July Revolution (1830)


On 26 July 1830, the Bourbon king Charles X issued four ordinances dissolving the Chamber of Deputies, suspending freedom of the press, modifying the electoral laws so that three-fourths of the electorate lost their votes, and calling for new elections to the Chamber. In protest, the Parisian masses took to the streets for the first time since 1795. The royal forces were unable to contain the insurrection. Charles X was advised to go into exile and put in his place, a relative, Louis Philip of Orleans who had the backing of the middle class. The tactics worked in France. But in other parts of Europe there arose a number of risings. The revolution was successful in the Netherlands, where Belgium was separated to form an independent state. The Greeks, who had been fighting for independence from Turkish rule, attained independence in 1832, with the support of the Great Powers. But the revolt of Poles against the Russian Tsar was suppressed.

February Revolution (1848)

February Revolution T he French King, Louis Philippe, had to abdicate and flee the country in February, 1848, when there was a spontaneous rising in Paris. Crowds chanting “Vive de la reforme,” an expression in French to show Louis Philippe patriotism, stormed into the lines of troops and swarmed through the palaces and the assembly buildings. The opposition rallied behind the French revolutionary poet Lamartine. Louis Blanc also joined. In the elections held in April 1848, on the basis of universal manhood suffrage, the moderates were elected in large numbers. Only a few socialists were elected. The newly elected Assembly decided to shut down the workshops that had been started at the initiative of Louis Blanc, as the workshops were seen as a threat to social order. The workers retaliated and braved the government repression. Between June 24 and 26, thousands of people were killed and eleven thousand revolutionaries were imprisoned or deported. The period came to be known as the bloody June days. The Constituent Assembly drafted a new constitution based on which elections were held. Louis Napoleon, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected President in December 1848. Before long, in January 1852, he crowned himself as the Emperor by holding a plebiscite. He assumed the title Napoleon III. T he year 1848 was one of the distinct triumphs for nationalism. Metternich, the arbiter of Europe and enemy of nationality, was forced to leave Vienna in disguise. Hungary and Bohemia both claimed national independence. Milan expelled the Austrians. Venice became an independent republic. Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, declared war against Austria. Absolutism seemed dead for a while. But it was not to be. By the summer, the monarchs had begun their attacks on the revolutionaries and succeeded in crushing the democratic movements in important centres like Berlin, Vienna and Milan. In the space of a year counter-revolution was victorious throughout the continent.

Nationalism in southern and eastern Europe

In Europe the countries that first achieved national unity were France, Spain and England. Italy which had made rich contributions to art and letters was not part of this political change. Cities in Italy like Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples and Milan were the capitals of small states. Hence she became the prey of powerful kingdoms. Besides, the age of Renaissance was an age of intellectual liberty and certainly not an age of political liberty. The petty states of Italy, though enlightened in many ways, were mostly governed by tyrants, such as the Medici in Florence, the cruel Visconti in Milan and Caesar Borgia in central Italy. What was true of Italy was true of Germany. The Holy Roman Empire was an empire only in name. In practice, Germany contained three of four hundred separate States. It was their kings who saved these countries from feudal anarchy and made them into nations. Conditions suitable for the rise of Italy and Germany as nation states developed only in the nineteenth century with the spread of nationalism.

Unification of Italy

Italy before Napoleon’s time was a patchwork of little states and petty princes. Under Napoleon Italy had been reduced to three political divisions. This step towards unity was destroyed by the Congress of Vienna. Eight states were set up and the whole of Northern Italy was handed over to the German-speaking Austrians. Italy in the nineteenth century was a ‘patchwork of about a dozen large states and a number of smaller ones.’ Metternich described Italy as “a mere geographical expression.” The empire of Piedmont-Sardinia, in the northwest, bordering France, played a central role in unifying Italy. To its east Lombardy and Venetia were under the control of the Austrian Empire. It also controlled a few smaller states such as Tuscany, Parma and Modena. The Papal States were located in the middle under the control of the Roman Catholic Church. In the south was the Kingdom of the two Sicilies or Naples and Sicily was under the control of a family of Bourbon dynasty. T he Napoleonic rule, for the first time, provided Italy with a sense of unity through uniform administration. The nationalistic aspirations of the Italians were dashed when the Congress of Vienna restored the old monarchies in the various Italian principalities. The 1820s witnessed the mushrooming of several secret societies such as the Carbonari, advocating liberal and patriotic ideas. They kept alive the ideas of liberalism and nationalism. Revolts broke out in Naples, Piedmont and Lombardy. However, they were crushed by Austria. In the wake of the 1830 Revolution in France, similar rebellions broke out in Modena, Parma and Papal States which were again crushed by Austria. In 1848, following the February Revolution in France, the people again rose in revolt in several Italian states including Piedmont-Sardinia, Sicily, Papal States, Milan and Lombardy and Venetia. As a result liberal constitutions were granted in Sicily, Piedmont Sardinia and the Papal States. King Charles Albert of Piedmont-Sardinia, under the influence of the Revolution, invaded Lombardy and Venetia. However, the Austrians defeated him with the help of Russian troops. Charles Albert saved Piedmont-Sardinia from Austrian occupation by taking the blame upon himself for the war and abdicated in favour of his son Victor Emmanuel II. However, despite the defeat of Pidemont-Sardinia and the suppression of revolution in various Italian principalities, liberal and nationalistic ideas survived. Mazzini, Count Camillo di Cavour, and Giuseppe Garibaldi were the three central f igures of the unification of Italy. Cavour was considered the brain, Mazzini the soul and Garibaldi the sword-arm of Italian Unification.

Mazzini (1805–1872)

Mazzini Giuseppe Mazzini laid the foundations of the Italian unification. Born in Genoa in a well-to-do family, he graduated in law. Attracted to politics at a young age, he advocated the freedom of the Italian nation. He involved himself in the insurrectionary activities of the Carbonari for which he was arrested. He soon gave up the idea of secret plotting and began to believe in open propaganda against monarchy. He believed that Italy was a great civilisation that could provide leadership to the rest of the world. He started the Young Italy movement in 1831 with the aim of an Italian Republic. Exiled for working for the cause of unification of Italy in 1848, when revolts were breaking out all over North Italy, Mazzini returned to Rome. The Pope was driven away and a republic declared under a committee of three, of which Mazzini was a member. But with the failure of 1848 Revolution and the restoration of Rome to Pope with the support of the French, Mazzini carried on his work by propaganda and preparing for the next programme of action.

Leave a Reply