Describe the unification of italy

In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed king of united Italy. 

Italy – Before its Unification

  • Italy faced political fragmentation over its long history.
  • There was the multinational Habsburg Empire and several dynastic states scattered all over.
  • Italy was divided into seven states over the middle of the 19th century.
  • Out of seven states only one state was ruled by Italian princely house i.e. Sardinia-Piedmont.
  • Centre was ruled by the Pope, Austrian Hasburgs controlled the North, and the Bourbon kings of Spain dominated the Southern regions.
  • Italian language also had many local and regional variations.

Unification of Italy

  • Giuseppe Mazzini wanted to put a programme to unify Italy in the 1830’s. To spread his goals a secret society called Young Italy was formed.
  • The responsibility of unifying Italy through war fell on the ruler King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont, after the failure of revolutionary uprising in 1831 and 1848.
  • The ruling elite thought that they would get political dominance and economic development after unification of Italy.
  • The Austrian forces were defeated in 1859 by Sardinia-Piedmont, after a diplomatic alliance was made with the French, by Chief Minister Cavour.
  • In order to drive out the Spanish rulers from the Southern regions of Italy, in 1860, a large number of armed volunteers under Garibaldi marched into the Kingdom of two Sicilies and South Italy. They won the support of Peasants.
  • Hence in 1861, Italy had a new king, Victor Emmanuel II.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

  • When Victor Emmanuel II tried to unify Italy, he received support from Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1854. 
  • He was one of the most important people among Italian Freedom fighters.
  • In 1934, at Piedmont, he participated in the Republican Uprising. He had joined the Young Italy Movement after meeting Mazzini in 1833. 
  • He lived in exile in South America, until 1848. He had to flee when the uprising was suppressed.
  • The famous Expedition of the Thousand to South Italy was led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, in 1860.
  • Over the course of the campaign their numbers grew to about 30,000. They were famously known as Red Shirts.
  • The last obstacle to the unification of Italy was the papal states, which had French garrisons. An army of volunteers was led by Garibaldi, in 1867, to fight this last obstacle, however they were defeated.
  • Papal States finally joined Italy in 1870, when French troops withdrew from Rome, during the war with Prussia.


  • Much of the Italian population was unaware of liberal nationalist ideology due to high levels of illiteracy.
  • Garibaldi had received big support from peasants, but they had never heard of Italia.
  • Peasants thought La Italia was the wife of King Victor Emmanuel.

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