Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nationalism and the Creation of Italy

Nationalism is the belief that people who share a common culture, experience, religion, or language can be bound together under one government. I am interested in listening and reading the news stories about our nation, its politics, its economics, its role in history. Sometimes I react with feelings of pride or sometimes shame since I have a connection with the United States. My peers, family members and I also discuss the history of our nation and its future. We participate in national holidays and commemorations since War Memorials are located near my house and church. Also, when my relatives from overseas visit I expound on the differences between our cultures.

I can understand through my experiences that other countries have nationalistic pride and ahistory of shared experiences. Italy in the mid-1800's was not a unified nation with a common language or local ruler, but they were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nationalism stirred up feelings within the middle class all througout Europe a distaste for being ruled by people who did not share their culture and language. In 1848 rebellions sprang up in eight Italian states on the mainland. They were hoping to gain some democracy, social justice and peace for themselves and not to be pawns in someone else's empire. The rebellions failed, but Piedmont-Sardinia, the largest kingdom, adopted a liberal constitution which opened the door to unification of Italy into a single nation.

Italy was separated into several city states before it was unified, but it was ultimately ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There were many other ethnic peoples in the Empire: Hungarians, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Poles and Serbs, besides the Italians. The people were loyal to their local leader/king/prince. These leaders took their cues from the Austro-Hungarians and the Italians were made to fight empire's battles and support them with their goods and money. Sardinia's King Victor Emmanuel II's prime minister, Count Camillo di Cavour, used alliances with France to bring about a war that made Austria give up Lombardy in the north to Piedmont-Sardinia. Then Giuseppe Garibaldi, head of the Red Shirts (an army of nationalists), fought from Sicily north to Naples winning victories and finally handing all the south over to King Victor Emmanuel II. In 1866 the Prussians won victory over Austria. The last northern region of Venetia joined the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in 1870. Finally the Papal States were annexed as well. Rome became the capital city of unified Italy, allowing the Papal State a small portion called Vatican City.

Basically war and diplomacy brought the country together even though it started with the ambitions of Count Cavour enlarging Piedmont-Sardinia's territories. Even after unification they didn't have a common language, were politically unstable with policies that were not clearly defined, experienced poverty and revolts among workers in the north and south; yet they struggled to continue into the 1900's and today.

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