Italian Unification Process

Unification processes of Germany and Italy during the second half of the nineteenth century

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Cavour and Bismarck

the theoretical explanations of unification process

Ernest Gellner

Eric Habsbawm

Benedict Anderson

Explanation of nationalism in Italy and Germany

The role of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Converging interests of Cavour & Bismarck: From Austria-Prussian War 1866 to Franco-Prussian War 1970

The unification process of both Germany and Italy assumes fundamental importance in the European history. Both the nations struggled hard to attain the unification in the latter half of nineteenth century. Both Italy and Germany had many different states that unified to form a common federation. The culture and language also created an impact on the lives of people in an identical way. The process was lengthy and painful as much of the struggle for the unification process was led in the secret societies of both these countries. Kingdom of Sardinia pursued the process in Italy whereas it was for Kingdom of Prussia in Germany to follow the oath of unification. The nations, Italy and Germany fought battles vehemently against the foreign power to liberate their cities and towns from foreign occupation. There however remained significant influence of foreign power in the domestic matters of both Germany and Italy. Whereas France and Great Britain supported the unification of one (Italy), these power opposed the unification of Germany on contradictory grounds. The battle between philosophies had already reached the shores of Italy and Germany hereby both the countries were trying hard to save the old order that favored their established administrations.

The Kingdom of Sarnia fought battle with Austria to maintain their independence but later Germany also fought the Prussian armies and France in its quest for the independence. Some stark differences in both the unification processes also indicate the inherent differences that existed within both states. Italy became a unified state and one unitary federation before Germany. The German state unified under the agreement that all the constituting states shall maintain their existence and King of Prussia as the emperor of unified state. It was only in the first half of the 20th century that Germany was made a unitary state. The Napoleonic Wars impacted the unification process of both the states and it was after the death and destruction of Napoleonic wars that concerned quarters of Italy and Germany wished for a unified state that can be saved from the foreign aggression. While the Congress of Vienna played an important role in the unification process, there was significant nature of forces that impacted the expedition of process.

The paper will investigate the major similarities and contrasts of unification process of both Italy and Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century. Theoretical approaches to the unification process will also be described. The theories presented by renowned theorists such as Ernest Gellner, Eric Habsbawm, and Benedict Anderson will also are made part of the paper in order to comprehensively describe the unification process and to draw the comparison with each other.

The paper will then investigate the role played by Camillo Benso di Cavour, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Otto von Bismarck, Cavour’s and Pietmonts within the process of unification of Italy. The comparison of this process will be made with the German unification process along with the theoretical explanation. The conclusion will be reported in the last section of the paper whereby it will be determined whether or not Cavour was an Italian Bismarck.

2- Unification processes of Germany and Italy during the second half of the nineteenth century

The German Empire and the Kingdom of Italy both were significantly influenced by the role of Cavour (Camillo Benso, Conte di Cavour).Cavour as a leader played a vital role to unify Italy. Born in Turin, Piedmont, Sardinia Kingdom, Cavour was born in 1810 and joined engineering battalion of armed service. Starting his professional career as lieutenant in engineering division of Sardinian Army, Cavour developed resentment for Charles Albert, the throne heir of Kingdom of Sardinia. Cavour also developed anti-cleric views and did not want clergy to have significant role in country’s politics. This compelled the young Cavour to resign from the army in 1831.

The era was the start of steam engines and rails. The mechanistic advantages of science had also started benefiting the agriculturists. Being an agriculturist, Cavour pursued his career in politics and positioned himself as an admirer of constitutional monarchy rather than absolute monarchy or republicanism. The events of France during the same period of 1830s helped Cavour understand the underlying conflicts in Italy as well. It was through the publishing of ‘Il Risorgimento’, an Italian newspaper advocating liberal constitutional reforms in Italy. Since Pope that took charge in 1846 distanced himself of the conservatives and extremist devout Catholics, Cavour found it easy to strive for a unified, nationalist, and constitutional monarchy in Italy.[footnoteRef:2] [2: Dincecco, Mark, Giovanni Federico, and Andrea Vindigni. “Warfare, taxation, and political change: Evidence from the Italian Risorgimento.” (Journal of Economic History, 2011). ]

It was thus in late 1840s that Cavour pushed for the constitutional reforms for abandoning absolute monarchy and establishment of constitutional monarchy. The Western Europe was passing through a phase of revolutions when in late 1840s; the influence of Cavour through his liberalist newspaper was increasing by each day.[footnoteRef:3] After Milan revolted against the Austrian empire in 1848, Cavour advised Charles Albert to defend the people of Milan against Austrian army by sending in the Sardinian Army. It was at this point of time in history that Cavour actively engaged himself in politics and decided to run for Sardinian chamber of deputies. His travels to England and France were fuelled by the passion to unite Piedmont through all the forces of Italy and be placed as the head of unification movement. Other territories of Italian peninsula were also proposed to be drawn into the Piedmont. [3: Dal Lago, Enrico. “Lincoln, Cavour, and National Unification: American Republicanism and Italian Liberal Nationalism in Comparative Perspective.” (the Journal of the Civil War Era, 2013). ]

The importance of Cavour’s central role in unification of Italy is also verified by the fact that he continued to push for the unification agenda while being the prime minister in 1852. He got Italy entered into the Crimean War (1854-56) in support of the English and French on the condition that the issue if Italian Peninsula will be addressed on preferential basis in the peace talks. The estrangement of Tsarist Russia and Austria was successfully exploited by Cavour as he hoped to redefine the problem of Italian Peninsula. The assumption of power by Louis Napoleon in France after King Louis Phillippe also helped further the aim of liberalization of Italy along with Italy’s establishment on a ‘unified nationalist’ framework. Thus, it was Cavour, who in the pursuit of liberalist and unionist objectives, helped unify Italy and without Cavour the process would not been successful.[footnoteRef:4] [4: Carter, Nick. “Nation, nationality, nationalism and internationalism in Italy, from Cavour to Mussolini.” (the Historical Journal, 1996). ]

3- Cavour and Bismarck

Both Cavour and Bismarck used Machiavellian tactics to gain power and unify the states that were controlled by them. Power politics were the main aim with gaining strength and control of each state under their rule was achieved through brokering power deals. Before the decades of 1960 and 1970, both Italy and Germany were territories that occupied clear geographical boundaries. While Germany constituted of forty states being independent of each other, Prussia and Austria did compete to gain influence in Germany. Since Napoleon had inflicted causalities both in Italy and Germany, both the states were passing from a wave of nationalism whereby the citizens felt disgraced by the devastation caused by continuous fighting. Some of the striking differences that were present in Cavour and Bismarck of Germany are summed up in the table below.

Cavour of Italy

Bismarck of Germany

Encourage democracy

Abolished democracy

Replaced absolute monarchy with constitutional monarchy

Replaced parliamentary democracy with weak constitutional monarchy

Used diplomatic and military means to gain the unified Italy.

Relied on military tactics only for expansion of territories.

Whereas one leader used democracy to strengthen the national fabric, the other dismantled it. Cavour during his stint as prime minister the Kingdom of Sardinia was strengthening the sole unified state of Italy. By transforming the Kingdom of Sardinia from being absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, Cavour placed the seed of liberalist movement in the country. By investing heavily in the infrastructural development of the country, Cavour courted the common men for enabling the liberalist ideology and limiting the role of church in the Italian politics. While Cavour was sharp to gain the ‘war’ as a tactic for expanding and unifying Italy, he was also quick in making smooth moves in the diplomatic circles as well. Before the war with Austria broke out in 1859, there remains considerable concern regarding the role of Cavour in instigating the 1959 Austrian war. The concerns were legitimized when in 1959; the Italian leader Cavour secured the consent of Napoleon III regarding war with Austria (Kellogg, 181-182).[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 governed them, beyond what was immediately required for maintaining their citizenship. Thus, political aspect of affiliation also did not provide the complete answer to the tide of nationalism that Europe underwent in the late nineteenth century.[footnoteRef:12] [12: Ibid. ]

It can be stated that Habsbawm’s explanations is true in case of the unification and nationalism wave of Germany and Italy. More than how people and groups of people identified and affiliated with other beyond family and town aspects, it were the political reasons and affiliations that enabled the creation and consolation of nation states. Further explanations of Habsbawm that it is the elite section of the society that is more associated to the nationalist agenda than is the under-privileged class. Cavour and Bismarck were both from the elite groups of their societies and their motivation to unify Italy and Germany respectively was more concentrated in political maneuvering and undermining the established systems. Cavour underlined the monarchy and church while furthering the liberalist ideas whereas Bismarck abolished the parliamentary democracy, only to further the agenda of monarchy and expansion in national territories.

The unique approach adopted by the researchers to investigate the theoretical foundations of Italian unification might to called simplistic and not rooted in the true sense of circumstances that prevailed in the Europe of nineteenth century, since the analysis by theorists such as Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson is only done after the incidents of nationalism, there still are valuable explanation provided in the writings of these scholars that foretell the theoretical foundation of today’s nationalist movements. The following explanations is of the theoretical basis being provided by Benedict Anderson regarding the wave of nationalism and how it got hold of Italy and other states in the Europe during late nineteenth century.

Benedict Anderson

Anderson also researched the origins of nationalism and how it grasped the nineteenth century era where most of the nation states came in to being in Western and Eastern Europe. Anderson asserted that people rally for the nationalist causes despite nationhood being an imagination since large number of people do not meet each other or come to know the other societal members despite being in a geographical communion. Anderson also observes that nation states were conceived as method to undermine the appeal and authority of traditionally dominant classes, whereby clergy assumed most of the power.[footnoteRef:13] [13: Anderson, Benedict. Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. (Verso Books, 2006). ]

Anderson also asserts that rather than awakening the nations, nationalism provokes nationalist sentiments where they actually do not exist in reality. It is the imagined communion that entices people for the cause of nation states. The author asserts that people are willing to put colossal sacrifices for the cause of being formed as a nation. The nationhood is being argued as more of an imaginative idea that compels people to come at war with each other. The explanation is evident is case of Germany and Italy whereby people lived side-by-side for centuries without having to conceive themselves as the nationalists. They were not required to form communion based on national boundaries, the boundaries according to Anderson that did not exist. The ideas of social justice and equality were furthered without the meanings of such expressions been applied in their true since. The work of Anderson is being frequently cited by feminist authors[footnoteRef:14]and researchers trying to investigate the comparative development in colonial eras.[footnoteRef:15] [14: Young, Iris Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference (New in Paper). (Princeton University Press, 2011). ] [15: Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson, and James a. Robinson. The colonial origins of comparative development: An empirical investigation. No. w7771. (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2000). ]

Explanation of nationalism in Italy and Germany

The three researchers i.e. Ernest Gellner, Eric Habsbawm, and Benedict Anderson tried to explain the rise of nationalism as a parallel agenda to the imperialist and colonial agenda. The researchers greatly described how nationalist agendas were not always rooted in the plain facts and leanings shown by the elite groups that have led the nationalist movements. Nor does the simple explanation that masses affiliated with the nationalism wave could be held true to explain the spectacular rise of nation states as a parallel and challenging concept to the traditional form of governments.

Both the governments and the political affiliations are held in more responsibility for the development of the nation states rather than the ordinary people. Nonetheless, it can be viewed that masses have faced colossal losses of life and property for the cause of nationalism and mere ‘imagination’ might not be the ultimate explanation that suffices the account of nationality movements. The fall of kingdoms and monarchies and the rise of small and independent states might be rooted in the evolution of human thought.

Whereby each actor of the political history of Italy and Germany in the late nineteenth century did play treacherous part, in one context or another, there were significantly uncontrollable forces that enabled the unification. Political maneuverings of Bismarck and Cavour might be the overwhelming cause of unification of both Germany and Italy. The accounts of both of these ‘fathers’ of unified lands do provide some insights into the process that both adopted. While one adopted the democratic way, other pursued an equally opposite course (Bismarck abolished the democracy by first weakening it and then substituting it with weak constitutional monarchy) to establish the nation states, Italy and Germany respectively.

The role of Giuseppe Garibaldi

The role Giuseppe Garibaldi is also central in commanding the unification of Italy in 1861. There were many political and military events that shaped the unification of Italy. The role of Giuseppe Garibaldi is this happening is second only to the efforts of Cavour. Born in Nice, France in the year 1807, Garibaldi was the leading military comrade of Mazzini’s movement in 1833. By initiating his career with a spectacular failure in which seizing of a warship was foiled, Garibaldi spent nearly 12 years in exile. While being the southern part of America but returned to Italy in 1848 to take part in the Italian independence known as ‘Risorgimento’. By serving the King of Sardinia, Garibaldi became well-known in the political quarters of Italy and the Kingdom of Sardinia.[footnoteRef:16] [16: Riall, L. The Italian Risorgimento: state, society, and national unification. (Routledge, 1994). ]

General Garibaldi as is he famously known personally led many wars before the unification of Italy took place in 1961. General Garibaldi also tried to perform his part under the legitimacy granted by Victor Emmanuel II. Being self-motivated for the freedom of Italian states and confederation into an Italian nationhood, he personally led to take active part in the battles that enabled the unification of Italy. Garibaldi campaign in 1860 granted him the island successfully despite being faced with a bigger enemy force. The general defeated the Napoleon forces. Garibaldi also conquered Sicily and this was met with skepticism by the King and Cavour. Both viewed the actions of Garibaldi as being detrimental to the interests of Kingdom of Sardinia and set up an insular government on provisional basis. He called himself the dictator of Sicily. Despite winning over Naples, Garibaldi led the situation according to the wishes of Victor Emmanuel of Italy.[footnoteRef:17] [17: Chambers, Osborne William. Garibaldi and Italian unity. (Smith, Elder, 1864).]

Garibaldi also conquered Umbria and Marches from the papal government. This significantly set the stage for the unification of Italy. The annexation of Rome was what Italy achieved through siding with Prussia in war with the Austrians. It was in 1870 that Rome was to become the capital of Italy as the city voted in unifying with Italy.

It was for the timely decision ofGaribaldi that the southern states of Italy that he conquered were unified with Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and Victor Emmanuel II was accepted as the king of Piedmont-Sardinia also as the king of southern states of Italy. Whereas Cavour as the statesman of Kingdom of Piedmont was responsible of political maneuvering to further his desire of Italian unification, the role of Garibaldi to heroically conquer the southern states of Sicily and Naples were also significant incidents of history. The Europe at the time was marred by the power struggle between different states, Prussia, Austria, France, and Germany.

There was another element of Garibaldi’s personality that did not let him compete with Cavour in claiming the influence over newly formed Italy; Garibaldi did not intend to serve an end other than the unification of Italy and abolition of papal system. Cavour was also destined for the same aspirations but went beyond that as well; his was a political goal that established more goals as the minor ones were achieved. Cavour as the political spearhead of unification of Italy was far more politically cultured as compared to Bismarck of Germany.[footnoteRef:18]the development of volunteers wearing red shirts, the success of Garibaldi can be largely attributed to the volunteers that helped him gain his territories that were otherwise impossible with smaller armies. [18: Campanella, Anthony P. Giuseppe Garibaldi and tradition. (Committee of the International Studies Garibaldi, 1971).]

Role of Piedmont in unification

Piedmont is one of the main regions of Italy and has always commanded authority in terms of unification of Italy and other political as well as military matters. In fact it was Piedmont under which Italy got unified and the role of Victor Emmanuel II and Camillo Benso di Cavour was central. Being a conglomeration of states independent of each other, Italy’s unification was never an easy task since there were many interventions, both on political and military front. Further there were divides among the affiliations of citizens as well, more thought of themselves as Sicilians or Venetians. It was for the effective political maneuverings of Cavour and Victor Emmanuel that Italy was perceived as a unified state. It was here in Piedmont that both these characters of Italian unification adjusted Garibaldi’s conquered states as well in the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.[footnoteRef:19]the role of Piedmont in the unification of Italy can also be evidenced from the power it commanded in the four regions in which Italy was being divided prior to the unification. [19: Cronin, Bruce. “From balance to community: Transnational identity and political integration.” (Security Studies, 1998). ]

1- North West- Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia

Ruler-Victor Emmanuel II through Prime minister Count Cavour

2- North East- Italian provinces dominated by Austria

3- Center- Rome and other states

Ruled by Pope, also called the Papal States

4- South- Kingdom of Sicily, Naples and other southern states

Prior to Garibaldi’s rule as dictator who later joined these states with Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, these states were independent Kingdoms

Before the unification, Piedmont commanded a legitimate authority as there was more constitutional set up. As discussed in previous section, Southern States were also joined in Piedmont that enhanced the leverage of Piedmont upon other regions in the divisiveness of unification process. The early stages of Risorgimento also represent that Piedmont became advantageous in the unification process, through the political tactics of Cavour. Lombardy became part of Piedmont after France and Piedmont jointly fought the Austrians, thus eliminating Lombardy from Austrian control. After the increase of Piedmonts territorial gains, the states that were left stranded between Rome and Piedmont decided to join Piedmont, thus further strengthening it in the cause of championing unified Italy. Rome was the significant state left to be conquered. Thus, the real politick of Cavour and the legitimacy of Victor Emmanuel II, aided by the military gains of Garibaldi provided the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia the leadership of unified Italy. The Franco-Prussian war was the last war that resulted in Rome becoming the headquarters of Italian state.[footnoteRef:20] [20: Duiker, William J., and Jackson J. Spielvogel. World History: Since 1500. Vol. 2. (Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2012).]

Converging interests of Cavour & Bismarck: From Austria-Prussian War 1866 to Franco-Prussian War 1970

The historical accounts of both Camillo Benso di Cavour and Otto von Bismarck indicate that there was much common in the aims of both these fathers of their nations but divergence as well, in the process that adopted by them. It can be stated that in the last phase of Italian unification, the interests of both Italy and Germany had converged. There remain striking differences in the approaches adopted by Bismarck and Cavour but similarities as well, regarding the outcome each wanted to achieve for his own country.[footnoteRef:21][footnoteRef:22]Prior to the Franc-Prussian War, Bismarck had put forthHohenzollern as the throne heir of Spain. Being wary of increasing Prussian influence, the King of France objected and at a later staged episode of ‘Ems Dispatch’, Bismarck edited the words of King Wilhelm I of Prussia and Count Vincent Benedetti, the French ambassador to suit his (Biasmarck’s) well thought out plan, a war between Prussia and France. Thus, Franco-Prussian War in 1970 proved to be an event of ‘convergence of mutual interests’ for both Italy and Germany. During the Austrian-Prussia war, the Italians were promised the city of Venetia by Bismarck. Austria stretched its army too thin to fight both Prussia and Italy, thus having defeated to both of them. When Franco-Prussia war broke out, the French withdrew forces from Rome that helped Italy to gain Rome as her headquarter. Thus the period between the Austria-Prussian war in 1866 and Franco-Prussian War in 1970 was marked by the convergence of interests of both Cavour and Bismarck who helped each other. The implicit and explicit support that was provided to each other was for a common goal, each striving for the unification of his country on nationalist lines. Machiavellian politics and military adventures were the tools of the unification process. [21: Ziblatt, Daniel. “Rethinking the origins of federalism: puzzle, theory, and evidence from nineteenth-century Europe.” (World Politics, 2004).] [22: Mattli, Walter. “Ernst Haas’s evolving thinking on comparative regional integration: of virtues and infelicities.” (Journal of European Public Policy, 2005).]


During the second half of nineteenth century, nationalism swept the map of Europe into different nation states. There were many politicians, intelligentsia people, and military commanders that helped facilitate the wave of nationalist ideologies. While several kings were dethroned and the imperialist powers saw a decline in their hegemony over their subjects, there were some theorists that discoursed to explain the process of nationalism in Europe during the nineteenth century. Ernest Gellner, Eric Habsbawm, and Benedict Anderson were the leading scholars that endeavored to map the underlying phenomenon responsible for acceptance of nation state as an alternate to traditional territorial Kingships and empires. Gellner described the rise of nationalism not as a unification process but one of ‘disintegrative’ nature. The disintegration was from the existing power and territorial structure. He also classified that privileged and non-privileged classes of European territories saw gains for themselves in the nationalist movements, each for different reason. On the other hand Habsbawm identified the theoretical notions of ‘supra local bonds and political bonds that enable nation states to come into being. He regarded political bonds as being more dominant as compared to supra local bonds. Anderson presented the concepts of ‘imagined communities’ that enabled nationalist ideas to prevail. These researchers explained the impact of ‘industrialization’ differently, to have impacted the nationalist movements.

Despite the complex theoretical explanations of researchers, Italy’s unification had two leading characters, that of Camillo Benso di Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi. The former performed the role of ‘politicking’ by remaining the Prime minister of Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and the latter by conquering important southern states of Italy i.e. Sicily and Naples and then joining them into the Kingdom of Piedmont. It was for Victor Emmanuel II to head the legitimate kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia to unify Italy under the execution of Cavour. On the parallel, Otto von Bismarck of Germany also enabled the unification of Germany through political maneuverings and wars. Whereas Cavour of Italy furthered democracy and rule of law in his country, Bismarck uprooted the existing parliamentary democracy. Both men, Cavour and Bismarck played vital role in unifying Italy in 1866 and Germany in 1871 respectively. Whist Cavour was gentle and shrewd in the conduct of state affairs; Bismarck was Machiavellian and deceitful in the conduct of state affairs. The ‘Ems Dispatch’ is a clear indication of the striking difference between the characters of both men. Cavour could not have executed such direct and deceitful strategy to draw Prussia into war, Bismarck never hesitated from it. Thus, plethora of literature and a comprehensive analysis of Cavour and Bismarck indicate that Cavour was not an Italian Bismarck.


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