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The Extent To Which Austria Was The Main Obstacle To The Unification Of Italy In The Period 1815 1849

3023 words - 12 pages

The Extent to Which Austria was the Main Obstacle to the Unification of Italy in the Period 1815-1849

In the period immediately after the Vienna settlement in 1815 and up
to the widespread revolutions throughout Europe and especially Italy
in 1848 and 1849, the prospect of a united Italy seemed almost a
distant dream. There were a range of obstacles in between progress to
a unified state. These included the outright strength of foreign
powers and in particular of Austria in suppressing revolution and
thereafter its ability to recover quickly. Also the parochial nature
of the society, the lack of a universally accepted leader, the failure
to coordinate activity and the lack of popular support were all
obstacles to a united Italian state in this period. However, the
domination of the peninsula by Austria was the single most important
factor because without its strength the restored monarchs would have
fell permanently and the lack of foreign influence could have united
the new governments.

The influence and domination of the Italian peninsula by Austria along
with its immense military advantage was a key obstacle to the
unification of Italy in the period 1815-1849. Firstly, the Vienna
Settlement in 1815 increased Austrian power over Italy and the
reactionary Restored Monarchs were heavily influenced by Austria. This
meant that the middle-class officials in the governments and the law
courts were dismissed and replaced by the non-noble families which
were uninterested in any form of Italian unity. The Austrian
chancellor Metternich had a totally negative and reactionary approach
meaning that he was strongly opposed to nationalism and had no
intention of allowing nationalist ideas to undermine Austrian control.
This meant that there was little chance for nationalists to work for a
united Italy as they would be immediately suppressed and crushed. The
military supremacy of the Austrians was evident in the revolutions of
1820 and 1831. In 1821 the Austrians crushed the revolution in Naples
led by General Pepe and also defeated the Turin Rebels who had tried
to defend the constitution granted by Charles Albert. This was
particularly significant in that the Austrians could easily defeat any
revolutionary activity and liberal progress meaning that there was no
opportunity for states to unite and coordinate interests to fight for
unity. Similarly in 1831 in Modena and the Papal States provisional
governments were unsuccessful due to Austrian military power in
suppressing the uprisings. The Austrian army was extremely well led
and organised and the extent of this is evident in its ability to
suppress the more widespread revolutions between 1848 and 1849.
Revolutions had spread from Palermo throughout mainland Italy and
other serious disturbances were occurring in 1848 as a result of the

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