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Q1) How did Italy transform from ‘a geographical expression’ to a nation-state? Evaluate the role of Cavour in the unification of Italy.


  • Italy was a state which was strategically very important but could never enjoy the taste of self-rule. Italy was divided into number of smaller states, which restricted the realization of its complete economic and political potential. The transformation of Italy to a nation state from being a geographical expression can be seen from:
  1. Economic factors: the rising bourgeois class, wanted greater economic prosperity, and division of Italy into multiple states hindered the free movement of goods and capital which led to subpar economic growth.
  2. Social factors: In the 18th and 19th centuries, many campaigns were organized in Italy for the spread of Italian as the lingua franca of common people. It led to linguistic and cultural affinity among Italian states.
  3. Rising nationalism:
  4. a) Rise of Italian nationalism was triggered by the French revolution and the spread of ideas such as that of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
  5. b) Revolutionary ideas about government and society, resulted in an overthrow of the old established ruling orders and the destruction of feudalism.
  6. c) Far-reaching reforms were instituted during the rule of Napoleon, sowing the seeds of Italian unification. E.g., roads were improved everywhere, and both primary and higher education were strengthened.
  7. d) Secret Societies, like Carbonari secret society, encouraged & aroused people to fight against the foreign rule and to fight for the establishment of a constitutional nationalist government.
  8. Role of intellectuals:
  9. a) Vincenzo Gioberti: An Italian philosopher, politician and premier of Sardinia-Piedmont (1848-49), his writings were instrumental in bringing about the unification of Italian states.
  10. b) Giuseppe Mazzini: A patriotic writer, Mazzini set up a national revolutionary movement known as Young Italy (1831). The most famous member of Young Italy was Giuseppe Garibaldi.

The role of Count Cavour in the Italian unification can be evaluated as:

  1. Risorgimento: Count Cavour, who was made the Prime Minister of Sardinia, made Sardinia the leader of Italian unification (risorgimento). E.g., improving agriculture, building railroads, and encouraging free trade.
  2. Role in Crimean war: For its active involvement in the Crimean war, Sardinia was allowed to attend the peace negotiations at the Congress of Paris (1856). Count Cavour used this opportunity to raise the issue of the Risorgimento with the European powers.
  3. Realpolitik: In 1859, Cavour entered into a secret alliance with Louis Bonaparte of France and went into a war against Austria. Austria was defeated and Lombardy was annexed by Sardinia. Consequently, Papal, Tuscany, Parma, and Modena states of the north also joined Sardinia.
  4. Unification of Italy (alliance with Giuseppe Garibaldi):
  5. Garibaldi marched into the island of Sicily with his revolutionary fighters (known as Red Shirts) and liberated it.
  6. Thereafter, he marched to Naples in support of a revolt that had already broken out there.
  7. The revolutionaries then surrendered the kingdom of two Sicilies to the King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II, who then took the title of King of Italy in 1861.
  8. Unification of Venetia and Rome:
  9. In a deal negotiated with Bismarck after the Austrian-Prussian War in 1866, Italy acquired Venetia.
  10. After the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, French forces were forced to leave Rome. Italian soldiers then occupied the city of Rome in 1870.

Cavour was a liberal and ardent supporter of Constitutional monarchy and believed in the principles of Parliament. The efforts of Cavour in carrying out Unification from below, as supported by liberals and nationalists, eventually propelled the unification of Italy.

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