Development of Italy and Germany as Nation-States in 19th Century Europe


Count Camillo di Cavour and Otto von Bismarck led the unifications of Italy and Germany simultaneously throughout the 1860s.  They shared many of the same beliefs and instituted some of the same practices, but ultimately, unified Italy remained weak, while the newly unified German Empire became increasingly stronger throughout the rest of the late nineteenth century and culminating (then reemerging as the Third Reich) in the twentieth century.  Cavour’s interests involved unifying Italy under Piedmont, while maintaining a monarchial state, and quelling the republican forces led by Mazzini.  Bismarck was interested in unifying Germany, yet changed from a reactionary’s point of view to a conservative standpoint by the time he became chancellor of Prussia.  Cavour was a moderate, Bismarck was conservative, neither of them had any radical ideals.  The unifications of their states were a means to an end, and both men wished for their respective homelands to dominate and influence their newly unified nation-states.

Cavour represented King Victor Emmanuel II by using cunning politics and secretive diplomacy in order to further Piedmont’s interests in the Italian peninsula.  The King attempted to wage war against the Habsburgs on two occasions and failed miserably both times.  Cavour used his cunningness to gain favor with Napolean III of France and eventually wage successful war against the Austrians.  The Piedmonts won Lombardy from the Habsburgs, meanwhile the Italian republican nationalists, led by Garibaldi, landed in Sicily and moved up north.  This prompted Cavour to order the Piedmont army to move south and meet the republicans, forcing Garibaldi to give up his republican ideals and choose national unification under the leadership of Piedmont.  Eventually, by 1870, all of Italy was unified, (except for a few small regions still occupied by the Austrians), yet this did not foster the strength that romantic nationalism promised.  The newly unified Italy became corrupt politically, and weak economically and militarily.

In contrast, Prussia was strong to begin with in the early 1860s and Bismarck led the country conservatively on a path of dominance in Germany.  Kaiser William I chose Bismarck because he knew the man would move against the liberal Prussian Parliament, and that is exactly what he did.  Bismarck gained the support of the bureaucracy and the military through conservative political maneuvers in parliament.  Then, he provoked war with the Danish, the Austrians, and ultimately the French as he led the Germans in defeating all of them.  The North German Confederation was established through the conservative institution of Prussia, and the southern German states united once the Franco-Prussian war began.  It was in that war that the Germans utterly destroyed the French, and Kaiser William I was crowned Emperor in Versailles.  Thus, Bismarck was cunning and at times pragmatic like Cavour, yet in the end, Germany was successful in her wars of aggression, and Italy never achieved the glorifying reemergence of the Roman Empire that it desired.

About Sean William Lynch
Sean William Lynch is a poet from New Jersey who was born in 1992. Lynch's first book of poems "the city of your mind" was published in 2013 by Whirlwind Press. Frank Sherlock, the poet laureate of Philadelphia, called Lynch's debut poetry book "visionary." CA Conrad claimed that the book was "marvelous!" S.W. Lynch's writing has been featured in numerous publications online and in print, including Milkfist, Poetry Quarterly, and Tincture Journal.

2 Responses to Development of Italy and Germany as Nation-States in 19th Century Europe

  1. Susan LaDue says:

    Nice summary. Packed with info and easy to read. What made you want to write it?

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