Importance of foreign influence in Italy between 1789 and 1900. Essay

Submitted By willhaddadi
Words: 2813
Pages: 12


The period 1796 to 1900 saw many attempts at unification from various people and groups, both foreign and Italian. When I say ‘Aid’, I don’t necessarily mean directly as there are many examples where Italy’s bid for unification was indirectly helped as a result of something that, at the time, may have been seen as a hinderance. This essay is in support of the fact that foreign influence, during the period, did more to aid Italy’s bid for Italian Unification than it did to hinder it. It may be evident that during this period there are many instances in which a foreign power has hindered Italy’s attempts at unification and it’s arguable that these hindrances outweigh any good done however this essay argues that without the intervention of foreign powers in the first place, Italy wouldn’t of got anywhere near where it did. I’m not saying foreign powers helped solely in terms of provoking direct unity but also in terms of helping the peninsula to take steps forward, pushing it towards become a less socially backward area and imposing the idea of an independent constitutional government to control the states once unified. An obvious foreign power that initially aided Italy in it’s bid for unity was Napoleon’s
French Empire. Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in the years 1796­7 and consequent rule over it for the following 19 years was crucial in helping Italy to, not only rationalise it’s separation of states, but also aspire towards a representative constitutional government and more advanced social structure. In the short term, France provided Italy with hope that they could be turned into a self­ran, unified republic with Napoleon “coming to ‘set the peoples of Italy’ free and to ‘break their chains’”1 as Christopher Duggan writes in his 2007 publication
The Force of Destiny; A history of Italy since 1796
. He continues to write that “Napoleon himself had promised the milanese that their city would become the capital of a republic stretching from sea to sea, enjoying the ‘eternal friendship of
France’”2, in turn supplying the people of Italy with the idea that they could soon live in a legitimate unified republic. Although there was no guarantee that Napoleon was telling the truth he still aided Italy as he was the first to implant the idea of unity into the heads of the Italian people. At first, the Italian people believed Napoleon’s soul intention was to simply free Italy from foreign rule. As Herbert Fisher writes in
A History of Europe
“The young men who

Duggan, C., 2007,
The Force of Destiny; A history of Italy since 1796
Duggan, C., 2007,
The Force of Destiny; A history of Italy since 1796

followed Bonaparte across the mountains into Italy believed that France had a liberating message to give to the world”3 he continues to say that “The Italians they regarded with compassion, as a race completely outstripped in the calendar of civilized progress, but capable under French tutelage, of learning the new way of life in which France was a pioneer”4. It is made clear by Fisher that the general consensus was that Napoleon wanted to liberate Italy and help it move forwards out of it’s old fashioned, unproductive social structure and into ‘the new way of life’. A perfect example of this is in a French proclamation to the Italians in which the Italians are told that “The French army comes to break your chains” and that “Your property, your religion, and your usages will be respected”, The proclamation continues to say that ‘we have no quarrel save with the tyrants who enslave you’5 heavily inferring that France’s aim is to aid Italy towards independance without, however, allowing detraditionalization to have too large an effect. The French Revolution, itself, is a foreign influence that gave Italy hope and largely affected the whole of europe. It’s needless