Assessment of Factors Contributing to Italian Unification

Assessment of positive and negative features of the main factors that contributed to Italian Unification in 1870. 
(in progress) 

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Congress of Vienna

Positive (mostly long term effects)

  • encouraged liberal and nationalist feelings within the pennisula
  • a unified cause arose which was to eradicate Austrian power
  • economic fragmentation allowed Piedmont to progress to the point where it was able to become the head of the unification


  • Separatism of states: language (French, German & Latin), currency, type of rule/government, regionalism = political & economic fragmentation
  • Austria gained power -> direct rule in Lombardy and Modena, called to defeat revolutionary forces
  • Restoration of Pope and Papal States: repressive rule (Inquisition, corruption, public floggings and the guillotine) 
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Cavour, Statesman

Became Prime Minister of Piedmont in 1852, and by 1855 he held three positions: Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Foreign Minister. Although he was an expert in economic and financial affairs, he was rather inexperienced with foreign affairs. 


  • established Piedmont as a leading power by modernising and strengthening it economically, militarily and diplomatically, allowing it to lead unification.
  • recognised that Austria control had to be removed from 'Italy'
  • realised that 'Italy' wasn't strong enough to get rid of Austria by itself


  • Arguably, he wasn't a true nationalist, Dennis Mack Smith describes him as a "clever politician"; did not see unification as a serious aim until 1859
  • 1861- desire to unify northern states but exclude poorer south(Naples/Sicily)
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Garibaldi, Soldier

After a chance encounter with Mazzini, Garibaldi was soon committed to a united Italy. He joined the 'Young Italy' movement and became part of Mazzini's revolutionary plans in Piedmont


  • was willing to sacrifice republic for the vision of a unified Italy
  • was consistently dedicated to unification and wanted to unify the whole peninsula 


  • was naive to think Italy would be able to defeat Austria independently
  • lived in South America to prevent death sentence and was exiled to Sardinia 
  • was seen as dangerous revolutionary (but also a heroic freedom fighter)
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