Italian and German Unification Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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During the years from 1858 to 1871 Italy and afterward Germany emerged as unified countries with one constitution and changed the path of history in Europe and consequently the whole world by shifting and changing or in many cases simply disturbing the balance of power not only in Europe but in the world. Both incidents were the direct results of various nationalist movements in both countries which share similarities and have differences in the basic ideologies behind them and the methods undertaken by their political leaders who made the unifications possible.

In Italy the unification movement was lead by Conte di Camillo Benso Cavour (1810-61), who was the prime minister of the government of Piedmont-Sardinia, a constitutional monarchy. Cavour was a nobleman with liberal ideas while the leader of the German unification Prince Otto Edward Leopold von Bismarck, (1815-1898), the chancellor of Prussia, a conservative and absolutist monarchy was a Junker (German noble landowners) and a fanatical conservative. (Merriman Ch. 17)

Yet, not only the difference in situations surrounding the social and political life both in Italian and German lands in internal and international stages at the time of unifications, but the differences between the social and political background of these two leaders and their very own way of thinking and ideologies made their methods and the paths of unifications of their homelands different from one another. This paper will discuss the similarities and differences in the methods undertaken by both leaders to achieve unification and to some extent the results of the two incidents.

Further it will weigh the promises for democratization against the potential strengths or shortcomings of national unification in these countries. The very first characteristic of both movements that attracts ones attention is the fact that both goals were achieved by the means of military and political manipulations and maneuvers, although ironically enough, the early attempts made to unify the states under a same flag both in German and Italian lands were made by liberals and in many cases even republicans who in fact gave birth to the modern idea of unified Germany and unified Italy.

But all the attempts made by liberals and republicans in the way of Italian and German causes either by political and peaceful means or through revolts and revolutions were total failures and almost all of them ended up in disasters for their leaders and in many cases for every-day average person. As Germany, Italy was characterized by the slow and late public emergence of the bourgeois politics and by an accentuated localism both in the collective expectations and social relationships.

(Caglioti) As an example of political and peaceful attempts made by more moderate liberals one can point to the Parliament of Frankfurt which desperately but unsuccessfully tried to force the rulers of the fragmented German states to come together and unify under the rule of Hohenzolern dynasty during the revolutions of 1848-49, and as an example of more radical turn of the unification movements one can look at the revolution of 1848-49 in Italy in which nationalist radical currents along with republican followers of Mazzini conducted revolts against the Habsburg rule and their military presence as well as conservative local rulers of fragmented so called Italian states throughout the peninsula and northern states which ended up in defeat for revolutionaries in the hands of Austrian armies and local conservative forces. (Smith Ch. II)

These defeats however, were inspirations for both Bismarck and Cavour to implement the idea of a unified Germany and a unified Italy by means other than peaceful and pure political activities, which had been proven impracticable and incompetent in earlier stages. In other words, although both Bismarck and Cavour were politicians and set the stage for their goals by genus political maneuvers, the final fate of unification both in Italian and German cases were in hands of military and both leaders used military and warfare extensively to settle their word with their opponents.

The use of military and warfare not only came to help to prevent the outside opposition to unification cause from destroying it, but it provided both leaders with a very powerful and practical means to strangle any inside opposition conducted either by their political and ideological opponents or the petty rulers of the fragmented states both in Italian and German lands who were the natural claimants and/or opponents to the unification cause.

(Merriman Ch. 17) And another ironic fact about the unification attempts made by Cavour and Bismarck is the fact that, although they were trying to unify Germany and Italy under the rule of monarchies with conservative themes, and in the form of very centralized powers and autocratic states.

And in case of the government of Prussia even absolutist and totalitarianist, there were very few oppositions and objections to the path of unifications taken by Bismarck and Cavour by liberals and even republicans who in fact opposed and challenged the very existence of the conservative state of Piedmont- Sardinia and the kingdom of Prussia and that in turn had its roots in the fact that liberals and their more radical republican and democrat colleagues were disillusioned by the results of the 1848-49 revolutions and previous attempts made to unify Germany and Italy. (Merriman Ch. 17)

The belief of Revolution from the bottom, referred to by radical liberals and republicans were being replaced by the theory of Reform from the top mainly celebrated by moderate conservatives and of course the fact that all those liberals and republicans who were potential opponents to the unification under a conservative rule, were true patriots and all of them were greatly affected by the ideologies of nationalism, if they were not categorized directly as nationalists and that stopped them from opposing to Bismarck and Cavour since in a sense they were all moving towards a same goal when it came to unifying their homelands.

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