History of Italy: Italy is known right from the 1st century BC. It is the whole peninsula lying to the south of the Alps. Only the toe of the peninsula, the area towards the extreme south of it was referred to when the name Italy appeared many centuries earlier.
Rome, a single power, controlled Italy in the 1st century BC and continues so till the 5th century AD. In 1861, the peninsular becomes a modern country of Italy, now a political entity. Several rival groups fought and wanted to share this territory, one of the most desirable ones.
Majority of the tribes known as Indo-Europeans that arrive in Italy across the Atlantic by sea and from the north by land are the recent arrivals, around 700 BC. They speak Italic, a sub group of languages. Etruscans from another origin is the dominant group during this time. Scholars debate about where they may have come from. However much of Central Italy is controlled by them by around 500 BC.
From around 700 BC onwards, Greek colonies that had settled in the coastal regions, dominate the peninsula’s southern part as well as Sicily.
Roman Italy: 4th Century BC To 5th Century AD
The Romans have been ruled by the Etruscan kings for some time. The Romans have been a part of the Etruscan world earlier and now begin controlling the Etruscans by the 4th century.
Roman citizenship benefits are provided to anyone who has suffered effects of military power of the Romans. The entire region of Italy extending towards the Alps is administered as Roman provinces, by 42 BC. The history of Italy is the same as that of Rome, for the next few centuries.
The Western Roman Empire is no longer strong, by the 5th century. The larger Italy doesn’t feel it is safe. The German tribes are powerful and threatening. They had been contained beyond Danube and the Rhine, during the earlier centuries. The Empire is infiltrated by them from about AD 370, at times as invaders to rampage and breach the defenses all through provinces in Rome and at times as allies whose assistance can help in fighting against other barbarians.
The barbarians endanger Italy in the 5th century, almost 3 times. In 410, the Visigoths and Alaric reach Rome. In 452 the Huns and Attila turn back from the northern part of Italy. Again from Africa the Vandals and Gaiseric reach Rome in 455. However in 478 comes the decisive blow.
The King Of Italy, Odoacer: AD 476-493
In the Roman army the German mercenaries form an important part. In the breaking and making of emperors, a major role is played by the Roman armies. In a coup that is fairly normal in AD 476, this is the case. The mercenaries make a demand that is not usual. Settling in Italy is their aim. Expectations from the mercenaries are that every landowner should part with a third of their estate that will go to them.
Though this sounds like an unreasonable suggestion, it isn’t so on closer examination. In the past, land was given away as award to Roman soldiers. Barbarian tribes could settle as federates in the provinces of the empire, in the past. For Romans, it is a shocking that the provisional system could be applicable to Italy. Demand made by the mercenaries is not accepted.
A mutiny occurs immediately. One member, Odoacer is elected as king, by the tribesmen. He sends ambassadors to the emperor Zeno located in Constantinople. Though he acknowledges rule of the emperor he asks if he will be permitted to rule Italy as his own people’s king. Though reluctant, Zeno agrees but this is subject to particular protocol points.
In a graceful manner, the ‘fait accompli’ is accepted by the senate in Rome as Odoacer is successful in attaining results. No unnecessary disruption is caused by him while finding land for his German tribesmen.
Does The Roman Empire End? AD 476
In 476, Odoacer is accepted as the Italy’s king – a year that is visualized as the end of the Roman Empire. Popes and kings who are not part of the imperial tradition of Rome will henceforth hold power in the Italian peninsula
In the 5th century, for the Europeans it continues to be the centre of the old Roman Empire. As far as upheaval and chaos in the west is concerned, there isn’t anything new, in the imperial terms. Authority is reasserted by active steps taken in Constantinople by the Roman emperors.
The Ostrogoth, Theodoric:AD 487-526
As compared to the Visigoth, the Ostrogoths have intruded imperial cities of Constantinople and Rome to a lesser extent. The Huns subdue them in their region toward the north of the Black Sea, during the recent times. However in the mid 5th century, the Huns collapse allowing the Ostrogoths to foray into the Balkans across the Danube.
In capturing Constantinople they are almost successful under Theodoric’s leadership in 487. This immediate problem is addressed by an intelligent short term solution, by Zeno, the Byzantine Emperor. He who gave up Italy to Odoacer a barbarian, now requests Theodoric to attack and occupy Italy and usurp the Odoacer’s position.
In AD 489, Theodoric enters Italy. In 3 separate wars, Odoacer is confronted by Theodoric’s Ostrogoths, in the 12 months from August 489. Though they win all three, they are not successful in eliminating Odoacer from Ravenna, his stronghold. With negotiations this is achieved eventually. The agreement made is that Odoacer and Theodoric with jointly rule Italy. The city gates are open to Theodoric on 5th March 493.
Odoacer is invited to a banquet 10 days later. Here he kills his guest himself and later the aids of Odoacer are killed.
It is with this treachery that in Italy the long reign of Theodoric begins. However Odoacer’s murder is not typical of the Ostorgothic king. He sat on the throne for 33 years which brings Italy a period of calm to unsettled Italy. This earns him the Theodoric the Great title. In Ravenna his buildings still stand as witness to the civilized and settled rule he established. He is well known as Dietrich von Bern for his achievements.
From his arrangement with Constantinople, Theodoric does not ever deviate. He is appointed as military governor by the emperor after which he rules Italy.
He leaves the administration in the hands of the Romans entirely which is a sign of good sense. Goths are disallowed from joining the bureaucracy and Romans are stopped from serving as soldiers. The papacy feels comfortable with this sort of arrangement. Theodoric does not try interfering with affairs of the Roman Catholic Church. In 498, when 2 rival claimants turn up for the papal see, he is called for the selection process.
In the longer term, Italy’s barbarian Arian rule is not accepted. The campaign of recovering Ravenna by Justinian in 535 is prompted by inadequacies of the immediate successors of Theodoric.
Byzantine Italy’s Recovery: 535-568
Constantinople orders a fleet to sail in 535 to establish direct rule in Italy again. Hero of the recent successes in Africa, Belisarius, is in command of the campaign. First he captures Sicily in the south in 535, then takes Naples in the north and in the following year, takes Rome. The toughest place to subdue again is Ravenna, the fortified capital city. Until 540, the Ostrogoths, hold out here, against him.
The Ostrogoths, recapture entire Italy within a few years. Besides this, on the east coast, they also capture, Otranto, Ancona and Ravenna the 3 enclaves that are so well guarded. Over the whole peninsula, Byzantine control is restored eventually by Narses, a eunuch general in a long campaign. However till 562 this is not achieved, less than 10 years before on the Italian scene of another Germanic tribe arrives.
In 568, the Lombards invade and over run north Italy’s abundant plain. The Byzantines never shift the Lombards again. Their arrival presages a long period when a unified Italy such as it was under imperial Rome becomes a distant memory.
The Lombards: 6th – 8th century
The Lombards that have originated from northern Germany probably now move towards, in the early 6th century into the south into Hungary. They make an entry from then into northern Italy in 568. Like other German tribes, they become Christians of the Arian variety by this time.
Entire Italy towards the north of the Po is in the control of the Lombards by 572 (foundation of Venice is the one positive result of this). At first the Lombards rule from encampments as an occupying force. Pavia comes to be known as the capital city, gradually. Byzantine ambitions in Italy are affected immediately with their presence.
Governing Of Ravenna By Exarchs: 584-751
Emperor Maurice groups the Lombards from about 584 in a new administrative structure with base in Ravenna. Against the Lombards, he wants to hold rest of the Byzantine possessions. A provincial governor, an exarch, is in command of the whole region. He has absolute power over civilian and military affairs both.
Most of Italy towards southern part of Po along with the coastal strip surrounding the north Adriatic is governed by the exarch, at first. The recently established modest settlements on the Venetian Lagoon islands by refugees from the advancing Lombards are also governed by the exarch. Ruling from Carthage is another exarch who controls Sardinia and Corsica. Sicily and Constantinople are directly linked.
It is impossible to hold this broad strip of territory. Territory in the north is steadily extended by the Lombards during the 7th century.
Increasing signs of independence is shown by ancient cities of the 8th century, like Papal Rome and Naples. Even upstart Venice starts selecting its own doges or dukes in 726.
Much of the territory belonging to Ravenna is seized by the Lombards by mid 8th century. Ravenna itself is taken by the Lombards in 751. On places like Venice, the Byzantine influence continues to remain strong. However it cannot be said that Italy is part of the old Roman Empire.
Franks And Popes: 753-772
An unusual journey is made by Stephen II, the Pope, to the north of the Alps in 753. Purpose of his visit is to meet Pepin III, the Frankish king, to beseech his help against the Lombards. The Lombards have taken the Ravenna city recently and now Rome is in similar threat. In 754, northern Italy is invaded by Pepin and again in the year 756.
Lombards living in the area belonging to Ravenna are driven away by Pepin. However he is not able to restore it to the Byzantine Emperor, its legitimate owner. Instead he gives the Pope and his successors, large areas of Central Italy, believing the fiction disclosed in the forged Donation of Constantine.
The added role of temporal power is given to the papacy, in the so-called Donation of Pepin by which Pope Stephen get in 756. At different periods of history, these lands reduced and increased. These are lands, Papal States, are controlled by the popes till the lands are incorporated in 1870, in the new kingdom of Italy.
The temporal rule of the popes, over the short term, is not very firm. The territory is again attacked by the Lombards within a few years. An appeal for help is made in 772 to a new Frankish King. Charlemagne’s support is enlisted by Adrian I. Threat from the Lombards, this time is resolved conclusively. However within the Frankish Empire Northern Italy is reduced to an appendix of Germany and France.
How Italy Gets Fragmented: From The 7th Century
Italy appears, on the map as one of the political units that is most natural with Sicily at its toe. The Alps as well as the sea from all sides, protect Italy from mainland Europe. This indeed is a single kingdom or an empire’s secure centre as made by the Romans.
The effect is opposite as far as its geographical position is concerned. Space on either side of the Alps provides a chance for armies from eastern and western Europe to make an entry into the green and rich Po Valley territory. The other stretches of land are also close to the fertile coasts of Sicily and Italy.
It is easy for the Balkans to attach the vulnerable entire eastern coast. From Africa, at just a short hop, is Sicily. For enemies located in Spain or southern France, useful stepping stones are provided by Sardinia and Corsica.
Inhabitants in Italy find that these links could work greatly to their advantage. This is triumphantly proved by Venice and Genoa. They feel that Italy does not possess the inward strength of being an island. On the other hand it has the vulnerability and outgoing opportunities of a well endowed peninsula which interested rivals have crowded upon. The Roman Empire collapses after which Italy’s neighbors nibble at it constantly. The papacy in Rome is the only one element that is fairly stable.
Neighbors nibbling at Italy: 9th – 13th century
Along with Sicily, different territories are held down the east coast, by the Byzantine emperor, in the 9th century. The Papal States are ruled by the Pope in Rome. Now the northern part of Italy is a part of the empire of the Franks. In an effort to suppress the Lombards, northern Italy is invited by Rome into the Peninsula.
Sicily is captured from the Byzantines by that time by Arabs from North Africa. Along with that the maritime islands on the mainland of Italy are also captured by them. Rome is partly sacked and besieged by the Arabs in 846.
The region is affected profoundly by the anarchy prevailing for a major period in northern Italy. Many of the important towns begin adopting an increasing stance of independence and also begin enclosing themselves in strong walls, as they now grow in prosperity. Leading citizens take over the government of these towns. The result is the communes or the Italian oligarchies like Florence, Venice, Siena, Pisa, Genoa, Pisa and many others.
In a slow attrition process, Sicily is taken from the Byzantines by the Arabs between 827 and 965. It is conquered by between 1060 and 1091 by the Normans. It comes into the control of the German Hohenstaufen dynasty, by means of marriage in the year 1194. The island is granted by the Papal intrigue to the Anjou branch of the French royal family in 1265. In the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, a violent expression of Sicilian hostility to the French, is seen finally. The result is that ruling family of Aragon gets involved and a long connection begins, with Spain. The island is connected as Kingdom of Naples with southern Italy, for a major part of this time.
The Communes In Italy: 11th – 13th century
The cities of Europe begin prospering steadily in the period from the 11th to the 13th century. Northern Italy is one of the first regions to prosper. It is on the trade route between northern Europe and eastern Mediterranean with cargo landing at Venice, for the journey through passes of the Alps, north to Austria and Germany or West through Milan to France.
Crushed between the rival claims of Papal States to the south and imperial Germany to the north, northern Italy isn’t very secure. Though it is prosperous, northern Italy feels threatened. Greater control of their very own destiny is sought by the cities. Medieval commune is the government formed here.
Municipal councils are acquired by many of the towns of northern Italy including Genoa, Pisa, Milan, Siena, Bologna and Florence. Consul is the term the elected councilors use for themselves which is a deliberate echo of the republican past of Italy.
The republican communes in effect become independent as they grow in terms of wealth The emperor or pope is technically acknowledged as the feudal overlord. The emperors and popes are not able to keep the fledging city states under their control.
The Italian communes in their early years allow every male citizen to participate in the ‘arengo’ which is an assembly. However, democracy soon gets extinguished in the favor of oligarcy. With the interests of the rich merchants and nobility, coincide the considerations of efficiency. Soon it is only a few families that that come to exercise electoral power.
Within the communes, there is constant feud in the noble families. They go to war with each other regularly. Having a chief executive powerful enough, is the only practical solution.
A ‘podesta’ or mayor is appointed by almost all communes in north Italy during the 12th century’s last 3 decades, to run affairs of the city. The nobleman or the podesta comes with his own administrative staff and household. He is appointed generally for a fixed term which is rarely more than twelve months.
A likely and more permanent option is having a hereditary ruler, once the machinery of having individual rule is in place. ‘Signore’ comes into existence once podesta gives way, during the second half of the 13th century.
Right from the 13th century, in one commune after another, a powerful leader is accepted by the local oligarchs as their signore. This post is allowed to remain with a particular family, subsequently. In 1349, declaration is made that the post is hereditary. Technically, for a much longer time, the republican commune is Florence. In 1532, the hereditary dukes are the Medici.
The early Italian communes revert the near-democracy, to princely rule, in this way. Of them all, the earliest commune is the only single exception. The oligarchy of Venice which is self-perpetuating is the refined system. Until the 18th century, power is preserved in the local grandee’s hands.
Pisa, Genoa And Venice: 9th – 14th Century
The very first medieval cities of Italy that grow rich are Pisa and Genoa in the west and Venice in the east which prospers through maritime trade.
By contrast, through conflict, Pisa and Genoa become more strengthened. The Fatimid fleet sacks Genoa from North Africa, in about 934. For Sardinia and Corsica, the 2 large islands that confront Italy’s west coast, one regular hazard, are raids by the Muslims.
When the Pisan and Genoan fleets in the 11th century work in alliance offering protection to Sardinia and Corsica from Muslim depredations, the western coast Italian communes demonstrate their strength. In the western Mediterranean, extensive trade is subsequently developed by both the cities. An intermittent and long warfare persists between the two Italian city states. The stronger city by no means is always Venice, till at Chioggia, the issue is resolved in 1380.
Republican Florence: 12th – 16th Century
In the 12th century, Florence initiates expansion of its territory. A commune governs this town like many other cities in northern Italy. Princely rule is resisted by the Florentines longer as compared to other commune besides Venice. Till the Medici are accepted as dukes of Tuscany, in the 16th century, the Florentines do not finally succumb.
Florence produces some of the most outstanding masterpieces of art and literature and grows prosperous which is an astonishing achievement, in the midst of mayhem and murder. The powerhouse of the Renaissance is this troubled city.
Among the nobility, rich merchants and craftsmen of the city guilds, clashes are usual. In 1282, the merchants win the struggle after they pass a law to restrict the civic office to guild members.
By using other means, great power is wielded by the nobles (by using deceit to become members of the guild themselves to return to office).
The lesser guilds and richer guilds both face similar struggle at times. The pressure from workers who are not allowed to join a guild is one added complication they face.
The employers are so frightened by their laborers that they are represented in the government of the city. Till Florence reverts to the more normal oligarchy of the commune and till the revoking of new laws, this proves to be a brief experiment.
In Florence alignment takes place between factions within the ruling classes just as in other places in medieval Italy. This is done in terms of support for Ghibellines versus Guelphs – the imperial or papal parties. Florence is in favor of the papal cause.
The Whites versus the Blacks are the two bitterly opposed groups formed with the divide of Guelphs of Florence.
Swiss Guards and Italian condottieri: 13th – 16th c.
To fight their battles, the people of the Italian city from the 13th century prefer employing mercenary armies instead of going to battle themselves. Condottieri – (meaning under contract) are the powerful lords who supply this need. Huge professional armies are bought by them to supply assistance.
These companies or armies are largely foreign in the 14th century. The Great Company is the first known company numbering 1500 infantry and 7000 heavily armed men. Werner von Urslingen, a German knight and then Montreal d’Albarno a Frenchman, lead these men.
The armies have total disregard for any other person, follow excellent internal discipline and go on to become the terror of Italy. The extent of organized brigandage is demonstrated in 1353 on behalf of the Great Company by the achievements of Montreal. Around 50,000 florins from Rimini, 16,000 from Pisa, 25,000 from Florence and 16,000 from Siena are extracted during that year.
Montreal gains more confidence in the following year. The company gets involved in a war against Milan. To collect few debts from Cola di Rienzo, he goes to Rome on his own. Beheading Montreal as a brigand is the method adopted by Rienzo of paying debt.
The White Company of John Hawkwood is the famous army in Italy later on during the 14th century. During the lull in the Hundred Years War, it brings a party of adventurers south. Hawkwood is much more responsible as compared to his predecessors and hence becomes Florence’s faithful servant. From 1378 to 1392 he serves as captain general of the city. Posthumously he is honored in the cathedral with a fresco of his own self on horseback.
The last of the great foreign condottieri, is Hawkwood. Italian nobles have to maintain their own estates during the 15th century. They hire out services of their retainers and their own services, as private armies.
Most of the 15th century’s Italian condottieri are well civilized men of the Renaissance (one outstanding example is Federico da Montefeltro having his own court at Urbino). Engagements are elaborate rituals between their families and the rest. Except to pockets of the employers, hardly any harm is done.
The condottieri’s role is reduced to considerable extent by end of the century. The battle taking place on Italian soil is at an international level now. The art of war sees a huge change as well. relics and mounted knights of the medieval past.
The Veneto And Venice: 14th – 15th Century
On the way to the Middle East, islands are acquired by the Venetians. Besides this they also control a major part the mainland of Italy. The region adjacent to Veneto (their own lagoon) is the very first territory, they win. It is by force that these mainland territories are occupied by Venice. Role of the Venetians is similar to the jackal coming in after the lion.
The Signore of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti is the lion in northern Italy during the late 14th century. In his own time, this voracious conqueror was suspected of harboring an ambition to rule all of Italy as king. Territories having lesser signori were seized by him in a systematic method. The della Scala family ruled two cities, including Vicenza and Verona located between Venice and Milan (in the Latin version of their name, the della Scala family was known as Scaliger).
In 1384, Gian Galeazzo conquers Vicenza and in 1387, conquers Verona. Ruled by the Carrara family is Padua, his next target, which he takes in the year 1388.
With help of the Venetians, in 1930, Padua is recovered for the Carrara family. Expansion of Gian Galeazzo’s realm continues hence it is not likely that its independence will last for a longer term. In 1399, his rule is accepted by Siena and Pisa. In 1402 he captures Bologna. He prepares a plan to attack Florence later during that year, but suddenly he suffers from plague and dies.
The Visconti kingdom which enlarged rapidly now crumbles down on the death of Gian Galeazzo. Venice is ready to gather some of its pieces. In 1404, Vicenza is captured. In 1405, the capture of Padua and Verona follows. Now Veneto is secured as Venetian, one generation later.
The Treaty Signed At Lodi: 1454 – 1494
Five great powers – Naples, Venice, the Papal States, Florence and Milan dominate the Italian mainland during the 15th century. The capacity to defeat the rest isn’t present in any of them. One thing that interests them is balancing of power. Long standing differences between Milan and Venice are resolved after 1454 on the signing of the treaty at Lodi which helps in achieving the balance of power.
Others get inspiration from this example. Accordingly a defensive league is formed with Venice and Milan both, later during the year. An alliance is formed by the King of Naples and the Pope early in 1455. The alliance is referred to sometimes as the Italian League. Non aggression is mutually pledged in the alliance.
Given the past record of Italy, the peace treaty holds quite well, surprisingly. However, here are a few transgressions that are quite notable. Some of them include the Pope sponsored attack made subsequently by Naples on Florence as well as the reluctant acceptance of Pope Sixtus IV in the attempt made to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici. Between Naples in the south and northern extreme of the peninsula and Milan, the tension is frequent. Result of this hostility is the chaos from 1494. Charles VIII, the king of France is urged by the duke of Milan to enter Italy. Not much encouragement is required by the young French King.
Charles VIII takes a huge army containing 30,000 men in September 1494, to cross the Alps. Without any difficulty they are able to pass through the Milanese territory. They also expect to repeat the same through the Tuscan lands of Florence.
Florence’s new identity as Naples’s ally creates problems. The young Piero de’ Medici senses this. In an act of personal diplomacy, he visits the French King’s camp without giving any intimation to the official government of Florence, the Signoria.
The two young rulers have no experience. In the encounter, the better bargain is with the Frenchman. All Charles VIII wants is an assurance of the goodwill of Florence. To seal this, he desires the delivery of the Livorno and Pisa ports and many key castles. When Piero agrees to this, the French are filled with astonishment.
In Florence, the Signoria are astounded to hear about it. Their objection is that Piero does not have any right to give up these possessions of Florence. However it is very late. The French make an entry into Florence to occupy Pisa and then move on south.
On the last day of 1494, Charles VIII reaches Rome with his army. The powerless Pope Alexander VI, cannot resist them and considers protection in the Castel Sant’ Angelo. The French make an entry into Naples, still unopposed, on 22nd February. Charles is crowned as king, on 12th May, two months later, in this new city.
His line of withdrawal remains unprotected due to his inexperience. The League of Venice is formed against the intruder by other main powers of Italy (excluding Florence) and the Pope, during March. At Fornovo, an army of the League confronts Charles in July as he withdraws north. This results in an indecisive and confused battle. Charles with his army escapes to France for safety.
Charles leaves the French troops in Naples. However, again the kingdom is lost to the Aragonese. He makes preparations for a new expedition to Naples. However in an accident in 1498 at Naples loses his life.
. In 1501-1503 a part of the kingdom of Naples is briefly recovered by them. In the early 16th century, northern Italy becomes a permanent battleground on the international front.
The Realignment Of Italy: 1508-1540
The map of Italy gets redrawn during the first few decades of the 16th century. The increased number of shifting alliances brokered by the papacy and alliances ending in battles without any conclusion are the main reasons for this.
Territories of Naples, Milan, papal states and Venice, shrink or grow between 1508 – the League of Cambrai and 1529 – the Treaty of Cambrai. Effects of battles including Agnadello (1509) Marignano (1515), Pavia (1525) and the sack of Rome in 1527 by the imperial troops, makes these territories suffer from changes of allegiance for a limited time period.
For France, the mayhem results in disaster and for triumph for Spain. All French rights in Naples and Milan are renounced by Francis I in the treaty of Cambrai, in 1529. Milan gets annexed directly to the Spanish crown from 1540. Till the War of the Spanish Succession, the duchy remains a possession of Spain. In 1713 it gets transferred to the Habsburg family at the Austrian branch. Being ruled as a Spanish viceroyalty, later in 1713 it goes to the Habsburgs of Austria.
In this board game, the Medici gain among the Italian players. With the support from Spain, the Medici gets restored and gets back their rule in Florence.
Much of the conflict is fostered by the scheming alliances for which the papacy is responsible. In 1527 the papacy gets just deserts in the sacking of Rome. Ten to twenty years later, the papacy becomes much more strengthened. After the Catholic Reformation is under way, the allies Spain and Rome in spiritual severity are in much more secure position to exercise strict control over the whole peninsula barring the Republican Venice.
For more than two centuries the basic pattern is the partition settled upon during the middle part of the 16th century, even if the Sicily, Naples and Milan continue to be pawns in the conflict in Europe. The alignment gets kind of altered with the War of the Spanish Succession. The peninsula is dominated by the Spanish Habsburgs, till 1700. After the peace of Vienna (1738) the resolution eventually is that Spain gets Sicily and Naples while northern Italy is ruled by Austria.
Italy is a sleepy place despite the disruptions in the 18th century with the island of Venice enjoying a decadently pleasant time. till Napoleon bursts on the scene in the year 1796.
The Italian campaign: 1796-1797
In March 1796, Napoleon joins the army. The army of 37,000 men is poorly fed, demoralized and unpaid. The army is led through a series of rapid victories in April which helps in raising spirits of the soldiers. Under this young and energetic commander, the army holds out for its soldiers the promise of rich loot.
Among the allies facing Napoleon are the Austrians whose commitment is to defend the huge territory around Milan and the Sardinians whose kingdom extents from Nice West of the Alps and Savoy, to Piedmont with its capital on the Italian side at Turin.
Dividing and surprising the enemies is a strategy that Napoleon follows. He avoids taking the route along the coast. Instead he takes his army through the passes of the Alps on 12th April. The Austrians are caught unawares at Montenotte. Against the Sardinians and Austrians this is the first among other victories. The allies are stopped from joining forces against their opponent who is moving really fast.
A proclamation is issued by Napoleon at the end of the month to his men. He praises his soldiers for conquering Piedmont’s richest part, taking 21 colors, gaining 6 victories and 55 pieces of artillery and capturing many fortresses.
The Sardinian king is prepared for a peace agreement with France in the armistice of Cherasco, by April 28. He is ready to cede Nice and Savoy, the two territories both of which have been occupied by the French republican forces since 1792.
The conquering of Piedmont is repeated by Napoleon in the same piecemeal fashion as in other areas of Italy. On 10th April he overcomes the Austrians and 5 days later makes an entry into Milan. Armistices take place subsequently with dukes of Parma (May 9), Modena (May 17), Pius VI – the Pope on 23rd June. The weak and ancient Venice is not able to oppose the conqueror. The last of the doges are opposed by Napoleon in May 1797 after which a provisional democracy is set up.
With enthusiastic support from locals, new French methods are imposed energetically by Napoleon in the subdued territories. Central and Northern Italy get organized once again as Cisalpine Republic. Ligurian Republic is the new territory of Genoa.
The Austrian and French forces get involved in complicated and lengthy engagements in the winter of 1796-7, around Mantua. Napoleon is secure enough to move against Vienna, northwards, in April. The emperor of Austria agrees for an armistice when Napoleon is just at a distance from the city at Leoben.
In October, at Campo Formio, a peace agreement is arrived at. The Austrian Netherlands and the entire territory in northern Italy are surrendered by Austria to France. Venice is given to the emperor by Napoleon as a sop in return.
On his own initiative the young general, negotiates all this. The Directory is not in a position to control him in his victory as it is busy with the coup d’état of Fructidor. The government cannot be mediocre to his materialistic achievements, like the troops of Napoleon. A fixed stream of money, booty and art makes its way back to France (this includes the popular bronze horses in Venice from St. Mark’s).
The Napoleonic Italy: 1800-1814
Italy is rapidly recovered by the Russian and Austrian armies of the Second Coalition during 1799, in the same way like Napoleon won it two years ago. However the region once again becomes one of his biggest priorities with his return that year to France and his acquirement of power as first consul.
The beginning of French recovery of Italy is Napoleon’s victory in June 1800 at Marengo. By the year 1809, the process is completed in stages and the French are in control of each part of the peninsula.
Right from the north Italian plain to Venice from Milan, along with the Adriatic coast down to below Ancona and the Po Valley become Italy’s kingdom within the French empire of Napoleon. In May 1805 Napoleon is crowed as king in Milan in full medieval pomp, with the iron crown of Lombardy. The Eugène de Beauharnais, his stepson, is the viceroy in the kingdom. The kingdom of Italy and the kingdom of Naples comprising entire southern Italy and ruled by Joachim Murat (the husband of Caroline – Napoleon’s sister) from 1808, marches on the Adriatic coast.
The three regions containing in the rest of mainland Italy is annexed directly to the French empire. One of the regions is Tuscany where Elisa, the sister of Napoleon is made the grand duchess in 1809. The other is the coastal area around Genoa, Liguria. The third is the papal states, along with Rome, the holy city itself.
Rome And The French: 1793-1814
Coping with the Napoleonic empire building and the French revolutionary zeal is difficult for the ill-equipped papacy. For Rome, a long tale of disaster is the years of French ascendancy.
The tone is set in 1793 by an incident. The symbol of French anti-clerical republicanism, the tricolor, is displayed in a provocative manner by Nicolas de Basseville, the French diplomat, in Rome. He is attacked by the Roman crowd and the next day, he dies. In an advance on Rome, Napoleon reaches Ancona, far south. The pope is held responsible by France for this incident of specific sorrow. As part of compensation for the Basseville’s family, France demands and receives 300,000 livres.
In 1797, Pius VI the pope negotiates with Napoleon. For forcing the intruder to head again to the north, the price is to be paid is a huge indemnity involving removing a number of art works from the Vatican collections and surrendering Romagna, Ferrara and Bologna to France.
Troubles of Pius begin with the loss of papal states. A French general dies in Rome outside the French embassy, in 1797. To seize the pope and for the French army to occupy Rome, this proves to be just a pretext. The pope is sent to France in captivity where he breathes his last in 1799.
At first Pius VII, the new pope feels pacific towards Napoleon. He gives his consent to the concordat of 1801. To officiate the imperial coronation of Napoleon, in 1804, he travels to Paris. However relations deteriorate by 1808. The pope does not approve the annulment of Jerome’s marriage, his brother and does not bring the papal state ports into the Continental System. Napoleon feels annoyed with this. As a result, in February 1808, Rome is occupied by the French army. Another part of the papal states get attached to the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy, in the following month.
In 1809, apart from these affronts, the city of Rome and the remains of the papal states are annexed by Napoleon. He also declares that no form of temporal authority can be claimed by the pope. Pius himself excommunicates Napoleon and all those related to this outrage using his spiritual authority. He is arrested instantly and sent to prison in France.
By 1809 the whole peninsula of Italy is bought under the control of the French. In 1813 till Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig the situation remains the same.
Italy and Austria: 1815-1831
Italy returns back to the same situation prevailing before intrusion of the French, after terms are agreed upon at the congress of Vienna. Territory around the western Alps consisting of Piedmont, Nice and Savoy is recovered by the Sardinian King. Besides this along the coast, a valuable extension in the form of Liguria is acquired by him. Liguria was the republic of Genoa, previously.
In northern Italy’s large wealthy area, the Austrian rule right from Lombardy, through Parma into Tuscany is brought back. An addition to the Austrian empire is the province of the republic of Venice, Venetia.
The papal states are recovered by Rome in central part of the peninsula. Sicily and Naples are the two kingdoms in the whole of southern Italy. Sicily goes back to Ferdinand, its Bourbon monarch. His kingdom is merged into one kingdom of the 2 Sicilies of which he becomes the Bourbon monarch, Ferdinand (previously he was Ferdinand III of Sicily and Ferdinand IV of Naples).
Austria is the most powerful by far among the Italian powers. Metternich is determined to retain the royal state of affairs in Europe. Even if there is any sign of revolution, in Italy the natural policemen meaning the Austrian armies begin patrolling.
Radical ideas are harbored by a number of secret societies in the Italy of the restoration. A number of civil servants and army officers having firsthand experience of French administration in French style are not too happy to find that they are in the ancien régime.They want freedom from reactionary rulers.
The ‘charcoal burners’ the Carbonari are the best known and earliest revolutionary groups in Italy. It is not certain what the origin of this secret society is. The anti-French are the Carbonaris who emerge around 1806. They are in opposition to the French rule’s royalist aspect of which Napoleon is emperor now.
They fight with Italy’s royal dynasties after 1815. The 1820 revolution in Naples is the Carbonari’s first and real success. Liberal constitution is brought in by Ferdinand due to this. However, he invites the Austrian army into his kingdom, after 9 months and returns back to a rule that follows absolute principles.
Elsewhere this Austrian involvement pattern is repeated very soon. In 1821 a revolution is achieved by the secret societies in Piedmont. This leads to constitutional rule for a short time and renouncing of the throne by the king till the Austrian army enters Turin and the status quo is restored. In the same way control is regained by the papacy assistance of Austrian forces, when the 1830 revolutionary ferment causes unrest in the papal states.
Amongst radicals in Italy, new policies are brought about with these events. Everyone is in the agreement that Italy should be united and Austrians must be eliminated. It seems obvious now that the Carbonari and their like do not seem up to the task.
Italy’s Blueprints: 1831-1848
For the sake of a united Italy, Giuseppe Mazzini, a young Carbonari member is the first person to dedicate his life. He established an organization Giovine Italia – (Young Italy) in 1831 dedicated to insurrection and education. He is given a death sentence in 1834 in Piedmont for inciting a revolution with the help of a Sardinian sailor, Giuseppe Garibaldi .
They both are sent to exile between the years 1834 and 1848. Giuseppe Garilbaldi participates in many wars in Latin America. Mazzini edits inflammatory journals in a succession from London mainly. In the meantime, views keep differing, regarding Italy, for which patriots should be keen on fighting for.
The concept of insurrection is an obsession for the republican Mazzini. He is not inclined to arrive at a compromise, by nature. However it is the realities of practical politics that can help in achieving likely success. This indicates that under any of the current rulers, a united Italy can be aimed at.
In Restoration Italy there are four powers. They are the king of Sardinia, the pope, the Austrian emperor and the king of the two Sicilies. Commitment of most Catholics can be expected by the pope, in contrast, while ancient Italian dynasty is represented by the King of Sardinia. Any one of the rulers would be suitable as a figurehead for Italy.
Serious support is gained in the first proposal for a federal Italy with pope as the ruler. In 1843 a widely read book advocates this policy. Pius IX, a cardinal of liberal reputation is elected in the year 1846 as pope which gives a strong boost to the campaign.
For the Sardinian king, an optional scheme is become Italy’s king. From the existing affairs of the state, this development is equally logical. Expansion of territory in north Italy in Piedmont to include the whole peninsular was all that was required.
In 1848, dramatic events erupt suddenly which makes everything a possibility. To participate in the revolutionary turmoil, Garibaldi and Mazzini rush back to Italy. In the meantime, keen internet is been taken by Camillo Benso di Cavour in politics prevailing in Piedmont.
Eighteen Months of Drama and Uncertainty 1848-1849
The most dramatic upheavals in politics in Europe spark off in January 1848 in the uprising against Bourbon rule by Sicily. In the following 2 months, revolutions erupt in Vienna and Paris making it obvious that for the moment, no intervention from outside is likely in Italy. In Austrian territories, patriots are more than ready to take their signal.
On March 17, begins a rebellion in Venice after which the proclamation of a revived republic follows. The people of Milan rise against their rulers of Austria, on March 18. Fierce war takes place and after 5 days the garrison of 12000 troops is forced to leave the city.
The king of Sardinia, Charles Albert is tempted by the events to declare a war on March 24, on Austria. He is keen on extending the Piedmont territory into the wealthy Lombardy. So from the east, the king marches from Turin to join the forces with people of Milan. However the adventurous king sees disastrous results. Joseph Radetsky, the 82 year old veteran field marshal of Austria outfights him. In the process the Sardinian king abdicates in favor of Victor Emmanuel II, his son.
All through Italy, control is lost by other rulers including Pius IX in Rome. The unrest mounts. In November 1848, Pellegrino Rossi, his chief minister is assassinated. The pope takes refuge in the fortress of Gaeta.
In February 1849, proclamation of a promising event – the Roman republic is done after which follows arrival of Garibaldi and Mazzini the two veteran revolutionaries. During the brief existence of the republic, a major role is played by Mazzini in running it. Garibaldi fights the French army in defense truly magnificently (the French army dispatched by the new French republic on behalf of the pope indicates the extent to which broader issues of European politics and Italian affairs are intertwined).
In early July 1849, the French forces capture the Roman republic. The clock turns back safely when Pius IX is able to get back the papal throne.
In August 1849, the Venetian republic fails to resist the Austrians who are now back secure in Milan. Control is reasserted by the Bourbon king, Ferdinand II in Sicily and Naples. The authorities respond to them with stifling control. Pius IX justifies that liberalism is not in the interest of the papals.
On confronting the 1848 uprisings, in the beginning different rulers begin panicking. In the states of Italy a number of liberation constitutions were introduced in haste. In the restoration of 1849, all are repealed save one. Piedmont is the exception. In the events that took place in the 1 ½ years, Charles Albert the king has been removed from power.
Victor Emmanuel II the successor and son of Charles Albert, resists this. Instead he gradually transforms the Piedmont kingdom into one that is respected by Italian nationalists.
Carmillo Benso di Cavoru, is the reason for this change, not the king. In Piedmont he is one of the most influential journalists during the 1848 events. He is the founder and editor of the II Risorgimento (The Resurgence) newspaper in 1847. Under the new constitution, he is elected to parliament in June 1848. He becomes the Prime Minister by 1852.
The Risorgimento And Cavour: 1852-1859
Gradually the movement gathers pace towards a united Italy. It becomes popular by the title of newspaper in Turin – the Risorgimento. It is clear from the events of 1848-9 that a new Italy wouldn’t emerge due to this and foreign allies will be needed by the Italians to confront the powerful Austria successfully.
As Piedmont-Sardinia’s Prime Minister, the policy introduced by Cavour focuses on addressing these issues. He feels that Piedmont needs to be presented back home as a kingdom which will be supported by radicals from all over Italy. He feels the need of identifying an ally with the stature of Austria.
In the post-Napoleonic period, Piedmont-Sardinia has been a reactionary monarchy, very typical which according to Cavour was an internal problem. Liberalizing the government is the right step, though by instinct he is conservative. Political refugees belonging to other states in Italy are welcomed by him.
Views of Mazzini are quite radical (until 1855 the Piedmontese death sentence remains on Mazzini) but the support offered by Garibaldi is enlisted successfully. He is offered the Piedmontese rank of general in 1859. In 1856 a declaration is made by the Venetian republic leader, Daniele Manin that royal Piedmont would be offered support, with the purpose of unifying Italy.
Piedmont participated as the ally of Britain and France as ally in the Crimean War thus attempting to cut a dash on the stage at the international level. In 1856, Cavour participates in peace talks in Paris.
He approaches Britain first trying to find out an ally against Austria but faces hard luck. In France where Napoleon III is the emperor, the chances seem better.
Cavour and Napoleon meet at Plombieres secretly in July 1858. The plan is that Cavour would stir up disturbances in Austrian territories in northern Italy. With this, Austria would be enticed into making its military move. Then Venetia and Lombardy would be invaded by the allied Piedmontese and French army. Piedmont and the north Italian provinces would merge after the operation ends. Nice and Savoy the two regions on the French side of the Alps belonging to Piedmont will be given up to France. Napoleon III’s cousin would marry Victor Emmanuel II’s daughter, thus confirming the alliance, the traditional way.
A Coherent War: 1859-1860
As planned by Cavour and Napoleon III, the war does begin. In the interim, Napoleon has cold feet and tries backing out. However in April 1859, Austria makes an aggressive move against Piedmont. The intervention becomes unavoidable. Quick success is achieved by the Piedmontese and French army with the assistance of Garibaldi and his volunteers. Napoleon III makes an entry into Milan on June 8.
At Solferino an encounter that is extremely fierce occurs on 24th June, 2 weeks later. On both sides, heavy casualties occur. The killing of huge number of people leads to the formation of the Red Cross directly. The horrified Napoleon III gives up the pact with Cavour, suddenly.
Napoleon does not inform his Piedmontese allies and in July, he and the Austrians make peace at Villafranca. The change of heart is sudden. Reasons are political for the impact of Solferino. The notion Cavour has about an Italy in future seems to separate from that of Napoleon. Within states of central Italy, Cavour occupies himself in encouraging revolution. His ambitions about merging the kingdom of Piedmont and states of central Italy are very clear. However, the concept of a pope ruled federal Italy is supported by Napoleon (in 1849 when Pius IX was restored to Rome by France, he was the French republic President, already).
All the same, for Piedmont, the advantages for the terms of Villafranca are tremendous. Allied armies have not reached Venetia yet and will continue to remain as Austrian. Now Lombardy is given up to Piedmont. Besides this, Nice and Savoy are not transferred to France, yet.
Both the regions prove to have diplomatic value, soon. The rebellion against the papal rule in Romagna and against the Austrians in Tuscany, Modena and Parma are followed by plebiscites. The regions vote for a merger with Sardinia-Piedmont, which is contrary to the policy introduced by Napoleon. However, the trick is done by Nice and Savoy. In March 1860 the treaty of Turin moves them to France and central Italian territories are transferred to the kingdom of Sardinia.
Last Steps Towards Unity: 1860-1861
A native of Nice, Garibaldi is not pleased by Cavour’s transfer of his birthplace to France. Though he shows his loyalty to Victor Emmanuel II, he now tends to go back to the buccaneering style of revolution he followed earlier. This would take his volunteers wherever they can help the cause of Italian nationhood.
In May 1860, the uprising in Sicily catches his eye. He sails from Genoa with around 1000 men, most of them flaunting red colored shirts (due to this they become known as i Mille, the thousand redshirts). On 11th May he lands at Marsala and proclaims himself as Sicily’s dictator. Thus, the island is liberated from Neapolitan control, in the name of Victor Emmanuel.
In Sicily, Garibaldi gains success, rapidly. On 30th May, Palermo surrenders after street fighting for 3 days. Seven days later, arms are laid down by the 20,000 Neapolitan troops. In the island, no further resistance exists by 20th July. On 18th August, Garibaldi crosses over with a much increased army, to the mainland. He reaches Naples by 7th September.
The conservative Cavour is alarmed by striking success of the radical revolutionary. With his own bold move, he responds. In an attempt to occupy the papal states he sends a Piedmontese army, to stop Garibaldi from invading Rome. Little opposition is met by his troops. They join up with volunteers of Garibaldi towards the end of October in the Neapolitan territory.
A triumphal entry is made by Victor Emmanuel II into Naples on 7th November, with Garibaldi at his side. In February 1861, the Gaeta fortress, the last stronghold of the Neapolitan, falls in the hands of the Italians.
The papal states (apart from the surrounding Campagna and Rome itself) and the kingdom consisting of two Sicilies are annexed by the parliament in Turin. Establishment of the kingdom of Italy can be delayed now by nothing. On 17th March 1861, Victor Emmanuel is the officially announced monarch. He is wished by Garibaldi and others that he becomes Victor Emmanuel I to inaugurate the new Italy. However it is insisted by Cavour that he is Victor Emmanuel II – the king of a more extensive Sardinia-Piedmont. Venetia and Rome are the only ones that remain outside this kingdom.
Rome And Venice: 1866-1870
The kingdom of Sardinia goes to war as an ally of France and in 1859 receives Lombardy. The kingdom of Italy involves in a brief alliance with Prussia and in the process wins Venetia. In 1866, Bismarck, the Prime Minister of Prussia plans a war against Austria. Bismarck arrives at a treaty with Italy. The commitment is that should there be any kind of disagreement with Austria, the Italians would come in on to the side of Prussia. On offer is the prospect that Austrians could be driven out from Venetia for which Victor Emmanuel needs to be persuaded a bit.
The only confrontations between the two countries are won by the Austrian navy in the Adriatic and Austrian army in Italy during the short Seven Weeks’ War.
In the great victory of Prussia over the Austrian Empire, one factor without any relevance is Italy. In October 1866, in the treaty of Vienna, the Austrians give up Venetia to the neutral French emperor. The main reason for this is for face-saving and on the understanding that the province will be presented by the French emperor to the king of Italy. After the Venetians’ wishes are confirmed by a plebiscite, he does so.
The only problem left is that of Rome, involving France also. Since 1849 a French group of troops had been stationed there to offer protection to the pope. The Italian cause is given help by Prussia, on this matter too, in 1870.
Meaning of the Franco-Prussian war outbreak is that in August 1870, the French troops are withdrawn from Rome hastily. In September, the French face defeat in Sedan, after which follows the forceful removal of Emperor Napoleon III, the emperor. The Italian State can now not be deterred from capturing the holy city. On 20th September, the troops break in through the Porta Pia.
A plebiscite in Rome and the surrounding Campagna results in a vote for a merger with the kingdom of Italy. This force majeure act is not accepted by Pius IX.
Florence has been Italy’s provisional capital since 1865. This is in an effort to pacify nationalists bitter against the usurping of their cause by Sardinia-Piedmont. The Government of Italy, in 1871 moves to the Tiber River banks. Victor Emmanuel places himself in the Quirinale Palace. For the first time in 13 centuries, Rome becomes united Italy’s capital city.
What makes Rome unusual among capital cities is that a powerful figure and a small piece of land (pope and his Vatican) lie beyond the national control. Until the 1929 agreement, the anomaly is not resolved formally.
The Internal Pattern Of Politics
A pattern of politics is established and conducted from Rome as a restored capital city in the early decades of democratic rule which continues even after World War II, this remains characteristic of Italy. Governments last for a very short period of about three years each. However again and again the names of the same leading politicians feature as cabinets form and as coalitions dissolve and form groups again.
Trasformismo (‘transformism’), is the name acquired by the political system. The implications are that, in order to retain power, the policies and alliances are transformed by the leading politicians. Agostino Depretis from 1876 pioneered the political system.
In the 11 years right upto 1887 (his death), a succession of administrations are formed by Depretis, with a few periods of remaining out of office. Extending the educational reforms and franchise are some of the measures he adopts. In 1887 he is followed by Francesco Crispi, a far less conciliatory figure, as premier of Italy.
Political career of Crispi begins as a radical republican. However a high regard for Bismarck is accompanied by a slow move towards autocracy and monarchy as principles followed in politics. In 1878, Victor Emmanuel II dies. In Depretis’ cabinet, Crispi becomes a minister. The succession of Umberoto I is secured by him. Nine years later, he becomes Prime Minister.
An unparalleled degree of power is taken by Crispi into his own hands. With this he is able to keep both the foreign and home portfolios for himself in his cabinet. Keeping with his radical past, reforms in public health policy and reforms in prisons and abolition of death penalty are the early measures he takes. However, very soon, he stifles opposition and reduces the power of parliament displaying a streak of dictatorship that is developing.
In 1901 he dies, but the 18 year old Italian, Mussolini, fervently admires Crispi as the father of fascism. For Italy, the years of Crispi are disastrous.
The economy is affected direly by France, the main trading partner of Italy and as well as Crispi’s unfriendly behavior towards France. In 1893 the uprising of peasants in Sicily meets with severe repression with no attention paid to the genuine poverty and grievances that underlie it.
Crispi is very often on the verge of being named in a banking scandal which comes out in the open in 1892 for the first time. He puts in efforts to suppress the inquiry, but in 1897, recommendations of the judiciary are that legal proceedings should be conducted against him. He is cleared of personal misappropriation of funds by the commission but it reveals his shady deals and inclination to protect his friends involved in these deals. In 1896 Crispi is forced to resign as premier.
In this period of politics in Italy, the third dominant figure, Giovanni Giolitti is heavily implicated like Crispi in the banking defamation. However he survives. Between 1891 and 1921 he becomes the Prime Minister 5 times. Like any of his predecessors he is firm on forming the shifting coalitions that retain him in power. The policies he introduces are reformist mainly. He tries introducing a progressive income tax but is defeated narrowly in 1909. He introduces a national insurance act and a universal male suffrage in 1911.
The foreign policy introduced by Giolitti is as hostile as that of Crispi. It brings in hardly any benefit to Italy. In 1912 a war is declared against a weakened Turkey which does gain some benefit. In the form of Libya a much desired Mediterranean colony is delivered.
Introduction Of Foreign Polices
For politicians in Italy, the main preoccupation until 1871 has been establishing a nation after which to follow is the addition of Rome and Venice to the new nation. Remaining free of any fixed alliances is the main priority during the same period. Due to this, playing off the European powers against each other would become possible, as required by the situation.
New ambitions are brought in with the new circumstances. If in case Italy wants to take position as a leading nation in Europe, then engaging in diplomatic alliance games would be necessary, as per the understanding of the politicians. In the same way Italy should also compete for valuable booty by establishing colonies. In the 1880s, the scramble for Africa starts to happen quickly. Italy has anyway been involved in Tunisia for quite some time. Responsibility for Tunisian finances is shared with Britain and France jointly from 1869.
In terms of investment Italy has the finest claim out of the 3 nations, to become a colonial power. But a deal is made by Britain and France behind the back of Italy. In 1881, occurs a sudden coup and Tunisia is in control of France. The foreign policy of the nation changes rapidly following the sense of outrage.
Negotiations with Austria and Germany are opened by the government of Agostino Depretis, by deserting the non-aligned stance of Italy. In May 1882 a Triple Alliance results in which the 3 countries come to an agreement. They agree to offer support to each other if in case any foreign power attacked them and benevolent neutrality would be maintained if ware is to be declared by any of the three nations. For Italy, particularly beneficial is the alliance with Austria. With the alliance, Venice is protected from the Austrian claims. Also, the seizing of Rome by Italy is given a seal of approval.
In 1887, Crispi regains power and the antagonism of Italy to France as well as the alliances’ underlying theme develops further. A commercial treaty is rejected with France in 1888 by the anti French Crispi who admires Bismarck fervently. As compared to France, Italy is harmed much more with the result. Around 40% of the exports of Italy have been taken by France until now. Finding supplies at other places is not difficult for the French. However a severe dip is suffered by the Italian economy.
On the imperial front, equally aggressive is Crispi. After Italy is prevented from succeeding in the Mediterranean over Tunisia, Crispi makes efforts to make his gains on the Red Sea. From 1869, the coast of Eritrea is being developed by shipping firms of Italy. Troops and merchants of Italy begin pressing further into the interiors during the 1880s. Crispi begins using this success as a base in 1889 and signs a treaty with the emperor of Ethiopia in the neighborhood.
Declaration is made to the world by Crispi, by overstating the treaty’s terms that Ethiopia is controlled and protected by Italy now.
Ethiopia indicates denial for this immediately. The entire treaty is then rejected in 1893. End result of this is a war. For Italy this war proves to be a humiliating disaster. Crispi resigns in 1896 after the Italy was defeated at Aduwain.
Success is attained by Italy in its attempt at imperialism, finally, but a heavy cost is paid for it by Italy. Italy focuses more on Libya in Africa by the 20th century’s first decade. Libya is apparently still a part of the incapacitated Ottoman Empire. Italy claims it wants to protect its citizens in Libya and places its troops there in 1911. It follows this with a declaration of war against Turkey.
Troubles closer to home in the Balkans distract the Turks in the autumn of 1912. Much of Libya is given by them to Italy. Italian troops soon capture rest of the province. However the local tribesmen strictly oppose, organizing of the entire campaign. In its short period under the rule of Italy, Libya finds it difficult to settle down.
Everywhere these years prove to be turbulent. The rise and fall of fascism and two world wars are seen by Libya in the 30 years till the Italians are made to leave Libya.
The World War I
In August 1914, the World War I breaks out. Antonio Salandra is the Prime Minister and the king of Italy is Victor Emmanuel III (in 1900, an anarchist, assassinated, Umberto I, his father). In 1912, the Triple Alliance with Austria and Germany is renewed. However as compared to other major powers, the mood is less aggressive and hostile in the country. In June 1914 there have been riots and demonstrations by socialists, which are prompted by resistance to compulsory enlistment for state service.
An urgent and difficult situation confronts Salandra in these circumstances when on July 28, war is declared on Serbia by Austria. As per the Triple Alliance spirit, Austria should have Italy on its side. However if war is declared by one of the three, then neutrality will be allowed by the agreement letter.
Salandra opts to stay neutral. Italy remains on the sidelines much to the ease of many of its people while in August 2014, the other major power rush to arms. If they remain out of the conflict, then there are dangers also.
None of the spoils come to anyone else who has not taken any part in it. An assumption is made on all sides that this war will have a quick end. Italy hopes of an expansion after the war along the northern frontier around Trieste and in the Alps.
No reference to the parliament (not sitting at that period) is made when a decision is made by the king and the prime minister. Among the general public and the deputies exists a large number of people supporting continuing neutrality. In putting the policy into place the foremost has been Giolitti the veteran statesman. He led the Libyan campaign and was completely aware about the Italian army’s enfeebled condition. However their policy is ratified by the parliament as the kind supports Salandra with all the determination. War is declared on Austria-Hungary on 23rd May 1915 by Italy.
Giolittis is instinctive about caution which later proves justified. Involvement of Italy is restricted to a costly and static series of military operations with the Austrian empire on the vulnerable frontier of the northeast.
Along the Isonzo River a combat takes place in which the opposing troops fight each other from trenches. The battle is as costly and static equal to as in the Flanders. During the course of the war, around half a million Italians lose their lives. They do not have much to show for their sacrifice. In August 1916 after a short success, Italy is finally prompted to call war on Germany. A major setback is faced in October 1917 by the Austrians after the win at Carporetto. They are pushed as far as Venice towards the southwest.
Before this territory is recovered by Italy, it is one full year. Now the tide of war is against the Central powers quite clearly. A rapid request for an armistice is prompted for in October 1918 with an Italian advance. On 3rd November the request is signed. An armistice with the Allies is also signed by Germany, eight days later.
The postwar treaty does not benefit Italy much as comparison to the promise made in London as the Adriatic’s northeastern coast goes to the newly created Yugoslavia state. However the valuable city of Trieste and the border that reaches north to all the passes in the Alpine are requirements, most importantly achieved by Italy.
Frustration increases in the country’s most nationalist elements. The economic damage caused by the war in the country aggravates the mood of disturbance. The mood of the times is extremism in the aftermath of the successful revolution in Russia. In Italian politics it seems that it is inevitable for the postwar period to be a turbulent one.
The Crisis Over Fiume
In the crisis over the Fiume port, the right-wing nationalism in Italy is initially seen in a slightly comic and miniature form. From Trieste, Fiume is a port on the other side of the Istria peninsula. By the peace treaty it has been allotted to Yugoslavia. However its population is mainly Italian. After the treaty is signed, within just 2 days, around 300 Italian volunteers seized Fiume by force. The force was let by Gabriele d’Annunzio the flamboyant poet.
Though opinion of the Italians is a happy one, the European powers are not very happy. Due to this the government does not act. D’Annunzio then, as an Italian agent, in his self proclaimed role gives bombastic speeches.
Giolitti, the veteran politician is heading his fifth and final administration in June 1920. He takes required steps at last. Headquarters of the poet are bombarded by Italian troops in 1920 on Christmas Day. Without putting up any resistance, the poet leaves Fieume, within days.
Example set by d’Annunzio is observed by a failed parliament candidate, Benito Mussolini, an Italian politician aged 33 years. He notes that just some bravado and force in small measure, can help achieve things. Having a marked tendency to violence, Benito Mussolini has been a political party’s leader since March 1919. The swashbuckling adventure of d’Annunzio is supported vigorously by him. He is seen as precursor of Fascism later by Mussolini.
Rise Of Mussolini
Mussolini is an active socialist and revolutionary in years before World War I. He becomes the editor of the official publication ‘Avanti’ of the Italian Socialist party, in 1912. After he deserts the policy of neutrality he publicly recommends joining the war on the side of Britain and France. He is expelled from the party in October 1914.
He publishes the, Il Popolo d’Italia, a new aggressive and hostile paper within weeks. The main aim of publishing the paper is to collect some socialist members of the people of Italy that share views similar to his. His policy is adopted by the government of Italy, 6 months later. In May 1915, the war on Austria-Hungary is declared. Mussolini is conscripted and he serves in the infantry as a private till in 1917 when he gets wounded.
Much energy is devoted by Mussolini after the war to attack the Socialist party official and the rest supposed to have adversely affected the interests of Italy after advocating neutrality. He gets a new constituency, with most of it well-to-do individuals who consider themselves unfairly treated by the postwar settlement.
He becomes the founder of the ‘league for combat’ or the Fasci di Combattimento in March 1919 at Milan, for which he utilizes the support of this group.
The policy introduced by Mussolini shifts from residual socialism during 1920 (he supports the workers on strike who forcibly take control of their metal-working factories). This he does as part of support for attaining status quo in a state that is strongly centralized. His argument is that in socialist program, violence is an important and necessary part. In his politics, violence now becomes a central part.
The armed thugs of Mussolini are much feared and are recognizable instantly in their black shirts. At this point their violence is directed against all types of socialists (the same brush is used for tarnishing the democratic socialists and communists). The supposed threat from the extreme left wing is of main concern to the authorities. The authorities pretend not to notice the unlawful activities of the right-wing black shirts. In May 1921 Mussolini and 35 of his colleagues are elected to the parliament for the proposed coalition, with the help of one of the candidates, Giolitti They establish themselves formally that year, in November, as ‘the Partito Nazionale’, a political party. However in the plans Mussolini has, elections do not play a vital role. His purpose can be best met, with violence and the mere threat of it eventually.
A general strike is called upon by the socialist parties and trade unions in August 1922, to oppose the Fascists, which for him is the perfect opportunity. Much to the approval of the public, the armed gangs of black shirts break the strike and essential services are taken over by them.
Mussolini trims his policies further, now that destiny seems to be within his grasp. He modifies condemnation of the church and deserts republicanism, as he is no longer a socialist. Grateful for the organized labor suppression, the powerful interests of the right wing in society are reassured further.
Mussolini is prepared in October 1922 to take the next step. The government’s weakness makes the intervention necessary, he declares. He passes orders to the armed forces to gather in 4 areas around Rome, in large numbers. Under the command of 4 of his closest colleagues, they march towards the capital. Then he shifts to Milan so that he can see outcome of this gamble from a safe distance.
The Dramatic March On Rome
The dramatic march on Rome brings power to Mussolini, in subsequent mythology of the Fascists. If the government and king had taken decisive actions in the crisis that developed then the reality could be have been completely different.
Reviews of a march past of around 40,000 black shirts was reviewed by Mussolini on 24th October 1922 in Naples at a Fascist convention. It is here that he makes a declaration that within days, the national crisis of Italy would be resolved. The declaration was that either the government should be given to them or they would march on Rome and then take it. Within 30 miles of the capital, around 14,000 men of the 3 armed columns of Fascists, while he gives the speech.
When Mussolini travels to Milan in the north, on the next day, a declaration is made by the Fascist Manifesto that the Gordian knot will be cut by the forthcoming march on Rome and a renewed Italy will be handed over to the King. Appeal made to the military and monarchists is an obvious one but it is not successful in diminishing the garrison’s loyalty in Rome. A state of emergency is declared after an indecisive behavior of the Prime Minister and his cabinet who are assured of support of the army. The army is ordered to take necessary steps in the declared state of emergency.
Predicting outcome of this measure is not possible. A civil war at full scale would be the outcome. In the country, the Fascists would get strong support, without any doubt for sure.
Victor Emmanuel III, the king feels persuaded no doubt for taking a step that is completely unconstitutional. With the hope of pacifying the Fascists having posts in the cabinet in a coalition government, he does not agree to sign the decree. To invite Mussolini he sends a message to Milan to come for talks, to Rome. However one thing that Mussolini is aware of is that all the trump cards will be left with him if this action is taken by the king. His response to the situation is that only if it is to form the government, he would come.
After the gamble yields good results the invitation stands. From Milan a sleeper on a night train is reserved by Mussolini .On 30th October he arrives comfortably in the capital so as to control Italy. The only issue is that all over the nation, his supporters await the much promised march on Rome.
For the dictators, one skill that is foremost is presentation. Mussolini resolves this with greatest ease. In sufficient numbers, the Blackshirts are brought to Rome as fast as possible so that an impressive parade is provided. The Blackshirts march past Mussolini and Victor Emmanuel III side by side on 30th October. All are sent home early in the morning, the following day. On the streets, unruly behavior is not expected by the new Prime Minister. As proof that the ‘march on Rome’ has taken place, photographs are also made available. Power has been grabbed rather than given, as befits a person of action.
Fascists have known Mussolini by an effective and simple title. To call him, the name il Duce, the Leader is used by everyone in Italy.
Steps Towards Total Control
While establishing himself as dictator Mussolini moves with circumspection, in 1933 as compared to Hitler. To stop the Blackshirts from indulging in further violence, an order is given immediately. Several non-Fascists are included in his first cabinet including a social democrat and 2 liberals.
In January and February 1923 he takes the first 2 steps in securing power. The steps taken are mainly for regularizing the young party’s affairs that is in power now. A Fascist Grand Council is set up first by Mussolini. The council can be presented as the party’s central committee. However the main intention is that functions of the parliament should be replaced by it eventually. The blackshirts who get changed into a ‘militia for national security’ remain thugs in spite of the change of name. They are a private army who are at the beck and call of Mussolini.
To make sure that the parliament has permanent Fascist majority, a law is introduced by Mussolini in the summer of 1923. Two thirds of the parliament seat can be won by any party that wins highest number of votes in the election (he is sure that this can be achieved by the Blackshirts for him). In April 1924, the elections are held in which presence of 6 opposition parties can assure that the poll will be topped by the Fascists. They win sixty five percent of the votes in the event thus ensuring that in the circumstances, the new law is not necessary.
With the Nazis, the win of the Fascists at this stage can be placed down to 2 factors, ten years later in Germany.
Mussolini moves unwillingly in the establishment process of himself as dictator, as compared to Hitler in 1933. So stop any violence henceforth by the Blackshirts, an order is given immediately. Many non-Fascists are included in his first cabinet, including a social democrat and 2 liberals.
In the month of January and February 1923 he takes the initial steps towards complete control. The main aim of this action is to regularize the young party’s affairs which is in control now. The Fascist Grand Council is set up by Mussolini first. It can be presented as the party’s central committee, but eventually the main intention of it is to get functions of the parliament, replaced. Transformation of the thuggish Blackshirts takes place into a ‘militia for the purpose of security of the nation’. As a private army, the Blackshirts are at the beck and call of Mussolini.
A law is introduced by Mussolini in the summer of 1923. In the parliament the law ensures permanent majority of the Fascists. Two third of the seats in the parliament will be received automatically by the party winning in the election, with greatest number of votes. In April 1924, the elections are held. It seems that the poll will be topped by the Fascists with the assurance of the 6 opposition parties. Sixty five percent of the votes are won in the event. Thus in the circumstances, the new law is not needed.
At this stage, success of the Fascists can be put down to 2 factors as with the Nazis, around ten years later in Germany.
As per the first factor the middle classes hope that order will be restored by a strong government in a society that is susceptible to strikes and anarchy. The other factor is the liberals who are cautious while being optimistic and having a belief that soon the inadequacy will be demonstrated by the upstart rabble-rouser and will be replaced in the bargain.
A socialist deputy, Giacomo Matteotti dares to criticize Mussolini’s regime. He is murdered by thugs of Mussolini in June 1924. Mussolini comes through this dangerous moment safely. The Fascists lose their popularity in this event’s aftermath, however just for a brief time. Parliament is boycotted by many of the opposition parties. However hardly any problems are faced by Mussolini because the king and the Liberals continue provide him with required support.
For his personal rule, final requirements are put in place by Mussolini in the following 2 years. He declares in January 1925 that he is taking up responsibility of dictatorial powers for the good of the nation. National newspapers are handed over to the Fascist proprietors and politicians in the opposition are arrested. Whether in public meetings or press, all activities that are non-Fascist are specifically prohibited in November 1926.
The parliament is thus replaced effectively by the Fascist Grand Council and it has bare resemblance to an elected body now. Prospective deputies are proposed by Fascist associations like the trade unions and cultural bodies, by a law of 1928. A list of candidates is compiled by the Grand Council from them. The electorate cannot choose from the list; it is either accept the whole lot or reject them.
Mussolini is obsessive about gathering power in his own hands while this constraint of disagreement goes. As many as 8 portfolios in the cabinet are held by him at one time. Under the henchmen, he creates a top heavy state apparatus that is reluctant to offer any criticism as they know what the repercussions will be. State of the economy in Italy is worn which Duce is not aware off. The Fascist state is inefficient which drags down the economy. He does mislead himself about military capability of the country. Considering the great plans for expansion of Italian territory, this proves to be a blind spot.
Albania And Ethiopia
Mussolini dreams of the days of Imperial Italy when Rome ruled most of the civilized world. Whenever he gave reference of the great sea, this would-be Caesar of modern day time had a evocative way of lapsing into Latin. He calls the Mediterranean as ‘mare nostrum’ which in Latin means ‘our sea’.
During the 1920s and the 1930s not much of the region around the sea is available readily. In Albania, the Duce gains control over a long stretch of coast, close in Albania in the year 1927 by signing treaty with Ahmed Zogu, the dictator which makes him fall into heavy debt to Italy. From Libya there is no way any colonial expansion could occur on the north African coast. However the opportunities seem to be promising when in both Somalia and Eritrea, Italy has a strong foothold, further down east.
In the pretext to invade Ethiopia, local disagreement is used by Mussolini in 1935 over the grazing rights. In Africa, the last region that could be colonized is Ethiopia. If at Aduwa, he is able to avenge defeat of the Italians, then surely it could bring him glory for sure. Prevailing this time are weapons of modern day times. Mussolini in 1935 proclaims that Victor Emmanuel III is not only the king of Italy but also Ethiopia’s emperor.
He returns to Albania for the next adventure. In an effort of taking control directly, he invades Albania in April 1939 in a way to imitate Hitler. In the previous month, Hitler had captured Czechoslovakia. For Mussolini this military initiative he took was the last one to achieve success. This success is partly because he is an inadequate partner and junior of the effective dictator in Germany.
Hitler And Mussolini
In June 1934 Hitler and Mussolini first meet in Venice. This Italian and long established dictator, presents that out of the two he is the most powerful on his homeland. However in September 1937 on the return visit to Berlin and Munich, the reality is made quite obvious. Invincible strength of Germany is made impressible when Hitler lays on spectacular military displays, parades and visits to factories. He feels convinced that in the previous year, the decision he made for aligning Germany and Italy was an intelligent one. The alignment was with a purpose of forming a new ‘axis’ in the diplomacy in Europe.
It is clear from now on in this relationship, that the Duce is a younger partner. In the tradition where nationalist demagogues are swaggering around, a degree of admiration is always retained by the junior man for his exuberant predecessor.
In view of the insignificance of the ally, Hitler displays an astonishing degree of loyalty. In 1930 Hitler goes to war. At first despite the Axis agreement in the year 1936, the Duce is not successful in involving Italy in the action. In June 1940, at short notice, when Mussolini sees that France is on the verge of falling after the blitzkrieg, he jumps into the fray. His wish is to get for Italy, the French territory. However in Hitler’s plan, this is not a part.
The results are evenly calamitous once Mussolini is responsible for the efforts of the Italian military in the Axis cause.
From Albania, Mussolini sends Italian troops in to neutral Greece in the initial campaign. The results are shameful. The attack in response by the Greeks is with so much of vigor that they move into the deepest areas of the Italian Albania. The ineffectual ally has to be rescued by Hitler. To resolve the situation, he sends his troops through Yugoslavia towards the south.
The arena for the war is Africa in which main contribution should be made by Italy. Using the troops in Ethiopia and Libya it should have been able to flank the British in Egypt. An important link to India through the Suez Canal is Egypt. In Hitler’s war, the major contribution would be the capture of Egypt by the Italians.
The first to strike are the British under Wavell. They move the Italians back in Libya as far as Tobruk. Finally the Italians are chased out of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Hitler sends Rommel, his finest general in March 1941 to take charge of the campaign in North Africa, thus coming to the rescue. In the many conflicts of the war, the campaign proves to be one of the most significant and toughest one. With the Allied capture of Tunis, in May 1943, the campaign comes to an end finally. All colonial possessions are lost by Italy in Africa.
The next Allied target is Italy’s own territory, which is even worse. In July 1943, when the British and American troops arrive in Sicily, the very first Axis power to be invaded is Italy.
Sides Changed By Italy: 1943
Soon, in Sicily there are almost half a million Allied troops. Italian and German defenders are cleared between them by 16th August, even if they are not successful in preventing them from escaping to mainland Italy at a short distance for safety.
In politics in Italy the repercussions of the campaign in Italy are immediate. On 24th July, at night, a no confidence vote against Mussolini is passed in Rome by the Fascist Grand Council. On the order of Victor Emmanuel III, the king, the dictator is arrested, the following day. Pietro Badoglio, a field marshal is appointed in place of the dictator. Extricating Italy from the war is the main task of Badoglio. However 2 factors complicate this.
One complication is that the Germans are all around whose cause Italy is very eager to abandon. Next, In January 1943, at Casablanca in a conference, the Allies make a resolution that from any of the Axis powers only unconditional surrender will be accepted by them.
On this basis, if surrender is done then this is an alarming leap into the darkness. However with the Allies, secret negotiations are held in Portugal and Spain which bring results. Italy surrenders on 8th September. An agreement is signed by Badoglio three weeks later with Italy committing to change sides. War is declared by Italy on 13th October on Germany, her ally. The Germans posses a major section of Italy in the meanwhile. To improvise their defenses and bring in reinforcements, they have had ample time.
Italy with its spinal mountain range and thin and long shape is designed perfectly for defense against any attack by army that wants to move up the peninsula. Due to this one the Italian campaign of the Allies is an arduous and long one.
The first attack goes off quite well. On 3rd September, without much difficulty, a small force is landed in the toe of Italy, just across the Messina Straits. Then on 8th September, a bigger invasion follows up the Salerno coast. The Germans here resist strongly. In 21 days time the Allies reach Naples. The slow down begins only near Monte Cassino, a point further north.
The Italian Campaign: 1943-1945
The Gustav Line is created by the Germans around 30 miles up the coast from Naples. The Gustav Line is at a defensive position stretching from the Garigliano river in the west, across the peninsula to the Sangro positioned in the east. The cradle of the Benedictine movement, the ancient and rich Monte Cassino monastery lies high above the Garigliano.
From November 1942 the Germans are successful in stopping the Allies along this line for almost half a year, even if the Allied force had landed at Anzio in January 1944 behind the German lines. Till the month of May when the German resistance is broken from both the directions by thrust from the Allies. Cassino the town close by and the monastery are demolished in the battle.
At last, the Polish, US, French, Canadian and British troops (the multinational Allied Force) move fast and on 5th June, capture Rome. As hoped, further in the north, the resistance by the Germans doesn’t collapse. On 13th August, Florence is taken within 10 weeks. A strong defensive line is established by the Germans just a bit further ahead. The Gothic Line extends in the west to Rimini in the east through the hilly nation from Pisa. Till the spring of 1945, the Allies come to a standstill again.
In northern Italy, in the meantime, political development becomes quite interesting.
Mussolini is kept in many places since he was arrested. On 8th September 1943, the he is guarded northeast of Rome in the Abruzzi mountains in a small hotel. This is at the time the armistice of Italy is announced with the Allies.
Hitler becomes aware of the news that Italy has deserted for the sake of the opposition. The loyalty which Hitler shows to his unskilled Fascist ally, now strengthens his sense of outrage. He speaks to the German people on radio on 10th September. In the speech he describes Mussolini as the greatest son Italy ever had since the Roman empire collapsed. To save the fallen dictator he orders the SS for a parachute raid, thus taking a more practical step.
Mussolini’s preference is a quiet and peaceful life in a small hotel. The SS rescues him after which he is taken to Hitler. He is chosen as puppet dictator of Italy’s new Fascist republic. This means that Germans will now control the northern part. As the SS is guarding Mussolini’s palace on Lake Garda, he remains a prisoner. Whatever Hitler tells him, he has to obey and follow.
The SS too is not able to keep him safe, in the end. In April 1945 the final advance is made by the Allies, up Italy. The Italian partisans capture and shoot Mussolini and Clara Petacci, his mistress. In Milan, their bodies are hung from a gibbet, upside down. This was the same place where Mussolini had described his alliance with Hitler, nine years earlier as new axis in global politics.