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Rachel Sage #19

4th period

Throughout the years leading up to 1871, the European Nation States of Italy and
Germany struggled to each become a united state with their own language, traditions,
customs and history that would distinguish them from other nations and make it the
primary focus of a person’s loyalty and sense of identity. By comparing and contrasting
the development of unification in Italy and Germany the assumption that both countries
were influenced by the same historical trends of liberalism and nationalism can be made.
Prior to the French Revolution, Italy and Germany had very many similar traits.
Both countries were divided into a large number of smaller states. Germany was
extremely divided with more than three hundred independent states, with no form of
common government. Still, Germans were able to have a common language and share
some history of medieval times. In Italy each state was ruled by a separate despotic king,
but Italians shared a common language like Germany and common history with the
Roman Empire. The two nations were also affected during the Revolution and by
Napoleon. Napoleon was first thought of by Italians as a liberator who was able to teach
and reinforce liberalism and nationalism, but they grew less fond of him as he became
more of a dictator and they rebelled against him. Even though this happened, Napoleon
was able to basically create an Italian Confederation. For Germany the French Revolution
gave the first push of national and liberal forces. Napoleon was able to turn the more than
three hundred German States into only thirty nine. Still, Austria and Prussia remained a
powerful influence in Germany, and Prussia was eventually able to defeat Napoleon and
drive him out. At the Congress of Vienna when Napoleon was exiled to Helena, Italy was
again divided into petty states with restored legitimate rulers. In Germany absolute
governments were restored to all states. Unlike in Italy, a loose German Confederation of
the thirty-nine states was created to preserve a vague sense of German unity. The
confederation was almost pointless because they held almost no power except Austria
who held the presidency of the Diet. All actions taken at the Congress of Vienna seemed
to have only set Italy and Germany farther back from unification.
After 1815 Italy was strongly influenced by Austria, who did not want to see Italy
become unified. Metternich was able to suppress liberal and nationalist ideals until 1848.
Then Piedmont-Sardinia was able to lead the point of Italian nationalists. In Germany,
Austria also presented an obstacle toward unification. Austria sought to lead Germany but
not to unite it. After the Zollverein customs union of 1818 Prussia was able to rise
economically and lead the way in the unification movement. Italy had no customs
movement like the Zollverein that could help them unify. Piedmont, under the leadership
of Prime Minister Cavour, was able to implement economic reforms that made it possible
to challenge the Austrian presence in Italy.
In 1848 Revolts for liberty and unity broke out in every Italian state. At this time
Kingdom of Piedmont also declared war on Austria. The revolts were eventually
suppressed by despotic rulers, and Piedmont was defeated by Austria. In Germany, the
two major states, Austria and Prussia, were shocked by revolts in their cities. Some few
things were however achieved by the revolutions. Metternich was forced to resign and the
states were granted the calling of constituent assemblies, and the creation of liberal
governments. Even with some of these small revolutionary successes and proposed
constitutions, liberty and unity failed to be brought to Germany and Italy. It was not until
after 1848 when it was possible for both Italy and Germany achieve unification under
capable leaders.
It was not before 1861 for Italy and January 1871 for Germany when each was
declared as United Nations. The similarities and differences of Germany and Italy’s
process of unification show that both countries were influenced by the same historical
trends of liberalism and nationalism.