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Unification of Italy and Germany

By 1871 both the kingdom of Italy and the empire of Germany were united. Even though both countries used popular trends to that time, both liberalism and nationalism, the process of unifying these two countries was very different. The end result was Germany emerging as a strong nation and Italy appropriately, the weaker.

Italy’s problems started with the fact that it didn’t have one main ruler, but two people and a concept, resulting in a different approach to unification. Guiseppe Mazzini had a radical program focusing on a centralized democratic republic based on universal suffrage and the will of the people. Vincenzo Gioberti, who was a catholic priest called for a federation of existing states under the presidency of the pope.

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Then there were the people who favoured leadership toward the autocratic kingdom of Sardinia. Sardinia’s rule was much more popular to the middle class than the other two because Sardinia appeared to be a liberal, progressive state displaying national unification. That is what the people were striving for. They thought Mazzini’s ideas too radical- and they were trying to get away from religion running the nation as it had done in the past. They wanted a distinct separation between church and state.

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Cavour was the man who made the change, but he sought unity only for northern Italy to become a greatly expanded kingdom of Sardinia. “In the 1850’s Cavour worked to consolidate Sardinia as a liberal state capable of leading northern Italy.” (McKay, 836) Cavour saw Austria as a threat in unifying Italy and this is one point where both Cavour and Bismarck were on common ground.

Therefore, they strategically persuaded European powers to fight against Austria…Italy provoked Austria into war Cavour then used Garibaldi’s popular appeal to his benefit. “When Garibaldi and Emmanuel rode through Naples to cheering crowds, they symbolically sealed the union of north and south, of monarch and people.” (McKay, 837) Italy was now unified.

Despite the fact that Italy was unified, it wasn’t as nearly as strong as Germany was becoming. Bismarck joined both authoritarianism and nationalism to increase Prussia’s power. He was a very clever diplomat and used whatever means possible to work towards his goal. Bismarck’s Realpolitiks, the pursuing of realistic goals by any available method instead of the pursuit of an ideology.

Bismarck never wanted to have enemies for long and hoped to pacify the Liberals with foreign policy achievement, notably the unification of Germany. He wanted to exclude Austria from the unification process. This led to the Austria-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars. His plan was successful. Even with the fact, south German states were reluctant to join in his unification because of strong religious and political traditions. After the overpowering of France in 1871, the southern states finally joined. This was the defeat the brought them together.

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Prussia had become the most powerful state in Europe. “Most German’s were enormously proud, enormously relieved. And they were somewhat drunk with success, blissfully imagining themselves the fittest and best of the European species.” (McKay, 842) Bismarck had succeeded where Cavour had failed. In Italy, the propertied classes and the common people were divided. A great social and cultural gap still divided the north and south. “Italy was unified politically, but other divisions remained.”(McKay, 837) Germany, on the other hand, was completely unified. It had become stronger than Italy.

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Unification of Italy and Germany. (2021, Feb 18). Retrieved February 7, 2023, from