German And Italian Unification
The people of these two countries suffered from a long history of disorganization and disunity, but strong leadership in the end united them both.
The similarities between Germany and Italy range from the subtle to the very obvious, but there also are some major differences. The situation in Germany was this; Germany was composed of a confederation of German states and was not unified.
Austria was the dominant force in this confederation, and was an anti-nationalistic and anti-liberalistic force in Europe.
The chief rival in the confederation was Prussia, who’s growing industrialization led to a larger middle class.
As the middle class grows, the pressure to become more liberalistic grew.
Prussia was becoming a very progressive and nationalistic nation, which was led by Otto Von Bismarck.
Bismarck looked at the decline of Austria after the resignation of one of its best leaders, Metternich, as a golden opportunity.
Austria was also weakened by its lack of involvement in the Crimean war in which it lost its best ally, Russia.
Bismarck was a master diplomat who knew exactly what he was doing, by securing friendship with key countries namely Russia and Italy.
The Prussian economy was also a key factor in the unification.
Economically Austria was far behind Prussia, because Austria had made key reforms to encourage the economy.
The superior economy and the diplomatic isolation of Austria lead to its downfall.
The German unification was mainly a product of Prussian military and economic superiority, but Bismarck was still a huge factor in the events leading up to unification.
An example of this is that before any major conflict took place between Prussia and Austria, Bismarck made vague mention to Napoleon III that if they stayed out of the conflict, they would be awarded territory.
This was a complete lie, but it kept the French out of that conflict.
It could be argued that Bismarck really was that interested in German unification, but actually thought of it more as Prussian expansion.
Whatever his personal reasons for were, the results were the same.
Germany was now one country, and much stronger for it. The story of Italy’s unification is a bit more complicated.
The main figure in Italian unification was Camillo Cavour.
Cavour was the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.
He successfully modernized his kingdom and performed some tricky political maneuvers.
Cavour brought attention to Italy plight by helping out in the Crimean war.
This commitment of troops in Crimea had far reaching implications.
In a secret meeting between Napoleon III and Cavour, it was decided that the Austrian holdings in Italy needed to be eliminated.
Austria launched a pre-emptive attack on Piedmont, but was defeated by the combined forces of Italy and France.
France pulled out of the war early by declaring an early peace and took more land then was originally agreed upon.
The kingdom of Piedmont still gained a significant amount of land though.
Eventually through the efforts of Guiseppe Garibaldi, a popular Italian leader, all Italian areas except Austrian Venetia and the Papal States were secured for Piedmont.
There were some attempts made on annexing this land, but unfortunately the Papal lands were under French protection, and Austria still occupied Venetia.
By getting help from the Prussians, the Italians were finally able to take Venetia from the Austrians.
The Papal Lands were also taken by Austrian help as well, but indirectly.
The Franco-Prussian war made it necessary for the French garrisons in the Papal Lands to pull out, and so the Italians simply walked in and claimed the land for Italy.
The German and Italian wars of unification were both spurred on by the rising tides of Nationalism and Liberalism.
The German cause was supported more by those on the top of the social pyramid, then those on the bottom.
Germany’s Junkers were the main supporters Bismarck, who led Prussia to unification.
The unification of Italy owes itself to the common folk much more then the German cause.
The popular support of unification by the population was vital in the wars of unification.
The armies led by Guiseppe Garibaldi were common Italians fighting for unification, versus the armies of Prussia who were basically fighting for expansion.
Prussia unified Germany because it feared being swallowed up by Austria if Germany ever became unified, Piedmont started the process of unification because it saw how Italy was being occupied by foreign powers, and that unification was a popular cause that just needed a spark.
The wars of unification were an important stage in the development of Europe.
The modern world was shaped back then by the revolutionaries of this time period.
The strong leaders; Bismarck, Guiseppe Garibaldi, and Camillo Cavour led their countries to a great thing, unification.