Italian Unification Revision Notes


Italian Unification (1815 - 1871)

Definitions/ Key Terms


Defined as… the belief in political freedom.

  • Freedom:

    • From absolute monarchs and states

    • Legal freedom, right to a fair trial

    • Thought, expression, discussion (parliament/ congress)

    • Religious, economic, all men have the right to vote.

    • Napoleon used suffrage to get support

    • Did not believe in social reforms to help the poor, as it would interfere with individual responsibility.

The liberal concept of freedom all came to life after the signing of the American declaration in 1776, and the French declaration on man in 1789.


Reactionaries were those who were against new liberal ideas, the defenders of established traditions and the “old order of things”. A prime example would be Austrian statesman Clemens von Metternich.

  • He aimed to prevent any discussion of change or reformative ideas.  

  • Bring back respect for traditional authority (the monarch, the aristocracy, the Church)

  • To erase the revolutionary ideas of the French Revolution.


Defined as… the belief that progress and happiness will follow if people of the same nationality live in the same state.

Nationality can be identified through:

  • Common language

  • Common culture

Nationality is difficult to clearly define in practice, but all nationalists unite under a shared dislike of foreign rule.

Pre- Facts


1789: French Revolution begins; new ideas of liberty and progress

1792: French Revolutionary wars begin; Italy becomes a battleground between France and Austria

1796: Napoleon leads French army and defeats Piedmont and Austria

1797: Peace of Campio Formio

1802: Republic of Italy established by France

1804: Napoleon becomes emporer; Italy is now part of his empire

1805: Kingdom of Italy established

1806: Kingdom of Naples established

1814: Napoleon abdicates; Congress of Vienna discusses a peace settlement

1815: Treaty of Vienna; Austria dominates Italy

1820-21: A series of failed revolts across Italy

1831: Young Italy republican movement founded across Italy

1846: Election of Pope Pius IX raises hopes of a united Italy


   (Jan.) Revolts in Sicily

   (Mar.) Revolts in Milan and Venice

   (May.) Invasion of Lombardy by Piedmont

   (Jul.) Battle of Custoza - Austria defeats Piedmont under Carlo Alberto


   (Apr.) French troops sent to Rome to protect the Pope

   (Mar.) Battle of Novara; abdication of Carlo Alberto; Victor Emanuele II becomes King of Piedmont

   (Jun.) Defeat of Roman Republic

   (Aug.) Defeat of Venetian Republic


  • What was Italy like before 1796?

  • What impact did the French Revolution and Napoleon have on Italy?

  • Why was there unrest in Italy between 1815 and 1848?

  • Why did the 1848 Revolutions fail and how important were they?

Pre- Napoleonic Era

Before 1789:

  • Italy never went through the enlightenment that followed the  reformation that swept Europe

  • Concept rather than a country

  • In 1847 Metternich said Italy was more of a “geographical expression”

(1789-99) - French Revolution


Image result for map of italy in 1749

French Revolution (1789)

  • The French Monarchy gradually lost power and were overthrown

  • Initially they became a constitutional monarchy

  • 1792 gave way to a new republic

… spread of


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