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Italy / History / Italian unification (1816-1861) and Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)

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The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula. In the context of the 1848 liberal revolutions that swept through Europe, an unsuccessful war was declared on Austria.

Giuseppe Garibaldi leading the Expedition of the Thousand. Giuseppe Garibaldi, popular amongst southern Italians, led the Italian republican drive for unification in southern Italy, while the northern Italian monarchy of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia whose government was led by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, had the ambition of establishing a united Italian state under its rule. The kingdom successfully challenged the Austrian Empire in the Second Italian War of Independence with the help of Napoleon III, liberating the Lombardy-Venetia. It established Turin as capital of the newly formed state.

In 1866, Victor Emmanuel II aligned the kingdom with Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War, waging the Third Italian War of Independence which allowed Italy to annex Venice. In 1870, as France during the disastrous Franco-Prussian War abandoned its positions in Rome, Italy rushed to fill the power gap by taking over the Papal State from French sovereignty. Italian unification finally was achieved, and shortly afterwards Italy's capital was moved to Rome. Whilst keeping the monarchy, the government became a parliamentary system, run by liberals.

As Northern Italy became industrialized and modernized, Southern Italy and agricultural regions of the north remained under-developed and stagnant, forcing millions of people to migrate to the emerging Industrial Triangle or abroad. The Sardinian Statuto Albertino of 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, provided for basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded the non-propertied and uneducated classes from voting. In 1913, male universal suffrage was adopted. The Socialist Party became the main political party, outclassing the traditional liberal and conservative organisations. The high point of Italian emigration was 1913, when 872,598 persons left Italy.

Starting from the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Italy developed into a colonial power by forcing Somalia, Eritrea and later Libya and the Dodecanese under its rule. During World War I, Italy at first stayed neutral but in 1915 signed the Treaty of London, entering Entente on the promise of receiving Trento, Trieste, Istria, Dalmatia and parts of Ottoman Empire. During the war, 600,000 Italians died, and the economy collapsed. Under the Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain, Italy obtained just Bolzano-Bozen, Trento, Trieste and Istria in a victory described as "mutilated" by the public.

Fascist stamp promoting a colonial art exhibition, 1934. The turbulence that followed the devastation of World War I, inspired by the Russian Revolution, led to turmoil and anarchy. The liberal establishment, fearing a socialist revolution, started to endorse the small National Fascist Party, led by Benito Mussolini. In October 1922 the fascists attempted a coup (the Marcia su Roma, "March on Rome"), but the king ordered the army not to intervene, instead forming an alliance with Mussolini. Over the next few years, Mussolini banned all political parties and curtailed personal liberties, thus forming a dictatorship.

In 1935, Mussolini subjugated Ethiopia after a surprisingly lengthy campaign. This resulted in international alienation and the exodus of the country from the League of Nations. A first pact with Nazi Germany was concluded in 1936, and a second in 1938. Italy strongly supported Franco in the Spanish civil war. The country was opposed to Adolf Hitler's annexations of Austria, but did not interfere with it. Italy supported Germany's annexation of Sudetenland, however.

On 7 April 1939 Italy occupied Albania, a de facto protectorate for decades, and entered World War II in 1940, taking part in the late stages of the Battle of France. Mussolini, wanting a quick victory like Hitler's Blitzkriegs in Poland and France, invaded Greece in October 1940 via Albania but was forced to accept a humiliating defeat after a few months. At the same time, Italy, after initially conquering British Somalia, saw an allied counter-attack lead to the loss of all possessions in the Horn of Africa. Italy was also defeated by British forces in North Africa and was only saved by the urgently dispatched German Africa Corps led by Erwin Rommel.

Italy was invaded by the Allies in June 1943, leading to the collapse of the fascist regime and the arrest of Mussolini. In September 1943, Italy surrendered. The country remained a battlefield for the rest of the war, as the allies were moving up from the south as the north was the base for loyalist Italian fascist and German Nazi forces. The whole picture became more complex by the activity of the Italian partisans; see Italian resistance movement. The Nazis left the country on 25 April 1945 and the remaining Italian fascist forces eventually disbanded. Nearly half a million Italians (including civilians) died between June 1940 and May 1945. An estimated 200,000 partisans took part in the Resistance, and German or fascist forces killed some 70,000 Italians (including both partisans and civilians) for Resistance activities. At least 54,000 Italian prisoners of war died in the Soviet Union.

The Italian Republic (1946–)

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http://www.asiatour.com/italy/wiki-italy-historyItalianunification.htm
Jan Garanoz
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Mumbai - 400049 India
Last updated: June 25, 2010