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Unification of Italy

This map is part of a series of 24 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1815-1914.

After the failure of the revolutions of 1848, the peninsula remains divided into eight States:

-The Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia

-The duchies of Parma, Modena and Tuscany

-The States of the Church

-The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

-as well as Lombardy and Venetia under Austrian domination

On the political and economic planes, Piedmont-Sardinia is the most modern kingdom in Italy. Since 1848, it is, for Italian patriots, the one that is capable of unifying the peninsula; however, this is ultimately achieved by Austria’s influence coming to an end.

At Turin, Prime Minister Cavour is aware that Italy cannot, on its own, liberate itself from the Austrian presence; he therefore seeks the support of Napoleon III, favorable to the principle of nationalities.

The alliance signed between the two men provides for French military aid to drive the Austrians from Lombardy and Venetia, then, the organization of the peninsula in the form of a federation of four states, presided over by the pope.

Perturbed by Piedmont’s movements, Austria declares war in April 1859. In the course of the month of June, Franco-Piedmont armies are victorious at Magenta, then at Solferino, but Napoleon III abandons the idea of pressing his advantage all the way to Venice, and instead signs the Truce of Villafranca. Lombardy is returned to Piedmont, but Venetia remains Austrian.

However, the populations of central Italy mobilize to reunify with Piedmont.

In view of the power of Italian national sentiment, Napoleon III accords to Cavour the annexation of the duchies of Tuscany, Parma and Modena, as well as the region of Bologna. In return, Piedmont cedes the county of Nice and Savoy to France, and in the spring of 1860, plebiscites ratify the whole of these attachments.

Garibaldi’s impetus energizes the pursuit of unification. Taking advantage of a popular disturbance in Sicily, the “condottiere niçois” reaches the island at the head of a small army of volunteers. Landing at Marsala on May 11, he defeats the troops of the King of Naples and takes over Palermo. Three months later, he crosses the Strait of Messina, then reaches Naples.

Cavour and Napoleon III are worried by Garibaldi, who is suspected of intending to march on Rome and proclaim the Republic. With Napoleon’s consent, a Piedmont army crosses the states attached to the pope, upsets the papal legion at Castelfidardo and reaches Naples. Cavour immediately organizes plebiscites in the kingdoms of Naples, Marches and Umbria to confirm their attachment to Piedmont.

Defeated by Prussia at Sadowa in 1866, Austria is forced to give up Venetia.

In September 1870, Napoleon’s defeat at Sedan leads to the evacuation of the French garrison protecting the pope in Rome. Victor Emmanuel then takes over the city and moves into the Quirinal Palace.

For Italian patriots, unification is not fully accomplished. In the following years, Italy continues to demand the incorporation of regions around Trento and Trieste, whose populations are predominately Italian.