in propping up the
Pope’s rule: The Austrians were entitled by treaty to place armies across the
Papal States, from here they could strike across Italy to make sure that
nothing threatened a change to the status quo.
The smaller dukedoms of Tuscany, Parma and Modena were also strongly under
Austrian influence. These places are sometimes referred to as the ‘central
Duchies, because they lay in the middle of the peninsula. All three were ruled
by relations of the Austrian Emperor. Despite this there were real differences
in the way that each duchy was ruled following the Restoration.
In the south, the Kingdom of Naples has gained a bad press in Britain. An
absolutist monarch there presided over a country where extreme poverty, high
levels of conscription (forcing people to join the army), and a rebellious Sicily
made the kingdom a byword for repressive rule. Ferdinand I brought back
many of the powers of the Church in his kingdom, hoping that religion would
help keep his subjects quiet.
In this podcast we've learned why 1815 is the year in which we begin our
study of Italy – it's the year in which Austria's domination of the peninsula is
confirmed. We've also learned that the states that made up Italy in 1815 had
just been 'restored' after the end of an era in which Italy was ruled from
France, and under 'modern' French lines.
Something to do:
Read the following extract from Duggan (pge 77 “the masses were certainly a
worry for the Restoration governments…
Podcast 4 – The revolutions of 1821
We ended the last podcast by looking at an excerpt from Christopher Duggan’s
The Force of Destiny, where Duggan argued that ‘the real problem [for the
Austrians and the Restoration governments of Italy] lay with the educated
classes’. In this podcast we’ll certainly see that this was true, that educated,
graduates of Italian universities, young men qualified in law, in medicine,
working in the armies of the Italian states or in their governments, found that
they were pushed aside in the restoration. However, until 1848, and perhaps
until after that date, these middle class trouble makers didn’t have the power
or the will to loosen Austria’s grip on the Italian Peninsula.
Many of the members of the middle class (or the lesser-aristocracy) who found
that they were unhappy with the state of affairs after the restoration became
active members of the secret societies. These societies had started during the
Napoleonic era, as a way of resisting rule from France. They continued after
1815 as a way of resisting the Austrian domination of Italy. They attracted
thousands of members and were widespread across the peninsula.
However, there were many different types of secret society, with widely
differing beliefs. The members of the Adelfi, in the north, for instance were
highly suspicious of ideas of liberalism and democracy. They favoured rule by
monarchs, but without interference from Austria. This was not surprising,
given that many of them were minor members of the aristocracies of
Piedmont, Lombardia and Venetia.
The Carbonari are probably the most well known of the secret societies, and
were certainly the biggest. There were active Carbonari groups across Italy in
the years after the Restoration of 1815. The Carbonari did have a great many
members. Pearce and Stiles estimate their numbers at 60,000 in Naples
However, Mack Smith rightly describes them as ‘loosely organized’ and a ‘focus
of discontent’ with the Restoration monarchies, rather than being an effective
group with a positive plan for change. Their members did not have a common
set of ideas about how things should change. Some held quite radical views,
thinking that Italy ought to be a united country, with a democratic system of
government in which ordinary people could vote. However, most Carbonari
would have preferred their own Kings and Dukes to remain in power, as
constitutional monarchs.
So, after 1815 there were many people who were unhappy with the way things
were in Restoration Italy. However they also had very widely different ideas
about how things should be put right, who should rule, whether Italy should be
one country and even whether it should be democratic or not. These
differences are shown very strongly in the events of 1820 and 1821, when two
revolutions broke out in Italy, both of which were quickly put down by Italian
monarchs, with the help of the Austrians.
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was made up of Naples and the island
of Siciliy, in the south of Italy was, as we’ve heard, a place with a lot of
Carbonari. The King of Naples (as this kingdom is often called) was unpopular
with the middle classes, having imposed high taxes, conscription and
censorship of the press. The Sicilian part of the kingdom had its own reasons
to be unhappy. It had not been conquered by Napoleon’s forces, and in 1812
the King (who then became the King of Naples as well in 1815) had granted a
constitution to the island. After 1815 the king went back on this grant,
cancelled the constitution and ruled Sicily directly.
So, a simmering discontent amongst some of the middle classes in Naples and
Sicily, large numbers of Carbonari, poverty, corruption and an unpopular
monarch made Naples a likely place for revolution. A revolution needs a
spark, something to light the fuse. In 1820 the spark came in the shape of
another revolt, this time in Spain, which was ruled by a member of the
Bourbon family. The bourbon King of Spain had been forced, by this
revolution, to grant a constitution.
Across the Mediterranean, in the southern Italian Kingdom of Naples, several
army officers (who were also Carbonari) thought to force King Ferdinand of
Naples (another bourbon) to grant a constitution too. These rebelling army
officers were joined by General Pepe, a high ranking officer, and his troops.
This small revolution was not resisted by the King, who promised to bring in a
constitution, to end the power of the Church and to introduce the vote for all
male subjects of his Kingdom.
A new government was formed, Pepe was given control of the Army and it
looked liked the revolt had been successful. However, by the end of 1821, just
a year later, things had gone badly wrong. Ferdinand had gone back on his
promise, Pepe was exiled and the rebels defeated.
When the news of the rebellion in Naples reached the major powers, Austria
called a ‘congress’ a meeting between them. The congress took place in 1820
in Troppau. At that meeting an agreement, the Troppau protocol, was signed.
This agreement held that the great powers should intervene, should act to stop
rebellions from being successful. The agreement was signed by Austria,
Prussia and by Russia, the three countries who had the most power on the
continent. Britain and France did not sign, but France was still unable (after
the defeat of 1815) to try to push for more influence, and Britain saw its best
interests in ‘maintaining the balance of power’ so that one great power didn’t
get overly powerful.
The Troppau protocol gave Austria the green light to actively end the
‘constitution’ in Naples, as it had been granted as the result of a rebellion.
This green light was made especially bright when, in 1821, King Ferdinand
arrived in the Austrian city of Laibach and asked the Emperor for help in
squashing the rebellion.
The Troppau protocol also gave the Austrian’s the excuse to end a very messy
rebellion in Piedmont in the same year as the defeat of the Neopolitan
rebellion, 1821. In that year Santarosa, a Piedmontese Army office (and minor
aristocrat) led a group of soldiers in rebellion, demanding a constitution. The
King, Victor Emmanuel I, very bravely immediately abdicated, in favour of
Charles Felix, who was out of the country at the time. Victor Emmanuel
named Charles Albert, his nephew, as regent (sort of temporary king). Charles
Albert made a few vague promises about a constitution, made Santarosa chief
of the army, but fled when the Austrians invaded Piedmont. The Austrians
defeated Santarosa’s men, and confirmed Charles Felix as the absolute
monarch of Piedmont.
Looking at these two rebellions together it is obvious that Austria’s military
might, and its interest in keeping things the same in Italy, in maintaining the
status quo were an important reason why the rebellions failed.
It is also clear that the leaders of the rebellions did not have the skill to fend
off the Austrians. They did not try to co-ordinate rebellions in Piedmont and
Naples, in fact often the leaders had different aims. Charles Albert was not
prepared to give up his life, whilst Santarosa was almost desparate to sacrifice
himself. The leaders of the revolution in the kingdom of Naples were divided.
On the island of Sicily the leaders wanted Sicilian independence, they didn’t
want to be ruled by Naples. In Naples the leaders of the revolution were not
prepared to let Sicily go it alone. So, at a time when they should have been
working together, preparing for the invasion that might (and did) come from
Austria, Naples and Sicily fought each other. There was also the fact that the
King, Ferdinand went back on his promise to uphold the new constitution, and
as soon as he could escape from the rebels, begged the Austrian Emperor to
help him restore his absolute rule.
The most important reason though was that Austria was able to act with the
support of the other major powers, or at least without their objection. The
Troppau doctrine, the weakness of France and the disinterest of Britain gave
Austria a free hand to act in the Italian peninsula in 1821.
Something to do:
Listen again to this podcast, and read your notes on the rebellions of 1821.
What sort of things did the rebels in Piedmont and in Naples have in common?
What was different between them?
Write at least two PEE (or PEGEX) paragraphs; each of these should explain
ONE reason why the rebellions of 1821 failed in their aims.
Why did Italian monarchs run away when faced with rebellions? (The events of
the French revolution might help you figure out why kings were afraid of
Podcast 5 – the Rebellions of 1831/2.
In the last podcast we thought carefully about how the rebellions of 1821 were
brought to an end by Austria’s military might, and the dis-interest of the great
10 years later another set of rebellions broke out. These were much more
geographically spread out over more of the Italian peninsula. However, they
came to a sticky end, just like the earlier rebellions, at the hands of Austria’s
army. It is really useful to look at this second wave of rebellions because they
help confirm the factors that were preventing the independence or unification
of Italy. After we have looked at the 1831 revolts, we’ll spend some time
comparing them to the 1821 revolutions, to make sure we understand why
both failed to bring change to Italy.
Just like 1821, it was events outside Italy that inspired new attempts to
change things in the peninsula. In 1830 the Bourbon King of France was
overthrown, and in his place King Louis Phillipe was installed. This new king
had the reputation of a liberal, of a reformer. It was hoped by some in Italy
that this might mean that France would support attempts to change things in
In 1831 it was the states of Modena, Parma and the Romagna (the northern
part of the Papal States) where trouble took hold. The places which saw
revolts in 1821 remained quiet. However, the same sorts of people were the
ones hoping to bring change.
In Modena in February 1831, Enrico Misley, a lawyer and son of a university
professor, at the head of a group of Carbonari revolutionaries, approached
Duke Francesco of Modena with the idea of causing a revolution in Modena,
and in Piedmont. Misley tried to persude the Duke that he could, in the
confusion, take the throne of Piedmont. Francesco liked the sound of the
idea, but realised that the Austrians wouldn’t stand for it. Francesco arrested
Misley, whose followers rebelled anyway. In the confusion Francesco fled (as
did the Duchess of Parma, the state next door, Marie Louise).
Across the border in the northern Papal States, middle class liberals in the
cities of Bologna, Perugia and Ancona decided to throw off the rule of the Pope.
During the Napoleonic era these middle class men had enjoyed quite a lot of
power in their cities. In 1815 when the Pope’s rule had been restored they lost
this power. They resented the rule of the Cardinals appointed by the Pope.
1831 looked, to these liberal reformers, like an opportunity to claim
independence from the Papacy in Rome.
Here’s an extract from a declaration made by the rebels in Bologna on
February 8th 1831:
Article 1 – The TEMPORAL power of the Roman Pontiff over this city and
province is legally at an end for ever.
Article 2 – A general assembly of the people is summoned to choose deputies
who will form a new government
Article 3 – This will soon be explained in more detail when other nearby cities
have joined us and we know how many deputies are to be elected. A legal
national representation will then come into existence.
At first sight this might seem like a pretty powerful call to arms to create a
new Italy, especially when we hear words like ‘a legal national representation
will then come into existence’. However, what this declaration actually shows
is the local nature of this revolt. You can see that the Bologna rebels are
waiting for news from other cities in the Romagna, and when they speak of a
national representation they’re thinking of a state that might come to be in the
Romagna not an Italian state. Added to this is the fact that the rebels in
Bologna decided not to send troops or aid to those in Modena, which they
referred to as a ‘foreign’ city.
So, what we see in 1831 is two separate revolts. One in Modena, one in The
Romagna, both with different leaders, different aims and different ideas. What
united them was their utter defeat at the hands of the Austrian army. The
Pope, and the Duke of Modena asked for help from the Austrian Emperor.
Austria’s interest in maintaining control over Italy, and in defeating nationalist
ideas (there’ll be more about these in next week’s podcast) meant that they
were only too pleased to crush both rebellions.
So, why did Italian rebels fail so dismally to bring about any lasting changes in
the years 1815-48? What made Italy such a volatile, but ultimately an unchanged political situation in those years? Listen on for the top three reasons
for failure in these revolts.
At number three is the limited aims and support of the rebels. We’ve seen how
the average Italian peasant was absorbed in the everyday necessities of
growing food, finding work, looking after their families and un-interested in
ideas like “Italy”. When peasants did get involved in revolutions, as in Sicily in
1821, they were crushed by other middle class revolutionaries. It was the
middle classes who were revolting in the years after 1815. These middle class
revolutionaries also had their own concerns, and many were not active
supporters of the idea of Italian unity. The revolutionaries of Naples in 1821
and of Bologna in 1831 wanted the kind of influence they had enjoyed in the
Napoleonic era. In 1821 the Piedmontese rebels wanted a constitution, not a
united Italy. It’s not surprising that the rebels in Bologna refused to support
the foreigners in the neighbouring state of Modena, they had a different
language, different customs, and they were ruled by a different Duke.
The second reason why the revolutions of 1821 and 31 failed to win any kinds
of change was that of foreign indifference or impotence. The 1815 Vienna
settlement meant that Italy was Austria’s back yard. Britain didn’t want to
intervene, in case France got more influence at Austria’s expense. Britain’s
policy was called ‘maintaining the balance of power’ and what was bad for
Austria might be good for France, their old enemy.
France wanted more influence, but after the Napoleonic era had to act in ways
that didn’t seem too threatening to the other powers. After Louis Phillipe came
to the throne he was scared that Britain, France, Prussia or Austria might try to
restore the Bourbons, the ‘rightful’ kings of France. He couldn’t therefore
afford to try to gain influence in Italy by helping the rebels.
At number one though, is the strength of Austria. We’ve already heard how
Italy was officially Austria’s back yard, according to the 1815 treaty of Vienna.
We’ve also heard about the reasons why other countries couldn’t intervene in
Italian affairs. The events of the revolts in 1821 and 1831 should also
convince us that Austria had the military might to prevent the success of any
revolutions in Italy. Indeed the threat of Austria’s intervention was such that
Aristocrats like Charles Albert, and Francesco of Modena, who otherwise might
have attempted to use revolutions to their advantage, were too scared to
attempt this.
So, there you have it – three big reasons why it was very hard to bring about
political change in the Italian states in the years after 1815, and right up to
Something to do
Read the following source:
“A decade of Napoleonic rule in the Romagna had accustomed the educated
classes to efficient modern government, progressive in outlook and secular in
character. The Restoration of 1815 had replaced this with an outdated an
inefficient administration, an antiquated legal system and the rule of the
church, which ousted laymen from the government.”
Adapted from Historian Alan R Rainerman’s explanation for the 1831 revolts
It’s really important that you understand some of the words that are used in
the course. What do the words ‘progressive’, ‘secular’ and ‘laymen’ mean? If
you don’t know, look them up in a dictionary.
What evidence is there in the podcast to support Rainerman’s point that the
middle classes wanted to end the power of the pope?
Podcast number 6 – New ideas about “Italy” 1831 – 1848
Imagine we could travel back in time to Italy in 1815. Suppose we spent
twenty years from 1815 to 1835 travelling Italy, joining secret societies and
revolutionary cells. Lets say we were able to talk to three ‘revolutionaries’; say
Charles Albert, who ummed and arred about leading a revolt against Austria in
1821; Enrico Misley who led the revolt in Modena in 1831 and General Pepe
who persuaded the King of Naples to grant a constitution in 1821. Each one
would have very different reasons for wanting change. Misley wanted
Francesco to take over Piedmont and grant a constitution. Charles Albert
fancied himself as King of Piedmont (and he wanted Piedmont totake over
Lombardy). Pepe wanted a liberal constitution in Neapolitan Italy. It’s obvious
that they all wanted different things, but what isn’t so clear is the thing that
they didn’t have – an idea of what ‘Italy’ meant.
The period after 1831 did see other, small revolts. None of these made any
real impact. However, some people did continue to think about and plan for
change in Italy. Three different ideas for a united Italy were developed, the
first by the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, the second by a Piedmontese
Aristocrat, Cesare Balbo and the third by Vincenzo Gioberti, a Catholic priest,
exiled after his radical activities in the 1830s. What made these ideas different
from those that had gone before was that they had three clear views about
what Italy might be like as a unified country. These ideas were very different
from each other, but they were all clear that they wanted some sort of united
Before we move on to look at what these ideas were, we should be clear that
most “Italians” would have been blissfully unaware of them. When we say that
these ideas became clear and became discussed by Italians, what we mean is
that the political classes, the middle class educated liberals, the aristocrats,
and the important members of the priesthood would have been aware of them.
Most ordinary peasant Italians were still getting on with the job of providing for
their families, and did not take part in these debates and movements.
Let’s take a look first at the ideas of Guiseppe Mazzini.
More than any other of these writers and thinkers, Mazzini believed in Italy.
Where others saw Neapolitans, Sicilians, Romagni, Piedmontese and Romans,
Mazzini saw Italians. He believed in an Italian character, an Italian spirit, one
that would one day rise up, and in the heat of a national revolution, throw off
the Austrian domination of Italy and forge a new, unified Italian state.
“I believe the whole problem to consist in appealing to the true instincts and
tendencies of the Italian heart”
In October 1831, inspired by the failure of the revolutions in Romagna and in
Modena that year, Mazzini formed “Young Italy” a secret society dedicated to
revolution and to the founding of a republican, democratic Italian state. From
the start Mazzini wanted Young Italy to be a ‘mass’ political movement, which
meant that he wanted ordinary Italians to take part. He wanted peasants to
be persuaded of their Italian nationality and to play a part in a national
revolution, which would get rid of the Austrians, and the rulers of the different
states in Italy. Only working together as Italians could they hope to destroy
Austria’s power over Italy, and to make this new country.
Mazzini’s ideas inspired a certain type of Italian patriot to launch brave and
risky attempts at revolutions. A good example of this is that of the Bandera
Brothers’ attempt to start a revolution in Calabria in 1844. These two minor
aristocrats from Venice gathered a group of revolutionaries on the island of
Corfu. In spring 1844 they set off with just over 20 men, hoping that when
they landed in Calabria, the locals would rise up alongside them and start a
revolution. Instead they were attacked by a local mob, several were shot and
the survivors (including the Banderas) arrested, put on trial by King Ferdinand
and executed by firing squad.
Mazzini’s reputation might have remained as a bit of a revolutionary hothead,
an inspirer of brave and foolish expeditions, had it not been for the part he
played in the 1848 revolutions and the defence of the Roman Republic, which
we’ll cover in a later podcast.
Cesare Balbo came from an aristocratic Piedmontese family. His view was that
Italy could not be forced to become one country, that the differences between
the states were too great. Instead his idea was that there should be a
federation between the Italian states. Each state would retain its rulers, and
have its own laws and customs for most things. At the head of this federation
would be the Piedmontese King, who would lead “Italy”, especially in teaching
them how to fight, so that independece from foreigners could be assured.
Balbo’s ideas were much less radical than Mazzini’s. Under a federation the
local rulers would keep most of their powers, and Italy’s states could remain
proud of the differences. Balbo saw a crucial role for Piedmont as military
example for the rest of the Italians because Piedmont had a fairly modern
army (with about 150,000 soldiers), and a strong monarchy.
So far we’ve looked at two very different ideas. Mazzini hoped that a
revolution would unite the different peoples of Italy, whereas Balbo thought
that it was impossible to unite Italy, and that differences between the states
should remain, so long as Piedmont could become the leading state on the
The third set of ideas that we’re covering today belonged to Vincezno Gioberti,
a catholic priest. Gioberti’s book “the moral primacy of the Italians’ set out his
hopes of a re-born Italy, free from the control of foreigners. Like Balbo
Gioberti saw a federation as the way forward. Unlike Balbo he hoped the
Papacy, the Pope would lead the states of Italy out of foreign domination.
Gioberti agreed that the Italians had many differences, but he also saw that
they had a very important thing in common – the catholic faith. He argued
therefore that the Pope and the Papacy was the only force capable of bring
Italians together and inspiring them to throw off foreign domination.
In some ways this was convincing – the catholic church was one of the few
things that people had in common across the peninsula, and the Pope’s
religious leadership meant that he had the respect of many Italians.
There were two problems with this idea though. The first was that the church
was not popular with many liberals. The popes had ruled their states as an
‘absolute’ monarch – you’ll remembemor that it was this that lead some
members of the middle classes in Bologna to rebel against the popes in 1831.
This meant that many of the people who were pressing for change were
unlikely to accept the leadership of the pope.
The second problem was that although Gioberti saw a great future where the
pope was the head of a united Italy, he had no idea of how to get to that
future. Gioberti made no mention of the Austrians and didn’t say how Italians
were to persuade the rulers of the other states to accept the leadership of the
The new ideas that were floating around Italy about how things might change
there were important. They were important because they showed that there
was still a desire for change amongst some Italians. They were important
because they inspired other people – Garibaldi for instance became involved in
the struggle for unification as a result of meeting Mazzinin. Finally they were
important because they showed how the people who wanted change couldn’t
agree on what that change should be, or even how to get it.
A final point to make is that these weren’t the only ideas about Italy that were
changing and growing. One more idea about Italy is worth mentioning – this
one from outside – the idea that other powers could attempt to influence
things happening in Italy. After the failed revolutions of 1831 Britain, France,
Austria and Prussia held a conference in Rome, with the intention of making
future revolts less likely. One of the things they worried about was the need
for reform in the Papal states. They saw that ‘laymen’ (people who weren’t
members of the clergy) wanted to have more say in the government of the
papal states – they urged the Pope to give them more influence. The Pope
ignored them, but what’s important is that France, Britain, Prussia and Russia
as well as Austria were trying to change things. Italy was still Austria’s back
yard, but other powers were attempting to wield more influence there too.
Podcast No.7 – What lay behind the revolutions of 1848?
We saw in the last podcast how new ideas about how Italy might free herself
from Austrian domination had arisen. In today’s podcast we’re going to see
how the ideas of Gioberti seemed to be on the verge of coming true, so that
many people thought the papacy was about to take up the leadership of the
The peasants and workers of the peninsula were even more hungry, poor and
desperate than usual, and this added to the tensions before 1848. Enclosure
of common land by the rich took fertile land for grazing away from the poor in
the years leading up to 1848. The harvests of 1846 and 7 had been
‘catastrophic’ according to Duggan, and as a result prices of food and grain had
risen dramatically. Duggan also explains that industrial workers in the cities of
the north had been laid off due to over production. The towns and cities were
full of unemployed and unhappy workers from the countryside, chasing the
same jobs as those laid off from the cities. Duggan sums it up well –
‘everywhere public order was under threat, there were frequent riots and
In 1846 a new person had arrived on the scene – Pius IX, and his entry
seemed to suggest that things might change in Italy.
New popes are elected when the previous pope dies. Popes are voted for by
important bishops known as cardinals. Pius IX was elected in 1846. He was a
compromise between those who wanted to modernize (reformers) the papacy
and those who wanted to keep it the way it was (conservatives). The cardinals
needed to reach a compromise quickly because they were afraid of more
revolts like those of 1831 breaking out in parts of the Papal States.
So they picked Pius IX, because he’d kept his head down as a cardinal, didn’t
seem to extreme to the modernizers or to the conservatives, and because they
each thought they could influence him. So far so boring. There had been dull
popes before, without causing rebellion. However, as we know the
atmosphere in Italy was quite unusual, poltical reformers were agitating and
hunger made many people, especially ordinary people, desperate. In this
excited atmosphere Pope Pius the IX celebrated his election by releasing
political prisoners, something that every pope had done almost without
In the hot summer of 1846 Pius IX’s granting of amnesty to these political
prisoners seemed like a message that he wanted change. Metternich said of
him that ‘I had expected everything buy a liberal pope”, and crowds in Rome
chanted “O Sommo Pio (oh, supreme Pius)”. Some historians have argued
that Pius liked the adoration and took things further because of it. Others
have said that the reforms he introduced were designed to keep modernizers
happy without actually changing much.
Whatever his motive, Pius’s next moves were seen by radicals and reformers
as evidence that the Pope wanted more, perhaps even to take on the role as
leader of a free, unified Italy that Gioberti saw for him. Pius granted
commissions to look into the justice system, and created a council of ‘laymen’
(non-priests) to advise him. Near the end of 1846 the Papacy entered a
customs union with Piedmont and Tuscany.
The Papacy wasn’t the only government in Italy that was making tentative
reforms. In 1847 Charles Albert was the King of Piedmont – you’ll remember
him as the young man who in 1821 had almost led a liberal revolution in
Piedmont but had then changed his mind. When he came to the throne in 1831
he showed himself to be a cautious reformer, but one who didn’t really want
real change in Piedmont. So, although he reformed the legal system and
decided to join the customs union with Tuscany and the Papal states, he
stopped short of more important changes until 1847.
In 1847, like the Pope and other rulers in Italy, Charles Albert was under
pressure from protests and riots in the largest cities in Piedmont, Genoa and
Turin, to grant a constitution. This he agreed to do in 1847 (though it wasn’t
put in place until the following year). Charles Albert couldn’t bring himself to
call it a ‘constitution’ though – instead it was called a ‘statute’. The ‘Statuto’
had an important impact after 1849 – but for now all you need to know is that
changes took place in Piedmont, Tuscany and the Papal states that gave
ground to liberals and reformers.
Austria grew alarmed by these changes and ideas, and sent troops to garrison
the city of Ferrara, in the Papal States. This wasn’t an invasion; the Austrians
were entitled to send the soldiers. It was a warning to the States of Italy, a
reminder that Austria was in charge (it would also have been useful to Austria
to have these troops in Italy, in case they were needed to put down any
revolutions as in 1821 and 1831). Many Italians reacted furiously, and when
Pius IX sent a formal complaint to the Austrians, this was seized upon by the
radicals and reformers as a further sign that Pius might be the one to lead Italy
out of Austrian domination.
So, we have a very tense situation, a mix of new ideas and hopes of the
reformers and radicals, desperation and hunger from peasants and workers,
but that’s not the whole picture. Because this was Italy in the 1840s, each
different state also had its own different grievances and problems which came
together to start off revolts in different cities.
In Sicily for instance hatred of rule from Naples had been increasing. You’ll
remember that the local aristocrats wanted to rule Sicily themselves, as an
independent state. Many of them, and many radicals and reformers wanted to
see Sicily’s constitution of 1812 put back in place. In 1836 there had been a
massive outbreak of Cholera which had killed 65,000 people, which Martin
Collier puts at 1 tenth of the population.
In Milan, the capital of Lombardy, you’ll remember that the Austrians ruled
directly as part of the their empire. The lack of influence for Italians in ruling
the duchy was an important source of tension. Lombardy and Venetia was
really important for the Austrians, as both states were wealthy. The Austrian
Empire received one third of its tax revenues from these two states. In
January 1848 in protest at Austrian rule and high taxes, the Milanese stopped
smoking. This wasn’t just a symbolic protest, or a health drive. The tobacco
tax brought in a lot of money for the Austrians, and if the Milanese stopped
smoking the Austrians couldn’t collect taxes on the tobacco!
As the year 1848 opens we can see Italy as being an accident waiting to
happen, or a pile of wood, tinder dry, waiting to go up in flames. All that’s
needed is a spark. In the next podcast we’ll see how a series of small sparks
started revolts in different parts of Italy, causing a brief period when it looked
like Italy might ‘make itself’ free.
Something to do – build a set of notes profiling Charles Albert, Pius IX
Podcast No. 8 How close did the revolutions of 1848 come to unifying Italy?
Historians sometimes like to classify causes into different types. History
textbooks certainly love that sort of thing. Often they’re quite certain about
splitting causes up into long term or short term causes, and sometimes you
might find them referring to ‘trigger causes’ – the spark that lights the flame
that causes the explosion. Well the revolutions and riots of Italy in 1848 didn’t
really have one single trigger. Because this was divided and fractious Italy
they couldn’t even be unified in what started the revolts!
We know from our last podcast that Italy was ‘tinder dry’, a situation that had
the potential to go up in flames. What happened to start the revolutions was a
series of events in the different kingdoms and duchies, which fed off and
reacted to each other, and to events outside the peninsula. What developed
was a group of different revolts which became linked, but which were then
extinguished one by one. In this podcast we’ll look at the different triggers
and tell the story of the revolts, and next time we’ll be asking how close Italy
came to unification in 1848. If you get lost, Derby has a really clear set of
timelines on pages 31 and 32 which might help you keep up!
In Sicily in January 1848 revolutionaries demanded the restoration of the 1812
constitution and independence for Sicily from Naples. Despite 5000 soldiers
being sent from the mainland, and the shelling of Palermo, the capital of the
Island by the Neapolitan navy, the revolutionaries successfully took over most
of the Island by April. They then set about electing a parliament which
declared Sicily’s independence – as Pearce and Stiles put it ‘They were not
concerned with national unity – quite the opposite. Theirs was a separatist
movement with the aim of breaking away from Naples’. (p.33)
At the same time as the revolts in Sicily there were riots in Milan, in Lombardy.
You’ll remember that the Milanese had stopped smoking – they were
boycotting tobacco in protest at rule from Austria so that the Austrians couldn’t
collect taxes on it. The revolutions in Sicily were spreading to the mainland
and King Ferdinand of Naples was forced to grant a constitution. Although this
constitution was very conservative and saved much of the power to decide
things and make laws for the King, it did raise expectations elsewhere and in
Piedmont in February Charles Albert finally granted the ‘Statuto’ that he’d been
promising since the year before. When Austria attempted to move troops
south to help Ferdinand of Naples to put down the revolts in his Kingdom, the
Pope refused to let them pass over his territory. According to Collier this sent
nationalists ‘into a frenzy of excitement and adulation’ – p44.
So far so good – we have seen revolts and declarations of independence in
Sicily, riots in Milan and Naples and the granting of constitutions. We’ve seen
the pope stand up to the Austrians, but Italy was not yet in flames.
Then the situation seemed to be ‘transformed’ (as Derby puts it), by two
events outside of the Italian peninsula, or as Duggan writes ‘then the initiative
passed to the rest of Europe’ (p.170). There was a revolution in Paris, which
toppled Louise Phillipe, the last king of France. Following this riots in Vienna
forced the resignation of Metternich – the prime minister who had done so
much to keep Austria’s position as the leading power in Europe. The situation
was indeed transformed. How might Louis Napoleon, the President of the new
French Republic lend help to those wanting change in Italy? Would the
Austrians be unable to control Italy now that Metternich was gone? Many
saw opportunities for change and tried to take them.
In Milan between 17th and 22nd of March five days of furious fighting in the
streets led to the defeat and withdrawal of the Austrian army (led by a General
Radetsky), who wrote ‘It is the most frightful decision of my life, but I can no
longer hold Milan. The whole country is in revolt. I am pressed in the rear by
the Piedmontese’ (Radetsky in dispatch to Vienna March 22 1848). After some
argument between moderates led by Count Gabrio Cassati, the podesta of
Milan (who feared a republic of Lombardy) and the radicals led by Carlo
Cattaneo (who wanted a republic of Lombardy) the provisional government
asked Charles Albert to defend them against the Austrians. Also on the 22nd of
March a Venetian republic was declared with Daniel Manin, a radical, at its
head. They too asked Charles Albert for help. Charles declared war on the
22nd, with the cry that Italy would ‘make herself’, and marched troops into
Lombardy. Other troops, from Naples, under the control of Pepe, and from the
Papal States under the control of Durando marched north to help Piedmont,
Lombardy and Venice in a war that seemed to offer independence from
Austria was on the back foot. It had lost the leadership of Metternich, its
troops were withdrawn to fortresses on the border with Lombardy, and almost
all the large states of Italy were in open revolt against Austrian rule. To add
insult to injury the Papacy that seemed to be encouraging hopes of Italian
liberation. Yet by July 1848 Piedmont had been defeated in the battle of
Custoza (and then again the following year in March at the battle of Novara),
and by August Lombardy had been recaptured, and the republic of Venice put
under siege. By August 1849 absolute rule had been restored in Naples, Sicily,
the Papal States and the central duchies and Austria had regained direct
control of Lombardy and Venetia. What went wrong? Why did such a
seemingly promising situation not bear fruit? That’s the focus of the next
Podcast no 9 – How close did the revolutions of 1848 come to unifying Italy?
The revolutions were still local, even though the froth of the liberal papacy and
Charles Albert’s war made them look ‘Italian’. In Sicily the revolution renewed
the call for independence. In Milan and Venice the revolutionaries were
divided between those who wanted a republic, and those who feared
republicanism. Charles Albert wanted to expand Piedmont, and to be a great
leader. As Derby puts it ‘hatred of the Austrians only went so far’.
Not only were the revolutionaries divided, Charles Albert, who attempted to
lead the revolutions, in order to expand Piedmont, was not up to the job.
As the revolution started in Milan on the 17th March, its leaders asked Charles
Albert for help in fighting the Austrians. In the words of Denis Mack Smith
Charles ‘waited for four vital days until he was satisfied that the war was likely
to succeed and to be in Piedmontese interests’ (p.145). In Piedmontese
interests meant that it should be able to take control of Lombardy, and that
the war should be won without the help of the new Republic of France (that
was what ‘Italy will make itself’ meant, that they didn’t need help from
France). Charles was afraid of a republic being formed in Lombardy, and
possibly of republican revolution in his own country. So Charles troops didn’t
cross into Lombardy until the 22nd of March, by which time Radetsky had
escaped to the safety of the fortresses of the Quaderilatera on the border with
Charles saw himself as a great military leader, and the liberator of Italy.
However, his expectations of himself didn’t match up with his abilities. He did
not take bold moves, such as entering the war earlier, which might have forced
Radetsky to withdraw altogether. His army was underprepared and much
weaker than the Austrians’. His soldiers didn’t even have maps of Lombardy.
Once inside Lombardy he did not seek to challenge Radetsky’s troops but spent
time holding plebiscites to ensure that Lombardy and Venetia would be
annexed to Piedmont.
Charles overestimated not only his own military prowess, but also the military
power of his army. Instead of welcoming revolutionary soldiers and armies he
relied on Piedmontese troops, and ignored the need to keep the support of all
sides in the fight against Austria. He made this overestimation not only once,
but twice when in March 1849 he attempted to re-start the war, only to have
his army smashed before taking one step into Austrian territory by Radetsky at
the battle of Novara.
Finally, Charles was clearly out to expand Piedmont, and for Mack Smith
‘Piedmontese insistence on [Piedmontese Expansion] was the main reason for
the failure [of the 1848 revolutions]’. It meant that the Piedmontese couldn’t
fight alongside the republicans, that the ‘neo guelphists’ who wanted the Pope
to rule an Italian Federation couldn’t support the war.
So we have Charles’ overconfidence in himself, his insistence on Piedmontese
expansion and his fear of revolution and of French intervention, which was
quite a mixture, one which helped end the revolutions of 1848. Historians
don’t have many good words to say about Charles:
Derby - ‘Charles Albert was inadequate to the task, an incompetent general
and a poor leader’, and for Mack Smith – ‘his abilities in this field [military]
were negligible.’
The third reason for the failures of the 1848 revolutions was the Papal
Allocution, which Duggan describes as a ‘body blow’ to the national movement.
Clark describes how the allocution made moderates and liberals choose
between Church and state, whilst Mack Smith describes it as a ‘bombshell’.
The Pope decided to issue the allocution (a declaration against the war with
Austria) after his hand was forced by Durando, his own General, who took
troops north to help fight the Austrians. In it the Pope made clear that he
didn’t want to lead an Italian Federation, that the Austrians were the rightful
rulers of Lombardy and Venetia, and that rightful rulers should be obeyed in
their Kingdoms and Duchies. Mack Smith makes a convincing argument that
the Pope hadn’t worked out that Liberal Pope couldn’t be an absolute ruler of
the Papal States, and that when he did, Pius IX had to take a U – turn.
When forced to choose between Church and State, many of the revolutionaries
chose state, and fought on for their political beliefs, however the Allocution did
remove the papal seal of approval from the war, and no doubt many soldiers
did return home as instructed. However, by April 1848, after a month of
inactivity by Piedmontese soldiers in Lombardy, the die was already cast.
Radetsky’s army was re-building itself with re-enforcements from Austria and
the tide was beginning to turn against the revolutions in Northern Italy.
We now turn to the fourth reason why the revolutions of 1848 didn’t unite
Italy. Austria’s Might and Radetsky’s leadership. As Derby puts it ‘Italy’s
window of opportunity was open only as long as Austrian paralysis lasted’
(p36). Whilst Radetsky was on the back foot in the 5 days of March 1848,
Charles Albert wobbled. Radetsky was able to build his army up to 70,000 by
the summer of 1848, compared to Piedmont’s 20-30,000. When Austria had
got her breath back, she set about defeating Piedmont (twice) and regaining
Lombardy and Venetia, before turning to the rebellions in the Papal States
(which we’ll discuss in the next podcast).
Finally, Martin Collier claims that a lack of foreign support hampered the
revolutions, that the threat from republican France, and its refusal to help in
1849 when Charles tried to re-start the war with Austria, meant that Italy
didn’t have the strength to win independence from Austrian domination. This
is not a realistic analysis. We need to remember that only 35 years before
France had been defeated by a coalition of European powers. Louis Napoleon,
the nephew of Bonaparte, couldn’t afford to intervene against Austria in case
the very new republic was similarly crushed by a coalition. Italy couldn’t be
helped from abroad without a challenge to Austria, which was too strong in
1848 for any other state to contemplate. In fact, as we’ll hear next time,
France played a very clever game in taking a chance to intervene in Italy, but
againts the revolutions. This meant that France was back in the game, but in
such a way that Austria was not directly threatened.
In this podcast we’ve looked at five potential reasons why the 1848 revolutions
failed to either liberate or to unite Italy – divisions amongst the
revolutionaries, the weakness of Charles Albert, the Papal Allocution, the
strength of the Austrians and the lack of foreign intervention to help the
revolutions. We’ll take a look next time at the immediate impact of the failure
of these ‘moderate’ revolutions, and in the following podcast at the impact of
the tumultuous years of 1848 and 1849.
Podcast No 10 – the Roman Republic and the lessons of 1848 - 9
In the last podcast we followed the story of the revolutions of 1848, and the
attempt by Charles Albert to use the revolts in Milan and Venice to expand the
borders of Piedmont. We heard how the Pope’s Allocution and Charles Albert’s
caution had led to the revolts failing, and how Radetsky, the Austrian General
(despite calls to return home from Austria) had held his nerve and re-taken
Lombardy and most of Vienna.
In 1848 the moderates, Charles Albert of Piedmont, Cassati the podesta of
Milan had been at the head of the attempt to liberate Italy from Austrian rule.
As their attempts failed more radical revolutionaries made the attempt. In
Venice, as Charles Albert was defeated at Custoza, and even in the face of the
Austrian Army re-taking most of the state of Venetia, Daniel Manin declared a
new republic, which held out until August 1849.
The Pope had become increasingly hated by radicals, following what they saw
as his betrayal in publishing the Allocution against the war with Austria. The
Pope Rome in fear of his life in November 1848, following the assassination of
his prime minister. In February 1849, the parliament elected to draw up a new
constitution for Rome declared a republic, and that the Pope’s Temporal Power
(that is his power to rule as a king in this world, not his spiritual power) had
been ended.
The Pope didn’t take his removal from power lying down. He called on the
Catholic states of Spain, France, and Naples to help restore his rule. France,
despite, indeed perhaps because of being a new republic itself responded by
sending 20,000 troops to crush the Roman Republic and restore the Pope.
The French had recently deposed their last king and declared a republic. Louis
Napoleon, the leader of this republic had to have a cautious foreign policy.
This Napoleon was the nephew of the great Bonaparte, who had been defeated
by a coalition of European powers, including Britain and Austria. Louis
Napoloen therefore didn’t want to raise fears that France was about to start
trying to re-build an empire by invading its neighbours. We heard in the last
podcasts that the French did not want to support Piedmont in the 1848 or
1849. The Pope’s invitation to intervene in Italy was very different. It meant
that Louis Napoleon could get influence in Italy and Europe, without directly
threatening the Austrians. He took this opportunity, and as we have said, sent
20,000 troops to achieve the end of the Republic of Rome.
After the pope fled Rome, the city was led by Guiseppi Galletti, and after the
republic was declared in February 1849, but a triumvirate (a group of three),
the most memorable of which was Mazzini himself. The revolutionary
government introduced a number of laws which although they only lasted as
long as the republic did, really showed how radical it was. They abolished the
macinato, the tax on grinding corn, which the peasants hated paying. Press
Censorship was also brought to an end, and land that had been owned by the
Church was also re-distributed.
In April 1829 the French landed their 20,000 troops near Rome. Their fight to
the city itself was not easy. The defence of Rome was led by Garibaldi, and it
took until the end of July 1849 for the city itself to fall to the French Army.
Garibaldi earned himself the status of hero in the defence, and in the march
out of Rome and across the Appenine mountains, during which his wife died.
Both the Roman and Venitian republics lasted a relatively short time. The
Venetian Republic ended in August 1849. Their impact was in the way that
they created a legend, an example to those who wanted change, and in the
way that the Roman republic in particular was brought to an end.
So, what were the lessons of 1848, when the ‘moderates’ under royal and
aristocratic leadership, and 1849 when the ‘democratic’ revolutionaries each
took a turn in attempting to remove Austria from Italy and to change the
status-quo? Why did the fail to make any immediate impact on the situation in
For Martin Clark, the revolutions were ‘local’, and not ‘national’ in character –
that is, apart from Mazzinians, what most wanted were local changes.
Piedmont wanted to expand, the Milanese wanted the Austrians out, the
Venetians wanted a new Republic of St Mark, and the Sicilians wanted
independence. Mazzini alone was agitating for a united Italy.
Clark also points out how difficult it was to get the peasants involved. Where
they had taken part in 1848 ‘they were usually inspired by purely local issues’.
“They wanted land near their own villages, not a united Italy” (60).
But for Clark the most important lesson was that “Italy could not in fact go it
alone” (61) – Piedmont had tried to defeat the Austrians not once, but twice.
The Roman Republic had been defeated by a coalition of French and Austrian
forces. This meant that change in Italy could only come as part of a wider
shift in the balance of power in Europe – and that would only happen if Austria
was no-longer the super power it was in 1815 and continued to be in 1849.
What were the effects of the failure of the 1848 and 1849 revolutions? You’ll
remember that before 1848 there were lots of ideas being floated in Italy
about how liberation from Austria and some form of unification might be
achieved. Gioberti proposed a federation with the Pope at its head. Balbo said
that only Piedmont had the military might to lead an Italian federation.
Mazzini and his followers predicted that the peasants would rise and throw off
the Austrian yoke, and lead to a united Italy. None of these things had
In fact the Pope had declared that he wanted nothing to do with a United Italy
and had earned the hatred of the revolutionaries for his Allocution. This hatred
increased, and those struggling for independence and unity for Italy became
much more ‘anti-clerical’, that is anti Church, after 1849
Mazzini had shown himself to be a clever and inspiring political leader, but he
didn’t get the peasants to rise, and even with the help of heroes like Garibaldi
couldn’t defend the Roman Republic in the face of the Great Powers of Europe.
Piedmont’s military might had been defeated twice, and the second time the
King had had to abdicate. Piedmont had been allowed to keep its constitution.
Indeed Austria had insisted that she keep her constitution because the
Monarchy was seen as such a failure by some in Piedmont that without the
constitution being there to make government look a bit fairer, Austria was
afraid that there would be more revolutions in Piedmont.
So the biggest effect of 1848 is that the fancy ideas for Italian liberation that
had been floating about before hand were shown to be unrealistic. After 1848
the progress towards unification was at first based on gains, even very small
gains, made in the real world, rather than hair brained schemes. However,
just to make things really interesting, the hair brained schemes of Garibaldi did
then make things move at an amazing pace, as we’ll discover in the weeks to
Podcast No 11 – The Development of Piedmont after 1849, part 1 - Politics,
Money and Industry.
Sardinia - Piedmont – the geopolitical cat with 9 lives. The King of Piedmont
Sardinia spent the years of Napoleonic occupation on the Island part of his
kingdom and was able to return in 1814.
In 1821 Charles Albert made a half hearted attempt to rebel against the
Austrians, but decided against it before he really got started. In 1848 and
1849, Piedmont, this time with Charles Albert as king, twice declared war on
Austria and was twice defeated by Austria’s superior armies and superior
With this long catalogue of defeats and set-backs, how can we explain the fact
that after 1848, Piedmont came to dominate the Italian peninsula, came to be
accepted as the leading Italian state, and came to be a haven for liberal and
sometimes radical politicians seeking change in Italy?
One reason why Piedmont could develop in this way was the Statuto.
Christopher Duggan writes that, after 1849 ‘everywhere in Italy, except
Piedmont, the clocks were turned back’. In other words, the rulers of Italy
tore down the constitutions and closed the assemblies that they’d granted
during the build up to the revolts of 1848. Censorship was re-introduced in
most places. Other harsh measures were taken to prevent further rebellion.
In Lombardy for instance there was a 20million Lire fine placed collectively on
the leading families that had taken part. Hundreds of peasants were
sentenced to death, and police surveillance was increased.
In Piedmont the new King Victor Emmanuelle II was just as keen to get rid of
the Statuto, the constitution that Charles Albert had granted in 1848.
However, the Austrians were afraid that if he did it, he’d be so unpopular with
many people in Piedmont that there would be further rebellion, so they insisted
he keep it.
The Austrians probably read the Statuto and decided that they didn’t have
much to fear from it. Duggan calls it ‘remarkably backward looking’. It was
hardly Mazzinian. It protected the King’s power, giving him the right to
appoint the prime-minister, impose justice, declare war, command the army,
make laws and dismiss parliament at will. However, it was the only
constitution in the whole peninsula, and compared with much of the rest of
Italy it gave Piedmontese thinkers more freedom. The Statuto, and the
parliament that was part of the new arrangements in Piedmont, enabled the
Aristocracy and moderate reformers to work together in Piedmont to bring
about developments and changes, without revolution. As an idea, revolution
had lost its sheen after 1848, and many former radicals were prepared to work
with Piedmont. As we’ll see, these changes became very important.
After 1849 Piedmont went through a period of development along three lines,
political (the laws governing the way that it was run), economic (they way that
it rasied, spent and earned money) and diplomatic, by which I mean its place
in the world, and its relations with other countries.
One man can take a good deal of the credit for these three developments.
Though he worked with others, Count Camillo Benso di Cavour was responsible
for much of Piedmont’s success. Cavour was the member of an aristocratic
family which had done well out of the Napoleonic occupation. As a young man
he had studied engineering and economics and had travelled in France and
England, which he particularly admired. Cavour was elected to the
Piedmontese Parliament (which was created as part of the Statuto) in 1848
and became Prime Minister in 1851.
So, we’ve looked at the background to Piedmont’s development, the Statuto,
the state of the rest of Italy, and Cavour. Let’s cover the changes, the
developments that Cavour and his friends and allies actually completed in
Cavours political work was along two lines. The first development was the way
that he enabled politicians of the left, the more democratic, to work with more
traditional right wing politicians. As prime minister he was the head of ‘the
Connubio’, a coalition of centre left and centre right members of Parliament
which worked together to change Piedmont. This shows us part of the impact
of the Statuto, in other Italian states there was no similar way for politically
active people to influence things.
The second line of political development steered by Cavour was to decrease
the amount of influence that the Church had in Piedmont. Before he became
Prime Minister, Cavour helped to get the ‘Siccardi’ laws through parliament.
These laws did things like ending Church Courts, and prevented criminals from
hiding from justice in Churches. As Prime Minister he closed many
monasteries. These changes show how ‘anti clerical’ reformers had become
after the Allocution. However, their real importance was that they made
Piedmont look more modern, in fact they helped Piedmont look like the leading
state in Italy, along with some of these other changes.
Cavour was also responsible for changing Piedmontese government
finances. He saw that Piedmont would have to raise lots of money to build
railways, canals and factories. During his visits to England he’d seen how the
Bank of England, the central bank, allowed the government to borrow money
on long term loans. He created a Piedmontese Central Bank, and used it to
borrow money to help develop Piedmont. At the same time Cavour also raised
taxes in Piedmont, to help pay for these loans. As we’ll see, these loans did
help Piedmont develop, but they had a downside. By 1859 the Piedmontese
government owed 725 million lire to foreign lenders. These debts were to
cause problems after 1862.
These loans did have a positive effect, and industry did develop. By 1858
Piedmont had 850 km of railways, which was one third of all the rail in Italy.
There was a railway that connected Turin with France, and a telegraph from
Turin to Paris by 1853. Piedmont’s silk and cotton industries use the railways
to export goods and to obtain raw materials.
In today’s podcast we’ve looked at the way that the Cavour and his allies used
the opportunities created by the Statuto to bring about changes and
developments in Piedmont. We’ve looked at the way the Statuto enabled
politicians to work with the King and aristocracy, the way that Cavour used
politics to take changes through parliament, and the actual changes that
Cavour and his friends made.
We’ve also seen how much of the money that paid for these changes came
from outside Piedmont. Indeed the effect on the way that Piedmont looked to
outsiders was just as important as the effect the changes had inside.
Piedmont looked more and more like a modern state. The loans from and the
railways to France tied her into a relationship with that country. In the next
podcast we’re going to learn about how Piedmont looked enabled her to pick
up support from Italians, and enabled Cavour, under some prodding from
Victor Emmanuelle to develop Piedmont’s ties with France and Britain.
Podcast No 12 – The Development of Piedmont after 1849, part 2 – The
National Society, and the Crimean War
In the last podcast we learned about Cavour’s part in the political, financial and
economic development of Piedmont in the 1850s’. In this second podcast
about the development of Piedmont we’re going to look at how the political and
economic changes helped Piedmont to win friends and followers inside and
outside of Italy.
We’ve already heard how the statuto, even despite it’s conservative nature,
made Piedmont the most liberal state in Italy and how press and other civil
freedoms attracted liberal exiles from the rest of the peninsula. It is estimated
that as many as 30,000 such liberals moved to Piedmont in the decade
following 1848. They helped Turin to become a centre of debate about Italy’s
future. At the same time, many who had been followers of Mazzini saw that
the rebellions and revolts set up by him had led only to the death or exile of
those involved. Veterans of past republican revolutions, like Daniele Manin,
Giuseppe La Farina and Giorgio Pallavicino took a more moderate stance. In
1857 they formed the National Society.
The National Society’s aims were for a united Italy, free from the control of
Austria. Unlike Mazzini’s Young Italy however, they were open to working with
Piedmont (‘for it has a warlike army, money, credit, reputation and an
organised administration’ – The Political Creed of the National Society 1858).
Cavour met Garibadli and PAllavicino in 1856 and Manin in 1857, Cavour
hinted that he would support the work of the National Society, and Manin
offered his support to the king of Piedmont.
Both sides were wary of each other (Pallavicino wrote to Manin that he was
‘sure’ that Cavour’s approach was ‘all an act’ and that what Cavour wanted was
‘just for Piedmont to be enlarged by a few square miles of Italian soil’).
Nonetheless, the meetings and offers of support show that Piedmont and the
democrats increasingly had common interests and might work together. In the
events of XXX the support of and work of the National Society were crucial in
the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.
So, for some patriotic Italians, Piedmont had started to emerge as the leading
state in Italy. For the powers of Europe, a similar process had started. The
Crimean war was a turning point in the relations of Piedmont and the outside
world. Traditionally Cavour is seen as the wise architect of Piedmont’s foreign
policy. However, it seems likely that it was Victor Emmanuelle who was keen
for Piedmont to take part in the Crimean, so that she could show her valour in
The Crimean war started as a dispute between Russia and the Turkish,
Ottoman Empire. Russia invaded Turkey, who turned to Britain for help.
Britain, already frightened at the growth of Russian power sent an army to the
Crimea, in Turkey, to fight the Russians. France took part, Napoleon III was
keen to change the balance of power in Europe, and defeating Russia might be
one way of doing this. Austria was less keen. Austria and Russia had long
been allies in keeping the status quo in Europe.
That’s where Piedmont came in. France and Britain needed Piedmont to come
on board and fight the Russians, not because of Piedmont’s army, but in order
to encourage Austria to join the war. Austria didn’t want to risk war with
Russia on one border to find that Piedmont was invading her Italian provinces
on the other side of her empire. If Britain and France could persuade
Piedmont to join in, Austria needn’t worry about Piedmont stirring up trouble in
northern Italy.
Victor Emmanuelle thought all of this was a great idea, but Cavour needed to
be persuaded. Using all his powers of tact and persuasion, the King
threatened to sack Cavour unless he agreed to take Piedmont to war. Cavour
agreed. No doubt he could see the potential advantage for Piedmont, but to
say that Cavour was the brains behind the advantages that taking part gave
Piedmont, would be an exaggeration – VE was the driving force.
Piedmont sent 18,000 men. 14 died in action, 2,000 died of Cholera. This
contribution was enough however to earn Cavour a place representing
Piedmont at the Paris Peace conference. For some historians it has been this
seat at the Conference and the diplomacy that took place that was the
important impact of the Crimean war for Italy.
However, there’s some evidence that Cavour cocked things up a little in Paris.
He caused a minor diplomatic row when letters between Cavour and Turin
were published. In these Cavour seems to have exaggerated the support of
Britain for a war with Austria. Britain was not impressed, questions were
asked in the British Parliament. Lord Clarendon, the foreign minister,
announced that Cavour’s policy was not practical, and the suggestion that
Britian would join a war ‘absurd’. In meetings with Cavour Clarendon pledged
only ‘moral support’. Similarly, the Italian question was discussed, but nothing
decided. Meetings with Napoleon III resulted in warm words, but no concrete
For Collier, the real impact of the Crimean war was in the ‘collapse of 1815
settlement’. Indeed Collier describes it as the ‘watershed for Austrian power’.
Because Austria had been reluctant to support either side, it had lost the
support of both. France and Britain wouldn’t actively support Austria in
retaining her Italian provinces, and she had lost her natural ally, Russia. From
1856 onwards Austria could no longer act with the freedom that she had
previously enjoyed. Coupled with the rise of Prussian power, which we’ll look
at towards the end of these podcasts, this meant that Austrian power slowly
ebbed away in the years after 1856.
In these podcast we’ve seen how Piedmont took on the mantle of the leading
state in Italy. We’ve seen how developments at home, and in her reputation
abroad and in Italy itself brought Piedmont this role. In the next podcast,
we’re going to see what she did with it, and how Austria’s diplomatic isolation
brought an opportunity that France and Piedmont decided to seize.
Podcast No 13 – The Orsini Plot, Plombieres and the build up to the War of
In the last podcast we looked at the way Piedmont developed financially,
politically and diplomatically to take on the role of the leading state in Italy.
We heard how she took part in the Crimean war and gained a place at the
peace negotiations. We learned how new telegraphs, canals and most
importantly railways linked her to the outside world, and especially to France.
We also heard how Austria, the dominant power on the Italian peninsula, was
isolated by the Crimean war. At the end of the podcast we learned that in
1856 Cavour had become a little over-excited and put forward a plan for war
with Austria which the British Foreign Secretary had described as not ‘practical’
and ‘absurd’. However, within 5 years there had been such a war, Austria had
been defeated and a kingdom of Italy had been created which took in
Piedmont, Lombardy, the Central Duchies and the Papal States, and even
Naples. Only Vienna and Rome remained outside this Kingdom by the end of
So, in this podcast we’re going to look at the build up to what Italians
sometimes refer to as the ‘second war of independence’, in 1859. In the next
podcast we’ll look at how the war progressed, and its surprising outcome.
Piedmont needed allies to defeat Austria, that was the overriding lesson of
1848. Cavour had been working hard to develop Piedmont to make it a more
attractive ally, though his aim was to expand Piedmont’s territories, and to
maek the Piedmontese state strong, rather than to unite Italy. In 1855 Cavour
had tried to persuade France and Britain to support a war to drive out the
Austrians, but could not get this backing.
In 1859 Emperor Napoleon III of France, suddenly changed his mind, and
arranged for a secret meeting with Cavour in the French town of Plombieres.
The trigger for this change of mind was something called the Orsini plot, which
was a conspiracy between Italian radicals, led by a count Felice Orsini. In the
plot four bombs were thrown at Napoleon’s carriage. 8 were killed, 150
injured and Napoleon and his wife were left untouched by the explosions.
Orisini was hoping that Napoleon’s death would cause another revolution in
France, and that a revolutionary government would help Italy to get rid of the
But Napoleon didn’t die. At first he was furious, and threatened to invade
Piedmont. Then, however, Napoleon seems to have realised what an
opportunity this was for France. The Orisini plot gave him the excuse to
dictate terms to Cavour and Piedmont. Napoleon published a letter supposedly
written by Orisini from Prison, in which Orsini pleaded for Napoleon to help
Italy get rid of the Austrians. Napoleon announced his intention to help, and
then called the secret meeting.
Derby sums it up nicely ‘only when [Napoleon] could dictate terms to Cavour
did he become seriously interested in the fate of Italy’.
So, what was in it for France, and for Napoleon? Napoleon wanted to increase
the power of France, but he had to do it carefully. You’ll remember that he
was the nephew of Napoleon I, who had conquered much of western Europe
for France, and had been defeated by a coalition of powers. If Napoleon III
acted too aggressively, if he looked too dangerous to the other powers, they
might re-create that coalition, and remove him from the Imperial Throne.
Starting a war to remove the Austrians from northern Italy was an excellent
way of increasing French power at their expense. By creating a more powerful
Piedmont, France would replace Austria as the dominant power. The trick was
not to make Piedmont too powerful, and to make it look like Austria was being
the aggressive country. If Piedmont got too much out of a war, they wouldn’t
have to follow France’s orders. If France looked too aggressive then the
Prussians, or the British, might join the war against France.
So, on July 21st in Piedmont, Cavour and Napoleon secretly met. It was so
secret that Napoleon’s foreign minister didn’t know. Indeed, he remarked to
Napoleon that he’d seen Cavour in the town and how surprising this was! At
the meeting they discussed what each country would get out of the deal, and
what each would give. Cavour wrote an excited letter home to Victor
Emmanuelle in which he said that Piedmont would get Parma, Modena, Venetia
and Lombardy. There would be a new Kingdom of Northern Italy, made out of
these states. Tuscany would get some of the Papal States, to create a
kingdom of Central Italy and the King of Naples would be replaced. When the
actual treaty was signed in January 1859 things were less exciting for
Piedmont. Firstly their territories were not clearly set out, France however
would definitely get Nice and Savoy (parts of Piedmont) and Piedmont
promised to pay all of the costs of any war with Austria.
A good deal of the meeting in Plombieres was about how France and Piedmont
create a war with Austria without looking like the aggressive parties. This
wasn’t easy. In his letter home Cavour described how he and the Emperor
paced around the room in discussion.
In the end a strategy of raising the tension was undertaken. King Victor
Emmanuelle made speeches about how the Italian people longed for freedom.
Piedmont mobilised its army, raising more troops, and moving them to the
border with Austrian Lombardy. Radicals like Garibadldi were given positions
in the Army. Over the winter of 1858 and into 1859 the tension was increased.
Prussia, Russia and Britain attempted to calm things. Russia proposed a
congress, Prussia threatened to join any war on Austria’s side. Napoleon lost
heart and asked Piedmont to stand down.
This caused the Austrians to think that Piedmont had lost her ally, and they
decided to teach Cavour and Victor Emmanuelle a lesson. Austria issued an
ultimatum, a demand that Piedmont should disarm her troops or face war.
The Piedmontese refused, and Austria had to declare war. This gave France
the excuse they were looking for, and war was joined.
In today’s podcast, we’ve looked at the immediate reason why Napoleon III of
France became really interested in the fate of Italy. We’ve heard what he
hoped to get out of a change in the status quo in the Peninsula, and the
promises he got from Cavour in exchange for helping Piedmont expand her
borders. Finally, we found out how France and Piedmont went about goading
Austria into declaring war. In the next podcast we’re looking at how the war
Podcast No 14 – The War of 1859 and the peace of Villafranca
Last podcast we covered the reasons for, and the build up to the war of 1859,
sometimes called the ‘second war of independence’. In today’s podcast we’ll
look at the course of the war, and discuss what it tells us about how Italy came
to be unified.
The first thing to note is that the Piedmontese did not cover themselves in
glory. Cavour had hoped, and indeed had promised a large army to match
France’s contribtion of 120,000 men. In reality Piedmont could only muster
60,000. The army was further hampered by their lack of maps, supplies and
proper planning (which had plagued them in the war of 1848 too). Victor
Emmanuelle insisted on leading the troops personally, despite the fact that he
really wasn’t very good at it. Duggan desribes his fondness for ‘outdated’
cavalry charges for instance. As a result of these various difficulties the
Piedmontese army actually arrived too late to take part in the first major battle
of the war, at Magenta on the 4th of June.
This battle was so destructive, so bloody that it gave its name to the deep, red
colour of blood on the battlefield, known after as ‘Magenta’.
The second major battle, at Solferino on the 24th of June was even bloodier
than Magenta, though this time Piedmontese forces did fight side by side with
the French. Henry Dunant, a Swiss man, was inspired by the suffering of the
dead and dying to start a charity, eventually called the Red-Cross, to aid those
hurt by war.
Even before this fighting in the north had been going on, Cavour and the
National society was busy in the Central Duchies. Mack Smith describes how
‘Cavour was playing his own game’, attempting to gain more for Piedmont than
Napoleon perhaps wanted, and certainly more than had been discussed at
Plombieres. In late April 1859 around 80 Piedmontese policemen, dressed as
Tuscan workers, were sent to Florence to start a protest against the Grand
Duke, who seeing that Austria was going to be tied up fighting France,
promptly fled. After the victory at Magenta, the rulers of Parma and Modena
also took flight, and soon after the Austrians withdrew their troops from the
northern part of the Papal States, the Romagna, which then also revolted
against the Pope’s rule. Many of the leaders of these revolts were Members of
the National Society, and various forms of ‘unification’, ‘fusion’ and
‘annexation’ of these parts of Italy were offered to Victor Emmanuelle.
This made Napoleon extremely cross. The French Ambassador in Turin was
sent to tell Cavour off on the 3rd of July, just after the great Battle of Solferino,
at which thousands of French soldiers had died, seemingly so that Cavour was
free to break his promises to the Emperor of France. The ambassador wrote
back to Paris to report on the meeting like this ‘I then told Count Cavour than I
was instructed to mention certain underhand, disloyal manoeuvres. […] M. de
Cavour was visibly embarrassed and nettled’.
It was this disloyalty, and the fear that Piedmont was gaining too much out of
the war, whilst France lost too much in terms of blood, that led to Napoleon
agreeing a cease fire and peace with the Austrian Emperor at Villafranca on the
11th of August. We’ll talk about what was in the treaty shortly, but let’s go
over the reasons why Napoleon stopped the war, just as France seemed to
have Austria on the back foot.
Napoleon ended the war with Austria for four reasons: because France wasn’t
getting what Napoleon hoped; because the losses were too great to continue;
and because Austria was too strong to defeat in battle in the short term. The
final reason was that Napoleon realised he couldn’t rely on Cavour. Let’s deal
with these one at a time.
Firstly – Napoleon wasn’t interested in Italian unity. He wanted France to
replace Austria as the dominant power in France. He had plans to place
friends in royal positions in Italy; he wanted to re-create Piedmont as a
satellite state of France, one which followed France’s orders and would be a
capable ally in war; he wanted to destroy the settlement of 1815, so as to
allow France to expand her power.
None of this seemed to be happening. Piedmont was gaining much more than
it had agreed too, and might end up being too strong to be dominated by
French losses were great. France herself was losing thousands of men in
costly and gruesome battles. At Solferino for instance 12,000 Frenchmen were
killed, for little gain. In the meantime Prussia made threatening noises about
joining in against France.
France was thus fighting further and further into Austrian territories, where
Austria’s huge army could be brought to help with the fighting. It was
becoming obvious that defeating Austria would cost too much, and bring little
advantage to France.
Finally, Cavour had shown himself to be un-trustworthy. Whilst French blood
was being spilled he had worked to depose the leaders of Tuscany and to
annex not only Tuscany, but Parma, Modena, the Romagna. This would make
Piedmont too strong to be a satellite of France, and went much further than
had been agreed at Plombieres.
The text of the Villafranca agreement (page 286 Mack Smith), which can be
found on the website, shows these concerns. In it Austria gives up Lombardy,
so that France can give it to Piedmont, but the Austrian Emperor is confirmed
as the ruler of Venice. There’s also a clause stating clearly that the rulers of
the Central Duchies are to be restored, so that Piedmont should not take
control of these.
Villafranca was agreed without the Piedmontese being involved in the
discussions. Indeed Cavour only learned of them from King Victor
Emmanuelle. Reports suggest that Cavour spent a couple of minutes hurling
colourful swearwords at the King, before resigning.
In this podcast we’ve looked at the conduct of the 1859 war against Austria.
We’ve seen how the Piedmontese forces contributed much less than the
French, how bloody the battles were, and how Napoleon realised that France
was gaining little from the war. We’ve also learned about Cavour’s actions in
the Central Duchies, and the attempts to expand Piedmont’s borders into these
areas. Finally we learned about the peace of Villafranca, and Cavour’s
colourful reaction to it. Cavour was deeply unhappy about the loss of this
opportunity to remove the Austrians and expand Piedmont’s borders.
However, within a year Piedmont had annexed Tuscany, the Romagna and the
states of Parma and Modena, and Cavour was back in the position of Prime
Minister. In the next podcast we’ll hear about how this came about.
Podcast No 15 – Why wasn’t the peace of Villafranca put in place?
As we heard in the last podcast, on the 11th of August 1959 Emperor Napoleon
III of France met with Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria in the Swiss town of
Villafranca to agree a peace to end the bloody war between France and
Piedmont on one side, and Austria on the other.
The Piedmontese were not told of the meeting, and had the terms of the
agreement dictated to them. When Cavour heard that Piedmont would only
get Lombardy, would have to pay for the war and would not be able to take
control of Tuscany, Parma, Modena and the Romagna he was furious.
Piedmontese agents and the National Society had been working to create
revolts and to hold assemblies in the central duchies. These assemblies had
voted to join Piedmont. Austria had been defeated in two huge battles. It
looked like France and Piedmont could even force the Austrians from Venetia.
But it was not to be. Napoleon decided to end the war. It looked to France as
if whilst they were shedding blood fighting the Austrians in the north, Piedmont
was breaking the terms of their agreement and attempting to take over
Tuscany and the Central Duchies. To put a stop to this, Villafranca was signed
and Cavour resigned. It looked like Piedmont was going to have to settle for
gaining Lombardy only.
However, in December 1859 Napoleon changed his mind yet again. He
signalled this change of mind by allowing a pamphlet to be published in France
which suggested that the Pope might not be allowed to re-gain control of the
Romagna. In January he started negotiations with Cavour (who had re-gained
his job as Prime Minister) and by March Piedmont had taken formal control of
not only Lombardy, but all the other central duchies.
So, what changed between August and December 1859? Why did Napoleon
decided that Piedmont should be allowed to take the Central Duchies?
The answer seems to be that he worked out that Piedmont was going to take
control of Tuscany, Romagna and the Central Duchies anyway, and that,
unless Napoleon acted quickly, France wouldn’t get anything from the deal.
By August 1859, when Villafranca had been signed, the National Society had
been doing (as Duggan puts it) Cavour’s ‘dirty work’ in the Central Duchies and
Tuscany. The leaders of the revolts in these duchies were all in favour of
Piedmont taking control, some because they wanted to see an expanded
Piedmont (Farini, for instance who was a member of the National Society and
had taken control in Emilia (Parma and Modena). Others agreed to Piedmont’s
annexation of their duchies because it seemed like the best way to stop
radicals and revolutinaries doing so (Baron Ricasoli who was in charge of
Tuscany for instance). These leaders had elected assemblies that had called
for unification with Piedmont, and remained in power after the peace of
Villafranca had been signed.
As we’ve seen in all the revolts that had taken place before 1858, this would
have been the cue for the Austrians to enforce the Villafranca treaty, by
military might. Yet for a number of reasons the Austrians agreed in December
not to interfere in Italy. Britain had made it clear that they wanted to see
Piedmont expand its borders. Austria was still recovering from the fighting
earlier in the year, and none of the other powers were enthusiastic about
Austria marching into Italy again.
So, without Austria’s might to make sure it was done properly, the peace of
Villafranca meant nothing. It looked like Piedmont was going to take control of
these states, with or without French help. Napoleon III saw ho embarrassing it
would have been to see Piedmont getting so much from a war in which France
had shed so much blood, and yet had gained so little advantage. At that point,
in December 1859 the French emperor signalled his change of mind and
entered into negotiations with Piedmont.
The negotiations lasted until March, when the new treaty of Turin was put in
place. Under the treaty Piedmont took control of Lombardy, Romagna, Parma
and Modena. They promised to pay France’s expenses from the war of 1859,
and crucially they gave away Nice and Savoy to the French. Savoy was the
homeland of Victor Emmanuelle’s family, but was mainly French speaking.
Nice however was decidedly Italian in character, was the birthplace of
Garibaldi, and it’s gift to France made many Italian patriots and radicals very
angry, as we’ll see.
In March 1860, under the treaty of Turin, plebiscites (votes) were held in the
land that was being given to France and to Piedmont. Martin Clark describes
how these took place in a ‘festival atmosphere’, under the eye of the
Piedmontese National Guard. The result was so carefully managed that many
of the ballots were pre printed with the ‘right’ answer of ‘YES’.
So, what factors had allowed Piedmont to expand in 1859/60 when all other
attempts to remove Austria from Italy had so spectacularly failed?
The most obvious one might be French might. The Austrians had previously
had a clear advantage as the strongest power in the peninsula. Piedmont had
tried to challenge them in 1848 and 1849, and was totally beaten each time.
In 1859 however the Austrians couldn’t easily beat the French.
Leadership also seems to have played a part. Although Victor Emmanuelle
didn’t cover himself in glory as a military leader, it seems that this time the
Austrians felt the loss of their great general Radetsky. Duggan claims that it
took the French and Piedmontese so long to become organised for war that if
the Austrian commander had shown more initiative at the start of the war,
then Piedmont could have been knocked out of the war before the French even
got there. In other words, it Radetsky, or someone of his like had been in
charge the outcome might have been very different. This seems like a
convincing argument – War was effectively declared on the 23rd of April,
Cavour’s Policemans’ revolt took place in Tuscany in May, but the Piedmontese
and French didn’t see real action until the 4th June.
However, there’s an underlying factor here, which is not obvious. Previously
Austria had been able to act freely in the Italian Peninsula. The other powers
had not objected when Austria put down so many revolts in the years following
1815. However after the Crimean war the situation changed, Austria was
much more isolated, having lost it’s Russian ally. Not only that but the other
powers now wanted an end to the 1858 settlement which gave Austria such a
powerful role in Europe. So in 1848 the British made no attempt to help the
Italian revolts, and France actually sent an army to end the Roman Republic.
In 1859 Britain made it clear that Austria should not intervene in the Central
Duchies to enforce Villafranca, and France sent armies to fight Austria to force
them from northern Italy.
In this podcast we’ve covered the reasons for the failure of the peace of
Villafranca, and looked at the underlying reasons why things changed so much
in Italy in 1859 and early 1860.
As far as Cavour was concerned, this was supposed to be the end of these
changes. Martin Clark sums up what Cavour wanted to do after the treaty of
Turin; ‘it was time to establish Piedmontese rule in the new provinces and
mend fences abroad’. In other words, the job of expansion was finished, and
Cavour had no ambitions to grow Piedmont’s power further. As we’ll find out
in the next podcast, Garibaldi had other ideas however, and events were to
take a dramatic and exciting turn…
Podcast No 17 – How did Garibaldi Conquer the South?
As we heard last time, when the Kingdom of northern Italy was formally
announced in January 1860, Cavour had fulfilled his ambitions for the
expansion of Piedmont. Cavour saw the task before him as one of making the
new state work. In today’s podcast we’re going to hear how these plans were
dramatically changed by the actions of Garibaldi. We’re going to cover the
reasons why Cavour was so worried about Garibaldi’s actions, but also why he
couldn’t intervene to stop Garibaldi.
Cavour’s tactics during 1859 had made Garibaldi his ‘bitter enemy’ according
to Mack Smith. Many radicals like Garibaldi were angry at the decision to give
Nice and Savoy to the French. They also thought that they should fight on
until the whole of Italy was united. Early in 1860 Garibaldi was preparing a
revolt in Nice, trying to gather support and arms. His close friend Francesco
Crispi had been trying to persuade him that the best place to try next would be
Sicily had been in what Duggan calls a ‘febrile state’, a state of fever and
tension in March and February of that year. Crispi felt that if Garibaldi
travelled south to the Island, they could start a revolt that would enable them
to take Sicily, and possibly the Kingdom of Naples itself, for the new Italian
Kingdom. Garibaldi was persuaded, and preparations were made to sail south.
This left Cavour on what Duggan calls ‘the horn of a terrible dilemna” (p.208)
The big problem was that if Garibaldi caused too much trouble down south, the
Austrians or the French might intervene, possibly by invading Piedmont and
the new Kingdom might be lost. Even if this didn’t happen, GAribalid might set
himself up as ruler of the south, or set up a republic, both situations would
threaten the new Kingdom.
However, Cavour couldn’t openly oppose the expedition. Cavour was not
popular amongst the left wing in Piedmont, radicals and democrats accused
him or treachery over Nice. The king had already hinted that he thought is
was a good idea. Directly opposing Garibaldi might therefore lose Cavour his
job, or cause revolt in Piedmont.
Duggan writes that Cavour therefore did what he could, behind the scenes, to
ensure that the expedition was a failure, for instance, ensuring that the
volunteer’s enfield rifles were confiscated – so they had to leave with only old
fashioned muskets and no ammunition.
On May the 16th a small battle at Calatafini saw Garibaldi’s men beating a
larger and better armed Neapolitan army. The victory was dramatic and added
to Garibaldi’s amazing reputation. One of Garibaldi’s men wrote, just before
the battle that, ‘there is a magic in his look and in his name. It is only
Garibaldi they want.’ Afterwards his reputation in Sicily grew and many
peasants joined in the fighting. By the end of May the island capital, Palermo
had falled to the rebels.
At this point Cavour acted again to try to stop Garibaldi from using Sicily as a
base to attack Naples. Cavour sent La Farina, a trusted ally, to Sicily, armed
with posters reading ‘we want annexation’. La Farina persuaded the local
aristocracy that joining Piedmont was the only way to stop radicals and
revolution from overrunning the island. However, before he was successful in
engineering annexation, Garibaldi expelled him from the island. Garibaldi
wanted to retain control of Sicily, which he could then use as a launch pad, for
an invasion of Naples.
Again Cavour made a desperate attempt to gain control of the situation. His
idea was to cause a rebellion in Naples before Garibaldi reached there, so that
Piedmontese troops could invade with the excuse of stopping the trouble. Why
was Cavour so desperate (and, as we’ll see he got even more desperate a little
later)? Well, he was still worried about France and Austria intervening to save
the Bourbons. Although Britain had made it clear that they thought that Italy
should be left to it’s own destiny, it was pretty clear that if the Pope was
directly threatened, Austria, and France especially would respond. What
worried him now was that Garibaldi might succeed in conquering the south.
Garibaldi’s men were fighting under the cry of ‘Italy and Victor Emanuel’, but
Cavour couldn’t be sure that Garibaldi wouldn’t keep control of the south,
perhaps even forming a radical, republican state to the south.
So, Cavour sent agents into Naples to start a revolution. Nothing happened.
Garibaldi marched from the coast, and the Bourbon Army retreated ahead of
him. Naples fell without resistance, Francis III – the last of the bourbons (it’s
always sad when the biscuits run out), leaving early September. A final battle
took place on the Volturno River a little later, but Garibaldi was victorious, and
heading north towards Rome and what remained of the Papal states.
Cavour was therefore ‘forced to take one of the biggest gambles of his career’.
Cavour warned Napoleon that the Pope was threatened. He persuaded the
French Emperor to agree to Piedmont invading the Pope’s territory, not only in
order to stop Garibaldi (he wasn’t clear to the French that he intended to
annex the Papal States, but he told them enough to ensure they agreed to the
invasion), but also to prevent the formation of a radical republic. Cavour was
able to use the arrival of Mazzini in Naples as an illustration of the risk. He
sent more agents into the Papal States to start a small revolt, which was his
excuse to send in the army.
The Piedmontese army marched south, as Garibaldi’s army was fighting the
Bourbon army at the Volturno River. The Papal states didn’t fall easily. Mac
Smith writes that this was effectively a civil war, and how the ‘fighting was
conducted with […] bitterness and cruelty on both sides’. Only Papal forces in
uniform were recognised as legitimate enemy fighters. Peasants or priests
who fought against the Piedmontese forces were executed. Mack Smith
suggests that the inhabitants ‘did not easily forget this kind of treatment’.
Victor Emanuel and Garibadli met on the 26th of October, 1860 at Teano in the
Papal States. They greated each other warmly, and the king shook Garibaldi’s
hand as Garibaldi effectively gave the south to him. By March 1861 the
carefully organised plebiscites had brought predictably huge votes for
annexation by Piedmont in Naples, Sicily and the Papal states and the Kingdom
of Italy was proclaimed.
So who should take the credit for uniting North and South. The most obvious
choice is Garibaldi, who seized the chance that Cavour didn’t want to take, and
whose military genius enabled him to take 1000 men armed with, effectively,
long sticks, and defeat a well equipped and very large army.
Yet, Martin Clark has an alternative view. He gives equal credit to Cavour,
seeing 1860 as a ‘triumph of imaginative statecraft’ for the way that he kept
Napoleon from intervening, but still managed to annex the territories that had
been defeated, but also the way that he managed to stop Garibaldi from
attempting to take Rome, which may well have caused an international
protest, and perhaps an invasion.
We shouldn’t forget the effect of the international situation though. There was
a window of opportunity, which even if Garibaldi didn’t see, he was able to use.
France had been criticised by the British for taking Nice and Savoy. The British
made it clear therefore that they didn’t want France to gain further influence in
Italy. The British declaration and continuing support for the idea of non
intervention in Italy also affected Austria. Austria was in any case still licking
her wounds from the year before, and her only response was to reinforce her
troops in Venetia. The British recognition of the new state which came in a
statement on the 27th of October 1860 sealed the deal – the powers wouldn’t
act to restore Francis or the Pope, Italy was safe for the time being.
In the next podcast we’ll examine the 10 years after this initial unification, to
see how the new country fared, and discover that making a new state was
more complicated than rigging plebiscites.
Podcast no 18 – Was Italian unification a success between 1861 and 1870?
The situation after 1861 was a complex one, but broadly speaking we can say
with confidence that Italy (and for that matter Italians) went through a difficult
time in the 10 years after unification. We’ll look at those difficulties in 5
different categories:
Continuing differences between North and South;
The problems caused by Piedmontisation;
The disillusionment of the radicals and democrats; and
The position of the Catholic Church to the new state;
The Death of Cavour.
In today’s podcast we’ll look at the first two of these problems, that of the
differences between north and south, and the problems caused by
‘Piedmontisation’, we’ll end by look at how these hit the south especially hard
and caused a civil war known as ‘the brigands war’.
You will have heard that D’Azeglio said ‘Italy is made, now we must make
Italians’. Even when looking at the differences between Lombardy and the
next door state of Piedmont, this statement seemed true. However, it was
doubly true of the differences between the north and the south. In Piedmont,
there was a long tradition of loyalty to the Royal family, and of a state
bureaucracy, of men working for the government to get things done. In the
south loyalty was much more to a town, or a city. Relationships with local
landowners were far more important than to the King of Naples. We’ll see how
this became a problem when Piedmontisation (at first at least) cut local
landlords out of wielding power.
The economies of north and south were also very different. In the north
agriculture was still the main way of making money. However, farms were
often owned by peasants in the north, and some peasants had grown wealthy
in their own right through farming. In the south peasants were much more
likely to be landless, and to earn a living day to day by working for local
landowners. In the period running up to unification, in a process known as
‘latifundia’ this had been getting worse. Landowners had been using the law to
take control of land previously used by peasants to graze cattle or sheep. In
the north there was a growing industrial sector, and better and better
connections with Europe. Trains linked Paris with Turin, enabling goods to be
traded outside of Italy.
Even the languages of Italy were still a barrier to unification. Only 2.5 % of
those living in ‘Italy’ spoke ‘Italian’. Duggan writes how soldiers from
Piedmont found the locals of Naples to be ‘incomprehensible’, leaving them
with the feeling of being strangers in a foreign land.
The final difference between north and south I would like to look at is the
attitude of northerners to southerners, something which remains a problem in
Italy even to this day. Time and time again in the documents one can see a
dismissive and superior attitude to the south and southerners in the use of
words like ‘uncivilised’, ‘backward’, ‘barbaric’, ‘superstitious’, ‘immoral’, ‘lazy’,
‘cowardly’. Even in the a supporter of Garibaldi, described a volunteer
peasant, fighting alongside him against the Bourbon Army as ‘a little dwarfish
monster’, ‘more brute than man’. Southern Italy was often seen as being ‘sick’
or ‘ill’. The fear in the north was that, unless the illness was given some
treatment, the disease would spread.
The difficulties caused by these differences were made even worse by the
process of ‘Piedmontisation’ that took place after unification. Unification was
completed in a hurry and Cavour had made no plans as to how to control the
south. Those who joined Garibaldi often expected that Sicily and Naples would
get some form of autonomy, and elsewhere in Italy democrats hoped that
some sort of federation would be set up, so that the different parts of Italy
would continue to have their own laws and traditions of government.
This was not to be. At first Piedmont’s laws and constitution was used as a
temporary way of ruling the new provinces in the north, and there was talk of
having a later constitutional congress or review, to decide the best way to rule
Italy. However, when the south was joined to Italy, and when the south
proved to be a difficult place to keep in order, the idea of local powers and
local arrangements were abandoned. Instead Piedmont’s system of
government was imposed across the peninsula, backed up by the army as a
way of keeping the peace.
This meant that Piedmont’s currency, weights and measures, civil laws and
eventually criminal laws, her voting laws and parliament, her tax system,
tariffs, the system of conscription and even the school system was imposed
across Italy. In some ways this probably represented progress for many of the
states, but in others there were reasons to resent these changes. In Lombardy
for instance the education system had been far better than that of Piedmont.
In Tuscany a long tradition of autonomy and fair, progressive laws was ended
overnight. In the south the new system of bureaucracy didn’t work well with
the tradition of loyalty to the local town and the power of the landlords over
the peasants. Conscription and higher taxes were especially hated in Naples.
In Sicily, peasants who thought they’d been fighting to liberate Sicily from
Naples, found instead that they were now ruled from Turin.
What’s more, they found themselves paying for the privilege of being ruled by
the North. Piedmont had borrowed large sums of money from foreign
investors, not only to pay for the industrial expansion of the 1850s, the
railways and canals that Cavour needed to modernise Piedmont, but also to
pay for the wars of 1850 and 1860. In the 1860’s Italy’s debt was running at
about 400 million lire, which was equal to the whole of the money earned by
every Italian in one year (to compare, in the UK in 2010, when we’re all so
worried about the national debt, ours is equal to 50% of what the country
earns). The taxes were raised across Italy to pay Piedmont’s debts, and this
caused a great deal of resentment. Particularly hated by peasants, especially
in the south, was a tax on grinding flour, called the ‘grist’ tax.
These problems hit the peasants, and those of the south especially hard. In
the years running up to 1860, a process called ‘latifundia’ had seen local
landowners take over more and more of the land used by the peasants to grow
food and graze animals. The high taxes fell on to the peasant’s shoulders.
The Piedmontese government had closed monasteries in the south, and sold
their land to raise money. The monasteries had been the place peasants had
gone when they had no food or money, and this welfare system was destroyed
along with the sale of church land. Conscription caused 25,000 southerners to
run away from the army in 1861 alone. They often joined bands of soldiers
who had been sacked from the Bourbon armies at the end of the war of 1860,
roaming the country and taking what they could to live.
These ‘brigands’ were often used by local landowners as a way of controlling
their peasants, they sometimes had political aims and decided to fight for the
return of the Bourbons. Sometimes they were just brigands, and killed and
stole to stay alive. Sometimes they were peasants revolting at the high taxes,
the conscription and their increasing poverty. Nonetheless, there were so
many of these ‘brigands’ in the south in the 1860s that by 1864 100,000
Italian troops were required to keep the peace in the south. This period was
really a civil war between those in the south who didn’t want to be ruled by
Piedmont, and the Piedmontese determined to control them. The war became
known as the Brigands war, and until things started to calm in the late 1860s,
as many as 16,000 Italians died, more than in the wars of liberation, and many
as a result of great barbarity on both sides.
This ‘brigand’s war’ is a great example of the way that the problems of Italy
after unification hit the south especially hard. In today’s podcast we’ve seen
how the attitude of the northerners to the south, how the economic problems
of Italy, and how the process of ‘Piedmontisation’ led to a bloody civil war. In
the next podcast we’ll turn to the disappointment of the radicals, the
democrats and those following Mazzini, and look at the difficult relationship
between the catholic church and the new state.
Podcast No 19 – The Problems caused by Unification II
As in Sicily, all over Italy this imposition gave ammunition to those democrats,
radicals and Mazzinians who claimed that Italy had not been united, instead it
had been taken over by Piedmont, which had used 1859 and 1860 as a way of
expanding and aggrandising. The unhappiness of these left-wingers could not
be ignored. In 1862, and 1867 they tried again to raise a volunteer Army,
under the leadership of Garibaldi to take Rome. Rome was still occupied by
French troops, and the attacks on the Pope raised the risk that France or
Austria, both catholic powers, would invade Italy to protect him.
They couldn’t even point to the parliament as a victory for democracy.