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RISORGIMENTO: Nineteenth century movement for Italian unification inspired by the realities of the new economic and political forces at work after 1815, the liberal and nationalist ideologies spawned by the French Revolution of 1789, and the ideas of eighteenth century Italian reformers and illuministi. The Risorgimento had two distinct phases: the first, idealistic, romantic, revolutionary began in 1815 and climaxed in the revolutions of 1848-49; the second, pragmatic, diplomatic, practical during the 1850s culminated in the creation of a united Italian kingdom by 1861. The Risorgimento had a two-fold si gnificance. As a manifestation of the nationalism sweeping over Europe during the nineteenth century, the Risorgimento aimed to unite Italy under one flag and one government. For many Italians, however, Risorgimento meant more than political unity. It described a movement for the renewal of Italian society and people beyond purely political aims. Among Italian patriots the common denominator was a desire for freedom from foreign control, liberalism, and constitutionalism. They agreed on the need for unity among the various states and for constitutional guarantees of personal liberty and rights. They disagreed, however, on whether such unity should be under a confederation or a centralized form of government. There was further disagreement on whether a united Italy should be a republic or a monarchy. It was on these issues that endeavors to mesh the revolutionary initiatives of 1848-49 foundered. Radicals distrusted moderates, unitarians and federalists disagreed, republicans condemned monarchists. Such distrust and disagreement undermined attempts to create an Italian Legion, or common army, to agree on a preliminary constitution applicable to all parts of Italy, and above all to present a united front against their common enemies, embodied in the Austrian armies under Marshal Radetzky. The biennium 1848-1849 marked the apex of the revolutionary, idealistic movement with the initial participation of all factions and popular support from all classes. From Sicily, where the first European revolution of those years broke out in January 1848, to the northern states of Piedmont-Sardinia, Lombardy, and Venetia, people took to the streets against their rulers, be they Austrians or native rulers. Everywhere, Italians joined in what they felt to be truly their Risorgimento. But ideological and dynastic rivalries and divisions prevented a united effort. The Neapolitan king Ferdinand II and Pope Pius IX withdrew their support from the common war against Austria. Consequently, plans for an Italian League and army collapsed. The revolutionary republics established in central Italy and Venice fought their battles alone after the army of Charles Albert, King of Piedmont-Sardinia, was twice defeated by the redoubtable Austrian commander Marshall Radetzky (1766-1858). By summer 1849 Italian insurgency had collapsed. In July, despite stubborn resistance, the Roman Republic fell to French forces sent to restore the pope to his See. In August, Venice under Daniele Manin (1804-1857) finally capitulated to Radetzky. The heroic, revolutionary phase of the Risorgimento was over. Its legacy and its lessons, however, paved the way for the cautious deliberate diplomacy of Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861), prime minister of Piedmont-Sardinia after 1852. Cavour used the threat of potential revolutionary resurgence to persuade conservative opinion that an Italy united under the House of Savoy, the dynasty of Piedmont-Sardinia, would be a force for stability. The only Italian state with a constitution and an elected parliament after 1849, Piedmont-Sardinia exerted a powerful attraction for the large majority of Italian nationalists who accepted its leadership. A new consensus emerged among all nationalist elements, except for Mazzini's followers and other democrats who continued to believe in popular revolution. By 1859 Cavour, assured of French military support in a war against Austria and secure of the support of the Italian National Society, a coalition of non-Mazzinian nationalists, provoked the conflict. As a result, Austria was forced to cede Lombardy to Piedmont-Sardinia. A series of upheavals in the states of central Italy overturned the rulers and a successful campaign in southern Italy by Garibaldi and his Thousand unseated the Bourbons. Thus on March 12, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in Turin (capital of Piedmont-Sardinia) by a parliament in which sat elected representatives from all parts of Italy, except Venetia which remained under Austrian rule until 1866 and the city of Rome under papal control until 1870. By 1870 the aims of the political Risorgimento had been achieved, but many Italians, among them Mazzini and his followers, still sought the true Risorgimento, or rebirth of the Italian people.
Emiliana P. Noether


Giorgio Candeloro. Storia dell'Italia moderna. (2d ed., Milan, 1966), vols 1-4.

Franco Della Peruta. Democrazia e socialismo nel Risorgimento. (Rome, 1964).

Antonio Gramsci. Il Risorgimento. (Turin, 1949).

Raymond Grew. A Sterner Plan for Italian Unity. The Italian National Society in the Risorgimento. (Princeton, 1963).

Rosario Romeo. Dal Piemonte sabaudo all'Italia liberale. (Bari, 1963).

A. William Salomone, "The Risorgimento between Ideology and History: The Political Myth of Rivoluzione mancata," American Historical Review, 68 (1962), 38-56.

Luigi Salvatorelli. The Risorgimento: Thought and Action. (New York, 1970).

Luigi Salvatorelli. Prima e dopo il Quarantotto (Turin, 1948).

Stuart J. Woolf. The Italian Risorgimento (New York, 1969).

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