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Austria As The Main Barrier For Italian Reunification

1104 words - 4 pages

Austria as the Main Barrier for Italian Reunification

Austria was one of the major barriers for Italian reunification taking
place during 1815-1831. However, a number of other problems beset
Italian nationalists during this period that weakened the movement
towards Risorgimento.

In 1815, Italy like most of Europe had its borders and rulers put back
to Pre-Napoleon times. At the Vienna Conference, the Great Powers met
to discuss Europe's fate after the fall of Napoleon. Italy was put
under the influence of Austria to ensure a balance of power, and as
compensation for Austria losing the Netherlands.

If we look at a map of Italy, we can see why Austria was one of the
major barriers stopping reunification. All the seven states were
heavily influenced by Austria. Offshoots of the Royal Hapsburg family
ruled Parma, The Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia Tuscany and Modena. The
King of Piedmont was restored by Austrian troops, as was the Pope,
reactionary policies were resumed in both these states. The Kingdom of
Two Scillies signed a defensive alliance with Austria. This network
effectively ensured Austrian domination of the Italian Penisular, as
long as this existed the Risorgimento would stay a distant dream.

Between 1815-31, Austria was led by its chancellor Prince Clemens
Metternich. He created the Metternich system; this involved the
repression of nationalism and liberalism within the sphere of Austrian
influence and the creation of a network of alliances throughout
Europe. This policy aimed to strengthen the position of the old order
against the threat of revolutionary uprisings. The secret police and
the reactionary policies of the Italian Monarchs administered it
throughout the peninsular. This system effectively ensured Italy would
stay under the grip of Austria, as it was not in her best interests to
see Italy unified.

The Revolutions of 1820-1 show how Austria was a major barrier. For
example in Naples members of the Carbonari and the army rose against
King Ferdinand who agreed to grant a constitution. However, he
appealed to the Great Powers for help and Austrian troops were sent to
Southern Italy where they defeated the rebels as Rieti. This ensured
the old order was restored, the other revolutions also failed in due
course.

As long as Austria was strong the Risorgimento could not take place,
this is why Austria was one of the major barriers. However there are a
number of other major problems that afflicted Italian Nationalists
during 1815-31.

The weakness of the secret societies was a major problem. These were
the main outlets for revolutionary ideals. However they rarely failed
to help each other and were far too parochial in their outlook, they
did not envisage the unification of Italy. They simply wanted to
change things in their own areas. For example,...

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