Explain and evaluate the role of Mazzini in the process of Italian unification to 1850 Giuseppe Mazzini was born in Genoa in June of 1805 into Napoleonic rule. He went on to play a vital role in the unification of Italy up until 1850. Although many of his endeavours failed, and he made mistakes that may even have backfired on his goal of Italian unification, he did play an important role. This was not so much directly, however, as through the influence he had, and the ideas he brought out of the shadows. Mazzini aimed to unite Italy, and made a lot of failed attempts to do so.He had a vision of an independent nation of ‘free men and equals’, and he also thought that all of the Italian speaking states should unite, not just the northern ones, as many people had previously considered.
He was a strong believer in democracy, believing that it was necessary for the people’s voices and ideas to be heard. He did not, however, have any problem with the use of violence or revolution to bring about this united Italy, and in fact believed it would be necessary. In order to achieve this, he made a lot of endeavours, the majority of which were unsuccessful.In 1920 at the age of 15, he led a student demonstration, which was a failure and served only to get him into a lot of trouble – he was noticeably absent from the revolutions of 1820 and 1821 that followed soon after. He joined the Carbonari in the late 1820s, but was caught and arrested, and either exiled to France or set free and asked to leave the country (the exact nature of his departure is unknown), so he ended up in France by February of 1831. This was where he founded his first nationalist group – Young Italy.This was similar to a secret society, however had a slightly different philosophy, as it was founded on his personal beliefs of what a united Italy should be like, and what should be done to achieve it.
He was soon expelled from France, so Young Italy did not get very far. He went to Switzerland and planned a revolt in Savoy, which also failed miserably. He then founded Young Europe, but was soon asked to leave Switzerland too. He went to England, where he founded the Second Young Italy, which also was not very successful.He then agreed to help the Bandiera brothers, two brothers who were planning a revolt in Italy, however this too failed, with less than 20 people turning up, and both of the brothers were shot. Clearly Mazzini’s career and direct role in the unification of Italy were not as significant as he had hoped they might be. One of Mazzini’s failures during this period was his alienation of the peasants.
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Although later on, in the 1960s, he brought the peasants very much into the action, at this point, he did little for them.Although he advocated freedom of speech and democracy, he had no plans to alleviate the stressful economic conditions for poor, or to make conditions better for the workers, who were the majority of the people in Italy. Instead his followers were mostly of the middle class, which was a significantly smaller group in number. Another failure was Mazzini’s noticeable absence in all of the main revolutions in Italy during this period. He took part neither in the revolutions of the early 1820s (although this was partly to do with his own negative experience) nor the revolutions occurring in the Papal States in 1831.While the most significant revolutions of the period –those in 1848 – were in some way influenced by him, he was not present here either. This brings to light a very important point – that while there were revolutions that were at least somewhat successful, Mazzini was not a part of them, leading one to consider that maybe he did not play an important role at all.
It makes one consider that perhaps unification would have occurred just as readily without Mazzini, and question whether he was really that significant, however he did have some impact during this time, in a less direct manner.One of the most important things that Mazzini did for the unification of Italy was to bring out a sense of national awareness. He created nationalist groups like Young Italy and Young Europe, which were aimed to appeal to the youth of Italy – the people who were not tied to the existing regime and were vulnerable to his propaganda. Despite being considered somewhat of a failure, he was well known throughout Europe (and especially in Italy), enough so that Metternich (the Austrian chancellor) once referred to him as ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’.This was not because he was particularly good at what he did, in fact most of his endeavours failed, as aforementioned, but because he was bringing ideas into the open, which had the potential to lead to revolutions and attempts to overthrow the existing forms of leadership. Many of his ideas had existed previously, but were unknown to the majority of the Italian people, and he made them known throughout Italy. Whether people were interested in uniting Italy or not, he had brought the ideas out into the open, and rooted them in people’s minds.
Mazzini was also quite a charismatic man, and so his speeches were paid a lot of attention. When he spoke about the possibilities for a united Italy, it was well received by a lot of people, and made them believe that even rather unrealistic ways of uniting Italy might by possible. In this way, Mazzini played a very important rule in the unification of Italy. Part of Mazzini’s role in the unification of Italy came not from his direct actions, but indirectly, from the actions of his followers.One of his most famous followers was Giuseppe Garibaldi, who helped to lead the revolution in Piedmont in 1848, and is today considered one of the most important figures in the unification of Italy. Garibaldi was a loyal follower of Mazzini in the early 18th Century, and although later in the century he began to disagree with much of Mazzini’s philosophy, he got many of his early ideas from Mazzini. But it was not just Garibaldi.
During the 1848 revolutions, which occurred all over Europe and began in Italy, it was followers of Mazzini who set the ball rolling.They desired his goals of democracy and an independent united state, and were influenced by his belief that the only way to achieve this was through revolution. Perhaps Mazzini’s most important role in the unification of Italy, however, was the inspiration he left. Even to those who were already aware of ideas like his, and perhaps even those who already believed and were passionate about them, he acted as an inspiration to act. While many people at the time were just talking, he proposed actual action, which led people to believe there was a real chance of success.He had many followers, and even more admirers, and people liked to act in his name. The role of Giuseppe Mazzini is hard to define – on paper, his career was a failure, and one might say he did very little to achieve any sort of unification for Italy, and in fact all of the significant events towards unification during this time seem to have occurred without his presence.
However through the ideas he brought out, the people he influenced, and the inspiration he was to many people in Italy, he played a very large and significant role indeed. He was a crucial part of the unification of Italy up to 1850.
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