Nationalist movement in 19th-century Italy culminating in the unification of the country by 1870. Its origins can be traced to the intellectual ferment of the 18th-century enlightenment and to the influence of the french revolution. Ignoring the liberal and national aspirations of many Italians, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 gave Austria a dominant position over an Italy divided into seven states. This settlement caused widespread antagonism. After many failures and disappointments, Austrian control was finally ended and a national Italian state achieved. The risorgimento falls into two distinct periods: 1815 to 1848 and 1849 to 1870.
Revolutionary unrest characterized these years. Immediately after the Congress of Vienna, Italians began vain demands for liberal reforms and constitutional guarantees. From 1831 the idea of unifying the peninsula gained support among intellectuals. Secret societies, such as the carbonari and Mazzini's Young Italy, organized conspiratorial activities and prepared the revolutions of 1820 1821, 1831, and 1848. The 1820s were dominated by the Carbonari and the 1830s and 1840s by the extreme, revolutionary, republican followers of Mazzini, but the 1840s witnessed the emergence of a moderate, liberal, Catholic group that looked to the papacy for leadership in a future confederation of Italian states. Among the leaders of this group were Manzoni, Capponi, Cattaneo, Ricasoli, rossi, Mamiani, Tommaseo, ventura, Balbo, and gioberti. It was composed mostly of devout, practicing Catholics, who were trying to reconcile their religious sentiments and loyalty to the Church with their desire for political liberty and representative government. When Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti became Pope Pius IX in 1846, they turned to him for leadership. "Viva Pio Nono" became the cry of many Italian patriots, especially after the papal allocution (Feb. 10, 1848) that concluded with the words, "God bless Italy." Until 1848 it was widely believed that Pius IX supported the cause of Italian independence. In fact, his policies added impetus to a movement that later the pope was unable to control or to stop.
Revolutions erupted across Europe in 1848 and reverberated throughout Italy. Popular pressure forced rulers to grant constitutions. An effort was made to form an Italian coalition against Austria, but Pius IX and Ferdinand II of Naples withdrew their troops, and the small army of Piedmont-Sardinia was defeated by Austria at the battles of Custozza and Novara. Subsequently the independent revolutionary governments in Milan, Venice, and Rome were suppressed one by one. By 1849 Austria was victorious. It had reestablished its rule over Lombardy and Venetia and had restored to Tuscany, Modena, and Parma rulers subservient to its policies. The recent constitutions were quickly revoked everywhere, except in Piedmont-Sardinia.
A decrease in revolutionary activity and the emergence of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia as leader in the drive for unity marked the later period. The 1848 debacle influenced subsequent developments. Its violence
impressed on Pius IX the incompatibility between his role as head of the universal Church and his support of Italian liberal national aspirations. These events created a rift between the Church and the risorgimento, which was henceforth anticlerical and openly in favor of unification. A realignment of forces occurred throughout the peninsula as Mazzini's influence waned. Piedmont-Sardinia initiated a program of internal political and economic reforms and became the haven for political exiles from all parts of Italy. Moreover, the able leadership and diplomacy of Camillo Benso di cavour, its prime minister, who held power almost uninterruptedly from 1852 until his death in June 1861, gained the support of most Italian liberals and patriots, with the exception of Mazzini and a few of his diehard followers. In 1858 the Italian National Society, organized by many of the former republican leaders of the 1848 revolts, espoused the monarchial leadership. Cavour's diplomacy disavowed revolution and gained recognition abroad for Italy's national aspirations. In 1855 Piedmont-Sardinia entered the Crimean War against Russia and sent a small army to fight in the Crimea. This enabled Cavour to attend the Congress of Paris in 1856 with the great European powers. After the Pact of Plombières, which assured Cavour French support against Austria, war broke out in 1859 between Austria and Piedmont-Sardinia. Austria was defeated and ceded Lombardy. Within a few months Piedmont Sardinia succeeded in annexing most of central Italy, including parts of the states of the church. The expedition of garibaldi added the southern part of the peninsula. Early in 1861 the new kingdom of Italy (with Turin as its capital) was officially proclaimed, although Pius IX retained control of the Eternal City with the protection of French troops. Austria still held Venetia. Most Italian patriots agreed that the risorgimento would remain incomplete until Rome became part of the new kingdom and until Austria relinquished Venetia. The latter event occurred in 1866, when Italy allied with victorious Prussia against Austria. Rome fell into Italian hands in 1870, after France recalled its soldiers to meet the threat of Prussian attack. By 1870 the risorgimento could be considered finished, even though some claim that its completion did not occur until the acquisition of Italia irredenta (Italian territory still in Austrian hands) after World War I.
The risorgimento was mainly a political movement, but it can be interpreted also as a national revival that made Italy part of the 19th-century Western state system and civilization. As such, the movement posed serious religious problems, for with few exceptions all who participated in it were practicing Catholics, from the leaders of the 1821 revolts to General Cadorna, who occupied Rome in 1870. The split between the Church and the national and liberal movement began in 1848 and gained momentum after 1855, when the first Piedmontese anti-clerical laws were passed. From then on, Catholics who were also patriots were faced with a serious crisis of conscience. This created many problems for the new state and had serious consequences for Italy and its people until the schism was healed by the lateran pacts of 1929 (see roman question).
Bibliography: a. monti, Pio IX nel Risorgimento italiano (Bari 1928). r. albrecht-carriÉ, Italy from Napoleon to Mussolini (New York 1950). e. p. noether, Seeds of Italian Nationalism 1700–1815 (New York 1951). d. mack smith, Cavour and Garibaldi, 1860: A Study in Political Conflict (Cambridge, Eng. 1954). r. grew, A Sterner Plan for Italian Unity: The Italian National Society in the Risorgimento (Princeton 1963). a. c. jemolo, Chiesa e stato in Italia negli ultimi cento anni (Turin 1948); Church and State in Italy, 1850–1950, tr. d. moore (Philadelphia 1960). d. massÈ, Cattolici e Risorgimento (Milan 1961). e. rota, ed., Questioni di storia del Risorgimento e dell' unità d'Italia (Milan 1951). Nuove questioni di storia del Risorgimento e dell' unità; d'Italia (Milan 1962). l. salvatorelli et al., "Il problema religioso del Risorgimento," Rassegna storica del Risorgimento 43 (1956) 193–345, 413–589, proceedings of the 33d Congresso di Storia del Risorgimento, 1954. e. arton et al., "Il problema politico del cattolicesimo nel Risorgimento," Rassegna storica Toscana 4.3–4 (1958), proceedings of the 11th Convegno of the Società toscana per la storia del Risorgimento, 1958. r. aubert, Le Pontificat de Pie IX (Fliche-Martin 21; 2d ed. 1964).
[e. p. noether]
Risorgimento (rēsôr´jēmĕn´tō) [Ital.,=resurgence], in 19th-century Italian history, period of cultural nationalism and of political activism, leading to unification of Italy.
Roots of the Risorgimento
The Risorgimento's roots lie in 18th-century Italian culture in the works of such people as Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Vittorio Alfieri, and Antonio Genovesi. Italy had not been a single political unit since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th cent., and from the 16th through the 18th cent. foreign domination or influence was virtually complete. During the French Revolutionary Wars and the period dominated by Napoleon I, the temporary expulsion of Austrian and other repressive regimes and the formation of new states in Italy (see Cisalpine Republic) encouraged hopes for unification.
Early Years and Factions
Secret societies such as the Carbonari appeared and carried on revolutionary activity after the restoration of the old order by the Congress of Vienna (1814–15). The Carbonari engineered uprisings in the Two Sicilies (1820) and in the kingdom of Sardinia (1821). Despite severe reprisals inspired by the Holy Alliance, new uprisings occurred in 1831 in the Papal States, Modena, and Parma. Italian literature of this period, especially the novels of Alessandro Manzoni and the marchese d'Azeglio and the poetry of Ugo Foscolo and Giacomo Leopardi, did much to stimulate Italian nationalism.
The Risorgimento was primarily a movement of the middle class and the nobility; since economic issues were virtually ignored, the peasantry remained indifferent to its ideals. Political activity was carried on by three groups. Giuseppe Mazzini led the radical faction through his secret society Giovine Italia [young Italy], founded in 1831. Its program was republican and anticlerical; it vaguely alluded to social and economic reforms. The conservative and clerical elements among the nationalists generally advocated a federation of Italian states under the presidency of the pope. The moderates—the propertied bourgeoisie and the north Italian promoters of industry—favored unification of Italy under a king of the house of Savoy. This monarch, as it later turned out, was Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia.
The Fight for Unification
Sardinia assumed the leadership of the Risorgimento in 1848 when the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom rose against Austrian rule and King Charles Albert intervened in favor of the rebels. After initial victories Charles Albert was defeated by the Austrians at Custoza and was forced to sign an armistice and withdraw his forces. Renewing his attack in 1849, he was again defeated by the Austrians at Novara and abdicated in favor of his son, Victor Emmanuel II, who made peace. Meanwhile, revolutions were suppressed in Venice (under Daniele Manin), Parma, Modena, Tuscany, the Two Sicilies, and the Papal States, where a short-lived Roman Republic was proclaimed under the leadership of Mazzini.
The liberal movement gradually coalesced around Victor Emmanuel II and the policies of his minister Camillo Benso di Cavour. Cavour realized that Sardinia could not defeat Austria without foreign aid. He set out to win French support and British sympathy by introducing sweeping social reforms within Sardinia, by inaugurating a free-trade policy, and by joining (1855) the allies in the Crimean War. Emperor Napoleon III met Cavour at Plombières (1858) and promised military aid against Austria.
War broke out in 1859. The French and Sardinians defeated the Austrians at Magenta and caused them to retreat at Solferino. These victories were so costly, however, that Napoleon signed a separate armistice at Villafranca di Verona (ratified by the Treaty of Zürich). Austria retained Venetia, and Sardinia gained only Lombardy. It was also stipulated that Tuscany, Modena, Parma, Bologna, and the Romagna, where revolutionists had organized provisional governments, were to return to their former rulers. This provision was not fulfilled; plebiscites were held (Mar., 1860) in these states, which voted for union with Sardinia. In return for recognizing these plebiscites, Napoleon received Savoy and Nice. The spectacular conquest of the Two Sicilies (1860) by Giuseppe Garibaldi was followed by Sardinia's annexation of Umbria and the Marches. After the Two Sicilies had voted for union with Sardinia, the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in Mar., 1861.
The remaining territorial objectives of the Risorgimento were Venetia, still in Austria's possession, and Rome and Latium, which the pope was able to retain because of French protection. Through its alliance with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Italy obtained Venetia. Italy seized the remainder of the papal possessions in 1870 when France withdrew its troops during the Franco-Prussian War. Italian unification was then complete, but unsatisfied nationalism continued to exist in the form of irredentism.
See D. M. Smith, Victor Emanuel, Cavour, and the Risorgimento (1971); C. M. Lovett, Carlo Cattaneo and the Politics of the Risorgimento (1972), and the several works on the subject by G. M. Trevelyan.