Italian Unification Process Unification Processes Research Paper

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[footnoteRef:5] Although Cavour could not pursue Napoleon III to continue war with Austria due to Napoleon III facing pressure domestically and abroad, there were long-term gains made by him. Kingdom of Piedmont was recognized by many world powers. Pope's power along with hat of Austrians was significantly reduced after wars in 1950s and 60s. Nonetheless, it was due to the valor of Giuseppe Garibaldi that enabled the unification to be complete after succeeding Sicily from Bourbon rulers.[footnoteRef:6] Naples was also conquered by Giuseppe Garibaldi after succeeding in capturing Sicily. The former Kingdoms of Sicily along with the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia got united in 1861 and Cavour enabled the ascension of Victor Emmanuel II as the King of Italy. [5: Kellogg, William O. Barron's AP United States History. (Barrons Educational Series Incorporated, 2010).] [6: Davis, John Anthony, ed. Italy in the nineteenth century: 1796-1900. (Oxford University Press, 2000). ]

On the other hand, if analyzed carefully, Bismarck of Germany relied more on 'hard power' than on the 'soft power' of diplomacy and power brokering. After appointed by King Wilhelm I as the leader of crisis time when the German parliament resisted further military expansions. Having assumed the charge, Bismarck abolished the parliamentary system and democracy was defeated by the Bismarck.

Junkers of Prussia were strong and got even stronger after Bismarck assumed the power. The war against Denmark instigated by Bismarck was also aimed at further consolidating the armed strength of Germany and catalyzing the unification process. Bismarck also joined hands with Austria to defeat Denmark. The German Confederation was dissolved by Bismarck and he established a constitutional monarchy, a weak one though, to rule it through the King of Prussia. By using the trump card that a German could not ascent to a Spanish throne, Bismarck instigate France into the war. After the Ems Dispatch, a political drama played by the elements encouraged by Bismarck ended in France being defeated in war with Prussia. The scattered German states got unified under the leadership of Bismarck and in unison with northern confederation of Germany.

The contrasting elements of German and Italian unification are that the leaders of both nations achieved similar results but with varying degree of success and implications. Cavour used diplomacy and parliamentary tactics, coupled with war mongering to achieve greater success. Bismarck rolled back the democratic institutions of his country and led the country into wars. Both Cavour and Bismarck used war and deception as means to further the agenda of unification of their countries. The ultimate aim that both Bismarck and Cavour achieved was the unification of countries. They led their countries in wars, peace, and progress, as well as turmoil in the face of death and destruction coming from the wars.

4- the theoretical explanations of unification process

Ernest Gellner

The sections above describe how Cavour and Otto von Bismarck unified their respective states and led their countries into war and peace time to achieve this end. Although, the personalities and their social as well as their cultural leanings did impact the unification process of Italy and Germany, Ernest Gellner has some theoretical explanations regarding nationalism and how nations are developed despite having differing religions and cultures. Nationalism has been described as the separation from existing geographic structure and forming new ones[footnoteRef:7]. This has been further explained by Gellner as a conflicting state whereby the dominating groups often push for nationalist agendas to further their hold on to the economic resources including the education and languages. [7: Gellner, Ernest, and John Breuilly. Nations and nationalism. (Cornell University Press, 2008).]

Same is true for the disadvantages groups who push for 'nationalization' in the hope that their own language, culture, or job security will be granted through the nationalist divisions. Thus, an alliance is formed between the developed classes or the elites and the proletariats (the disadvantaged classes of a society) to further the agenda of nationalism. Gellner argues that such an alliance is usually broken after the successful achievement of nationalist agenda[footnoteRef:8]. This is seen when Italy was Germany was unified by Bismarck through the help of general population on the back of nationalist agenda whenever wars broke out with Prussia but once unified, there started a rift between the privileged and non-privileged classes. [8: Ibid. ]

Gellner also observed that certain prerequisites do catalyze the formation of new nations. Some of these include common language, common religion, or territorial commonality. In case of the unification of Italy, it is observed that such characteristics were present as the Italian states shared the culture and language but were separate entities before their unification with each other. Cavour and Bismarck did belong from the privileged class but they pushed for the popular agenda that united their respective states. Another aspect is that Gellner mentions is that nationalism is usually accompanied by industrialization;[footnoteRef:9] this phenomenon can be significantly experienced in case of Italy where Cavour did use the process of industrialization to further reduce the impact of Church on the lives of people. [9: Ibid. ]

The instances of France and Islamic civilizations are quoted as a proof that not always does industrialization appeals the ruling elites and masses alike. France, it is argued, did without the industrialization to achieve a nation state and Islam is also self-sufficient is replaces the nationalist paradigm, whereby Islamic states align themselves to the religious agenda rather than fluid geographic realities. Gellner also devised a typology for nationalism and divided the nations into three distinct types. These were:


Classical Western Liberal


Having a close look at the unified Italy under Cavour, it can be stated that Italy represented the Classical Western Liberal nationalist culture whereby the liberalist ideas were forcefully pushed by Cavour. This was to the advantage of both the privileged as well as the dis-privileged classes.

The theoretical frameworks presented by Gellner depict that there were other than nationalist reasons that formed the basis of nationalism in late half of nineteenth century in the Europe. There was a resistance to the imperialism and people were getting averse to the idea of being ruled by other imperial ethnicities. Thus, the typology developed by Gellner, though does not strictly places Italy or Germany in one or another type of nation type, there are cues regarding Italy being the classical Western liberal nation under Cavour.

Other researchers have also tried to elaborate how nationalism firmed its roots in privileged and non-privileged classes alike. With millions from the commoner to the best of elitist minds, nationalism did provide an answer to the individual and collectivist agendas of nineteenth century Europe. Eric Habsbawm is also amongst such researchers that described the phenomenon of nationalism and how existing states and dynasties disintegrated to form new nations and nationalities.

Eric Habsbawm

Habsbawm identified two main aspects that gave rise to the nation states and the strong success that the idea of being separated as nations within a regions got hold of in the nineteenth century Europe. These two main elements of nationalism as identified by Habsbawm were:

Form of group identification

Governments, and how they used nationalist agendas to strengthen their control in specific regions[footnoteRef:10] [10: Hobsbawm, Eric J. Nations and nationalism since 1780: Programme, myth, reality. (Cambridge University Press, 2012).]

The aspect of 'proto nationalism' has been significantly described by Habsbawm and the author describes how people at grass roots affiliate with each other. The two levels of proto nationalism that have been identified by Habsbawm are:

Supra-Local Bonds

Political Bonds

The supra local bonds are defined as those bonds that are cross beyond most of the aspects of peoples' lives and involve families, groups, socially construed groups, and towns. The other bond that people form and affiliate accordingly is the political bonds. The state institutions and the state bodies are included in this bond. Habsbawm defined language as the most compelling bond only after that people are conjoined in form of a nation state.

Ethnicity and religion are two other elements of group identification that people have in common. In context of Italian unification by Cavour, it is evident that despite being unified, Italy did not speak Italian as the language of all. People used to speak different languages and with different dialects, it was not until the television's widespread presence that Italian became the common language of Italian states, although it was official since the unification days.[footnoteRef:11] [11: Ibid. ]

The large part of argument drawn by Habsbawmis that popular proto-nationalism was not the basis of nationalism that drove Italy and Germany into unification. In fact the author is more inclined to believe that it was the political bond that influenced more the masses as well as the elites. But the inspiration of political affiliation and political leaning was also acquired from the modern states of England, France, and Spain whereby according to Habsbawm, the political link was also limited to the elites. The masses did not feel much connected to the political setup, the institutions that…

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