The program of Italian Catholic liberals during the risorgimento who stressed the relation between the Church and civilization and led the reform-unification movement from 1843 to 1848. Some Italians used the term Neo-Guelfism in derision, but its followers accepted it. These opponents, the Neo-Ghibellines, thought the temporal power of the papacy a hindrance to Italian unification. They were fewer in number and less noted than the Neo-Guelfs, whose ranks included such scholars and writers as Balbo, Capponi, Manzoni, tosti, and Carlo Troya.
The leading Neo-Guelf was Vincenzo gioberti. In his most famous book, Del Primato Morale e Civile degli Italiani (1843), he reminded his countrymen of their former greatness, proposed liberal reforms, and a unification plan that envisioned a federation of the independent states of the peninsula with the pope as president and the king of Sardinia as military defender. The book was popular and influential. It appealed to moderates who disapproved of Mazzini. The book also inspired Balbo to write Le Speranze d'Italia. The future pius ix discussed both books with friends. Soon after his elevation to the papacy (1846), he began a series of reforms in the states of the church that attracted much attention, and helped the progress of reform in other Italian states.
The effectiveness of Neo-Guelfism quickly subsided after the revolution of 1848, and very little interest was shown thereafter in federation. Even in 1843 not all Neo-Guelfs accepted Gioberti's main notion of the pope as president of Italy. Balbo and others preferred Charles Albert as king. When Pius IX proposed a customs union and a federation with Tuscany and Piedmont, Charles Albert proposed a defensive league, which conflicted with the Pope's position as a spiritual leader. After the decline of Neo-Guelfism, Italians turned to the leadership of Piedmont for the unification of Italy.
Bibliography: g. f. h. and j. berkeley, Italy in the Making, 3 v. (Cambridge, Eng. 1932–40). b. croce, History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century, tr. h. furst (New York 1933); Storia della storiografia italiana nel secolo decimonono, 2 v. (3d rev. ed., Bari 1947) v.1.
[m. l. shay]