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The Extent To Which The Lack Of Popular Support Was The Main Reason For The Weakness Of Italian Nationalism In The Period 1815 1848

1521 words - 6 pages

The Extent to Which the Lack of Popular Support was the Main Reason for the Weakness of Italian Nationalism in the Period 1815-1848

Since the fall of the Roman Empire in the 6th century, Italy had been
a divided nation. The French had divided it into 11 independent states
and principalities prior to invasion in 1789. This meant that there
was little communication between the states and their rulers. However,
after the invasion of Italy by Napoleon the number of states was
reduced and the French legal code was introduced which allowed
improved communication and in turn a growth in the economy. This led
to greater hope of political progress within the minds of the
aristocracy and middle class. However, 90% of the population were
peasants, many of which were illiterate. This meant that most of the
population were only interested in their small villages and daily
struggle for survival. As a result there was little enthusiasm for
challenging the French or Austrian ruler. Within those who were
educated, the lack of freedom and liberty was unacceptable and they
were prepared to fight for political freedom. It was this middle class
group which led a movement for change and although their goal was not
a united Italy, it was one which strode in a path towards it. A lack
of numbers united in a sole aim of nationalism, along with the problem
of vast distances between them, meant that they were particularly
weak. There were also other factors which led to their failure in the
early part of the 19th century.

In the period between 1815 and 1848 Italy was divided in several ways.
Firstly, the country was divided into 11 states each having their own
rulers with different forms of government. This led to a great deal of
instability and little similarity between states. This was a weakness
because it meant that there was little agreement and therefore little
chance of unification. Each ruler was only interested in his own state
and had no interest in political affairs concerning other states. This
resulted in various isolated states and in turn little hope for unity
between rulers. Most of the states including the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies, and The Papal States had strict censorship and opposed all
suggestions of reform. This was another weakness as without reform
there was little chance of improvement and negotiation. With extremely
strict control in most states it meant that it was extremely difficult
to gather popular support for nationalism throughout Italy and unite
it together. Therefore, it was not so much the lack of popular
support, but instead the lack of unity of purpose and simultaneous
action which led to the downfall of the nationalist movement.

Another interesting factor being a weakness of Italian nationalism was
the actions of the Congress of Vienna after the French revolution of

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