Garibaldi and Italian Unification 1859-71 summary and notes




Garibaldi and Italian Unification 1859-71 summary and notes


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Garibaldi and Italian Unification 1859-71 summary and notes


Garibaldi and Italian Unification 1859-71


Garibaldi’s background and ideas of unification

  • Garibaldi was a charismatic figure, famous for his honesty and integrity. He strongly believed in personal freedom and his humble origins and way of life provided him with an understanding of ordinary people that was one of the reasons for his success.
  • Born in 1807 in Nice.
  • Spent 10 years in exile in South America following the failure of the Roman Republic of 1848.
  • Became a soldier in Uruguay where he developed the techniques of Guerrilla warfare.
  • He became interested in unification whilst meeting Mazzini in 1831. Became a committed republican. He remained fully committed to the notion of unification, if not republicanism,
  • Following the defeat of the Roman Republic, he became convinced that Italy could only be united under the leadership of Piedmonts monarchy. Upon his return to Italy in 1854 he became a committed Royalist and build up a friendship with the Piedmontese King Victor Emmanuel. He abandoned Republican ideals because he believed that the Piedmontese monarchy had a better chance of achieving his goals.
  • War with Austria (1859): Garibaldi was made a General in the Piedmontese army; however he was sidelined with 3,300 volunteers in a difficult but successful campaign in the Alps.
  • Cavour did not trust Garibaldi, he was a dangerous, unpredictable character who had popular support and had been a republican.
  • Garibaldi broke with Cavour in1860 when Nice, his birthplace was ceded to France.


Unrest in Southern Italy (Sicily April-July 1860)

  • Garibaldi’s reaction to the cession of Nice was to contemplate a military campaign to stop the annexation taking place.
  • He started to form a volunteer force called the “Thousand”.
  • At the same time a revolt broke out in Sicily on the 4th April, this was soon put down, but other uprisings occurred throughout the island.
  • These revolts were caused by peasant’s anger at their living and working conditions. They were important however because they broke down the local government control of the Bourbons.
  • This presented Garibaldi with an opportunity.
  •  Crispi, a subtle republican conspirator, incited the Sicilians to revolt on 4th April. It was clear that this revolt needed external aid for its success. he managed to divert the energies of Garibaldi to Sicily without officially encouraging him.


The Thousand and the Conquest of Sicily

    • Garibaldi gathered a thousand picked volunteers at Genoa. The “Thousand” launched from Genoa on -6 May in 1860.  They were fighting under the banner “Italy and Victor Emmanuel”. Cavour refused to give public support, wanting to avoid a clash with Austria, and Garibaldi was prevented from getting recruits from the Piedmontese army or rifle supplies. The expedition, aboard two leaky steamers, made a successful landing at Marsala in Sicily on 11 th May. The Neapolitan garrison realised too late that Garibaldi's Red-shirt army had no connection with the British navy, which had turned up at the same time to enforce respect for British property.
    • The expedition should not have succeeded. It was under prepared, lacked equipment, it was also small in number and against a large opponent. Cavour also thought Sicily to poor and backward to be ready for annexation by Piedmont, another reason he decided not to back the campaign.
    • On 11th May 1860 Garibaldi landed unopposed at Masarla.
    • The “Thousand” progressed to Palermo; its numbers had grown to 3,000.
    • They fought a battle against 20,000 Neapolitan troops. Garibaldi won due to the state of chaos the island was in, help from local peasants, the speed of his attack against the cautious approach of the Neapolitan generals.
    • 14 May 1860 Garibaldi declared himself Dictator of Sicily (referring to the fact he had taken emergency, temporary control).
    • The victory had a great psychological impact and it persuaded many Sicilians’s to join Garibaldi’s troops. These men (the Sicilian’s were inspired by independence and hatred of their local rulers, rather than a wish for unification.
    • Once named Dictator the alliance with the peasants started to breakdown. Garibaldi was not going to allow a social revolution get in the way of his political goals. So he sided with the men of property, landowners in order to restore law and order.

The Annexation of Naples (August – September 1860)

  • Whereas Cavour wanted to arrange a quick annexation of Sicily to Piedmont, Garibaldi wanted to use it as a base to attack and conquer Naples.
  • Cavour opposed the campaign against Naples and tried to negotiate an alliance with the King of Naples, Francis II.
  • Garibaldi arrived in Naples on 21 August 1860. Once again he found support amongst the peasants who greeted him as the “Second Jesus Christ”.
  • The young King could not handle the situation. The constitution he granted in June had seen strong, loyal monarchist supporters being replaced by unreliable liberals. This weakened his government.
  • Francis ordered 50,000 troops north to deal with a minor uprising. This left Garibaldi to take the city of Naples on 7September 1860 with only 30 colleagues.
  • Cavour was now very worried as he feared Garibaldi would remain dictator of Naples and not hands over his conquests.

Cavour and Garibaldi their relationship and differences

Historians have argued for a century about the motives of Cavour and Garibaldi and the relationship between them. There were many differences:-

  • Contrasting backgrounds:- Cavour was a nobleman, well educated, political and diplomatic. Garibaldi was a rough, ill educated soldier and leader of men.
  • Political Ideals: Garibaldi had been a Mazzinian and a republican. He only embraced Piedmont and became a Royalist after 1848, when he became convinced this was the best hope of uniting Italy. Yet he always retained his nationalist beliefs and fought for an independent and unified Italy. Cavour did not believe unification was possible and was not fully committed to the idea (he knew little about the South). Cavour realised the requirement of foreign assistance and therefore of politics and diplomacy. He knew an independent Italy could not be achieved without French help in a war against Austria. He also realised that Napoleon would not allow the unlimited expansion of Piedmont. Once Piedmont had gained control over the North of Italy, Cavour believed it was time to stop. Garibaldi on the other hand wanted Rome, Venetia, Naples and Sicilly as part of a united Italy and wanted to unite them at once.
  • Historians have different views on their relationship. Although it is known that they personally disliked each other, many theories have emerged discussing the nature of any co-operation or conflict between the two.
  • Some historians believe that Cavour pretended to stop Garibaldi whilst secretly trying to help him.
  • Others believe see Cavour as Garibaldi’s enemy, opposed to his plans for unification, and whilst pretending to help the expedition, secretly working to make sure it would fail.

The Piedmontese invasion of the Papal States

  • Following the conquest of Naples, Garibaldi announced he intended to march onto Rome, Venice and then Nice.
  • Cavour feared this would lead to a clash with France. Cavour played on French fears to persuade Napoleon to intervene in the South. Below are some other reasons for the Piedmontese invasion:-

Reasons for the Piedinontese invasion.

Numerous factors prompted Cavour in his decision to send the army into the Papal States. His purpose was as follows.

  • To regain the initiative for Piedmont. Cavour's political position was precarious since the cession of Nice and Savoy had been unpopular. Victor Emmanuel was also secretly working with Garibaldi. At the same time Garibaldi was gaining all the prestige and glory, and Cavour thought it politically unwise that his fame should completely overshadow that of the King.
  • To prevent the occupation of Rome. It seemed that Garibaldi had no intention of handing over his command until he had conquered Rome, which would have provoked French or Austrian intervention. Cavour knew that Piedmontese troops could capture the Papal States while avoiding the occupation of Rome.
  • To prevent the creation of a republic. Mazzini was in Naples and there was a strong party in favour of giving Naples and Sicily a separate and independent standing in a free and united Italy. Cavour had failed previously through his own agents to influence events there, and Garibaldi had refused to declare Sicily annexed to Piedmont. Cavour had no confidence in Garibaldi's ability to cope with the situation. There was even a faint possibility of a recovery by the supporters of the Bourbon monarchy.
  • To forestall Austrian intervention. Cavour was anxious to achieve the annexation in the south before Austria was able to gain allies. He knew that Austria might well intervene if the Warsaw talks in October with Russia and Prussia were successful. Therefore it could be argued that Cavour was forced into unifying Italy.
  • August Napoleon and Piedmontese officials met to formulate a plan that involved annexing Umbria and the Marches but leaving the Pope in charge of Rome.
  • September 11th 1860 33,000 strong Piedmontese army crossed the border, Piedmont army was defeated.
  • Garibaldi was severely weakened by fighting against the Neapolitan army and was not in a position to march on to Rome anyway.

The proclamation of Victor Emmanuel as King

  • October 1860 Victor Emmanuel joined his army in the Papal States, and one off plebiscites were held.
  • 21st October 1860, voters were asked to vote simply for the banner under which Garibaldi had fought. Overwhelming votes in favour of annexation occurred in Naples and Sicily.
  • 2Oth October 1860 Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel met at Teano where Garibaldi agreed to hand over his conquests. Relationship between Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel after Teano.
  • 27TH January 1861 first elections took place for the new Italian parliament.
  • Remember Venetia and Rome remained outside the Italian nation.


Garibaldi made two further attempts on Rome:


Aspromonte (1862)

Mentana (1866) both failed.


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Garibaldi and Italian Unification 1859-71 summary and notes

Italian Unification (1848-1870)


The movement to unite Italy into one cultural and political entity was known as the Risorgimento (literally, "resurgence"). Giuseppe Mazzini and his leading pupil, Giuseppe Garibaldi, failed in their attempt to create an Italy united by democracy. Garibaldi, supported by his legion of Red Shirts-- mostly young Italian democrats who used the 1848 revolutions as a opportunity for democratic uprising--failed in the face of the resurgence of conservative power in Europe. However, it was the aristocratic politician named Camillo di Cavour who finally, using the tools of realpolitik, united Italy under the crown of Sardinia.


"Realpolitik" is the notion that politics must be conducted in terms of the realistic assessment of power and the self-interest of individual nation-states (and the pursuit of those interests by any means, often ruthless and violent ones) and Cavour used it superbly. In 1855, as prime minister of Sardinia, he involved the kingdom on the British and French side of the Crimean War, using the peace conference to give international publicity to the cause of Italian unification. In 1858, he formed an alliance with France, one that included a pledge of military support if necessary, against Austria, Italy's major obstacle to unification. After a planned provocation of Vienna, Austria declared war against Sardinia in 1859 and was easily defeated by the French army. The peace, signed in November 1959 in Zurich, Switzerland, joined Lombardy, a formerly Austrian province, with Sardinia. In return, France received Savoy and Nice from Italy--a small price to pay for paving the way to unification.


Inspired by Cavour's success against Austria, revolutionary assemblies in the central Italian provinces of Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and Romagna voted in favor of unification with Sardinia in the summer of 1859. In the spring of 1860, Garibaldi came out of his self-imposed exile to lead a latter day Red Shirt army, known as the Thousand, in southern Italy. By the end of the year, Garibaldi had liberated Sicily and Naples, which together made up the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Cavour, however, worried that Garibaldi, a democrat, was replacing Sardinia, a constitutional monarchy, as the unifier of Italy. To put an end to Garibaldi's offensive, Cavour ordered Sardinian troops into the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples. After securing important victories in these regions, Cavour organized plebiscites, or popular votes, to annex Naples to Sardinia. Garibaldi, outmaneuvered by the experienced realist Cavour, yielded his territories to Cavour in the name of Italian unification. In 1861, Italy was declared a united nation-state under the Sardinian king Victor Immanuel II.


Reapolitik continued to work for the new Italian nation. When Prussia defeated Austria in a war in 1866, Italy struck a deal with Berlin, forcing Vienna to turn over Venetia. In addition, when France lost a war to Prussia in 1870, Victor Immanuel II took over Rome when French troops left. The entire boot of Italy was united under one crown.




Why did Cavour succeed and Garibaldi fail? Was it really only a matter of speed? If Garibaldi had started his crusade earlier and had time to conquer the Papal State before Cavour sent his troops to do so, would Cavour have been forced to give up his territory in the name of a united Italy? Doubtful. But is speed really the only issue? That, too, is doubtful. It seems that of the two, Cavour alone understood the relationship between national and international events, and was thus able to manipulate foreign policy for his own ends. Garibaldi, a democrat, a warrior, and an anti-Catholic, was without question on the road to conflict with the monarchies of Europe. Cavour, with the added credibility of representing a monarch, blended perfectly with the political situation in Europe at the time.


Cavour was a realist who practice realistic politics. He allied with France when necessary and with France's key enemy, Prussia, was necessary. By keeping the goal in mind, Cavour used international power to achieve his domestic goals. Garibaldi was forced to use his own grassroots strength, empowered by young Italian democrats interested in an idealistic future for their nation. In that manner, it is quite doubtful that Garibaldi would have ever been able to gain the upper hand in Italy, relative to Cavour.


Another important element of unification, especially in Italy's case, was how to deal with various cultural differences. Cavour, despite his leadership in introducing constitutional and liberal reforms in Sardinia, had no patience for such regionalism when his goal was Italian unification. He crushed regional and cultural differences with moderately conservative policies on social and political matters. In doing so, he began to alienate southern peasants and nobles, creating a regional gulf that would come back to haunt Italy in future years.


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Garibaldi and Italian Unification 1859-71 summary and notes

Time line for Italian Unification 1815-71


1815: Congress of Vienna – old order restored – 5 main divisions restored – reflected high level of Austrian control


1820: Revolt in Naples (sparked by revolution in Spain that had forced King to restore liberal constitution). Carbonari were dominant force and enjoyed early success – Ferdinand agreed to new constitution based on Spanish model


Troppau Protocol issued by Metternich


1821: News of uprising in Naples spread to Sicily. Congress called at Laibach – Ferdinand denounced constitution & asked for help from Austrians

Rising in Piedmont saw abdication of Victor Emmanuel I in favour of Charles Felix. He was absent so Charles Albert was declared regent. He issued a constitution which was rejected by Charles Felix on his return to Piedmont – ruled as autocrat till his death in 1831.

Piedmontese revolutionaries defeated in battle


1830 Revolution in Paris saw end of Charles X & Bourbon restoration


1831: Rising in Modena – crushed by Austrian troops

       : Rising in Papal States – crushed by Austrian & Papal troops


1846: Election of Pope Pius IX


1847: Number of reforms carried out eg creating freer press, a civic guard, and Council of State (see as the first steps to democracy)


1848: Uprising in Sicily – demand for independence from mainland – later crushed by force

          Rising spread to the mainland and King Ferdinand II forced to grant constitution after Pius IX refused to allow Austrian troops to cross into papal territory

          Charles Albert made some concessions, most important being the Statuto which created a parliamentary monarchy.

March 1848 Metternich resigned as Foreign Minister – this was signal for revolutions to spread

Risings in Lombardy & Venetia – Austrian forces under Radetsky withdrew to the Quadrilateral.

          Charles Albert now declared war on Austria - invaded

Lombardy. Troops from all over Italy came to help.

           Pius IX dealt bitter blow with issue of Papal Allocution

           Despite early successes Piedmontese forces defeated at Custozza. Fighting ended by Armistice of Salasco

           Pius IX fled from Rome – revolutionary government set up.


1849:  Charles Albert was persuaded to attack Austrians again – decisively beaten at Novara.

          Republic declared in Rome – later defeated by French     

          Army despite


1852: Cavour appointed as PM of Piedmont


1854: Piedmont sent troop to support British and French in the Crimean War


1856: Congress of Paris – Cavour attended but took little part in the negotiations


1858: Orsini Bomb Plot forced Napoleon III into action. Agreed to support Piedmont by Compact of Plombières


1859: War engineered with Austria.

          Peaceful revolutions in Modena, Tuscany and Parma

          2 defeats for the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino

          Napoleon III then made peace with Austrians at Villafranca. Piedmont got Lombardy and Tuscany + 3 Duchies voted to join Piedmont


1860: Insurrection in Sicily. Garibaldi & the Thousand soon landed.  Victory at Calatafimi- Garabaldi in control of the island within 3 months

           August – Garibaldi’s forces landed on mainland. Too late Ferdinand II made political concessions – he then fled.

          September 1860 Piedmontese troops invaded the Papal States – victory at Casteldifardo

           October – Garibaldi met Victor Emmanuel II at Teano and handed his conquests over.


1861; Death of Cavour


1862: Garibaldi led expedition to capture Rome – ‘Roma o morte’. Unsuccessful!


1866: Austro-Prussian war. Italy acquired Venetia


1867: Garibaldi’s second attempt to take Rome halted by the French


1870: Outbreak of war between Prussia and France saw withdrawal of French garrison from Rome.


1871: Rome declared capital of Italy 



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