The Risorgimento and forging of a new, united Italy
Italians initially gave Napoléon an exultant benvenuto! when he swept through the peninsula and swept out Italy’s 18th-century political disasters (along with the Austrian army).
But Napoléon, in the end, neither united Italy nor provided it with self-government. He merely set up his own friends and relatives as new princes and dukes.
Many Italians, however, were fired up by the Napoleonic revolutionary rhetoric. The Risorgimento (“resurgence”) nationalist movement—an odd amalgam of radicals, moderate liberals, and Roman Catholic conservatives—struggled for 30 years to create a single, united Italy under a constitutional monarchy.
You’ll find Risorgimento heroes’ names recalled in streets and piazze throughout Italy: Giuseppe Mazzini provided the intellectual rigor for the movement; the political genius of noble-born Camillo Cavour engineered the underpinnings of the new nation; and Gen. Giusseppe Garibaldi and his “Redshirt” soldiers did the legwork by conquering reluctant or foreign-controlled territories.
In 1861, Vittorio Emanuele II, of the Piedmont House of Savoy, became the first King of Italy.
By 1871, Garibaldi finally defeated the papal holdout of Rome and the great city once again became the capital of a unified Italy.
19th century in Italy
More on 19th century
Also in Italian history:
- Prehistory to Magna Graecia
- The Etruscan Enigma
- The rise of Rome
- Hail, Caesar!
- The Roman Empire
- The Dark Ages
- The Renaissance
- The Second Fall
- A Nation United
- The Rise of Fascism