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EMPIRE and NATIONALISM in EUROPE, 1850-1900 (1 of 7)

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Nationalism and Empire within Europe, 1850-1900

Romania and Italy | Discontent in Ireland | The Austro-Prussian War | Austria-Hungary and Nationalism | Franco-Prussian War and German Unification | The Balkans and Path toward the Great War | Germany Seeks Alliances

Emperor Franz Joseph as a young man

Franz Joseph, another pompous mediocrity who inherited power by accident of birth. He wanted to extend his God-given empire to include Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Europe's other imperial powers approved, creating the conflict that would spark Europe's Great War early in the next century.

map of Europe, 1848

Europe and distribution of ethnicities, 1848.   map of Europe, 1848, enlarged

Romania and Italy

European powers had their empires overseas and their empires within Europe. Both imperialisms were strengthened by governments having acquired more wealth from their nation's growing economy and the advance in weaponry needed to enforce their authority. Concern with military capability was on the rise, and governments were increasing their participation in economic matters to suit the national interest. The imperial powers had a demand for rubber from abroad. Western European countries were searching the interior of Africa for raw materials. And in addition to mining in Africa, a consortium of British and German companies had mines in Spain.

Within Europe, imperialism faced the opposing force of nationalism: the desire to be free of rule by foreigners. This conflict was exasperated by religious rivalries: conflict between the Eastern Orthodox Slavic peoples and the imperial Habsburg monarch in Vienna who championed Romal Catholicism, and the Protestant English dominating the Roman Catholic Irish.

Europe's emperors still assumed some kind of inherent superiority over those they ruled, perhaps a biological superiority, within Europe as well as abroad. And there was the tradition that ruling others was a god-given right.

Independence for Romania

A nationalism versus empire issue that dated back to the early 1850s was the "Romanian Question." It was featured in European newspapers and was discussed particularly by Romanians in exile and by French writers and scholars. The Romanian lands of Moldavia and Walachia (Wallachia) were ruled nominally by the Ottoman sultan in Turkey and had been Russian protectorates since 1829. Attempts in 1848 to establish independence had been crushed. But, at the 1856 Paris Peace Conference that ended the Crimean War, Russia lost its protectorate status regarding Moldavia and Walachia, and the conference compelled the Ottoman Empire to grant Moldavia and Walachia autonomy, which was to be guaranteed by the conferring Europeans states.

In 1857, assemblies in both Moldavia and Walachia voted to unite the two regions. Austria and Turkey were opposed to the unification while Britain found it in its interest to accept it. On January 24, 1859, the unification took place. A Moldavian born aristocrat who had fought for independence in 1848, Alexander Cuza, was chosen by Romanians as the ruler of the United Principalities of Romania. And the unification was formalized in 1861.

The Unification of Italy

For ages Italy had been divided politically, and since 1494 it had been a battleground for Europe's great powers. In the southern half of Italy was the Kingdom of Naples-Sicily, ruled by the amiable and intelligent but uncultivated and cynical Bourbon king, Ferdinand II. Just north of Naples-Sicily were Rome and the Papal States ruled by Pope Pius IX (r 1846-78). He depended on French and Austrian soldiers to maintain his positions. He believed that to fulfill the Church's spiritual mission the papacy needed to continue rule over the Papal States. In the far north of Italy, in Venetia (including the city of Venice) and Lombardy (including the city of Milan), Austria ruled. And in the far northwest was Piedmont, a part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, a liberal constitutional monarchy and a haven for Italian nationalists who had been involved in 1848-49 upheavals.

Like Walachia and Moldavia, Italy had been impacted by the Crimean War. In that war, Sardinia-Piedmont fought with France against the Russians. And Napoleon III, President of France beginning in December 1848 and Emperor since 1852, believed in nationhood for Italians as well as for the French. In the wake of the Crimean War, Napoleon supported Piedmont-Sardinia against an opponent of Italian nationalism: Austria. The premier of Sardinia-Piedmont, Camillo Benso de Cavour, goaded Austria into a war, which France joined on his side, Napoleon hoping to enhance France's position as a European power by helping to liberate those Italians ruled by Austria.

Austria's army suffered from inferior leadership, from lack of preparation and training and from insufficient transport, with soldiers arriving for battle sick, exhausted and hungry. Italians and Hungarians in Austria's army deserted in large numbers, and in June, 1859, France and Piedmont-Sardinia defeated the Austrians at Solferino (near the town of Mantua in eastern Lombardy), the Austrian side losing 14,000 killed and wounded and more than 8,000 missing or taken as prisoners. France and Sardinia-Piedmont lost 15,000 killed and wounded and lost more than 2,000 as missing or as prisoners. Napoleon III recoiled from the bloodshed and deserted Piedmont-Sardinia, and to Piedmont's premier, Cavour, the cause of Italian unity appeared lost. But the war had given hope to urban masses down the Italian peninsula, who rose up against foreign rule, these Italians going into the streets, chanting "foreigners out of Italy," and chanting for "Victor Emmanuel," the king of Piedmont-Sardinia, whom they wanted as their king.

In July 1859 a compromise peace was established at the Conference of Villafranca. France acquired Savoy and Nice. Austria gave Lombardy to France, which then gave it to Piedmont-Sardinia. Then came a pro-democracy uprising across Sicily. A thousand nationalist volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi arrived in Sicily on May 11, 1860, and in three months he and his volunteers were in control of the whole of Sicily. Then Garibaldi and his men moved into the southern half of the Italian peninsula, and, in early September, Garibaldi and his army triumphantly entered Naples. Plebiscites in the former kingdom of Naples-Sicily and in the papal states overwhelmingly favored these regions becoming a part of a united Italy. The new kingdom of Italy was proclaimed on March 17, 1861. Italy had become a parliamentary monarchy under King Victor Emmanuel II. Its capital was Turin, in Piedmont. That portion of the papal states outside of Latium were now a part of Italy, while Rome and Latium remained under papal control, and Venetia remained under Austrian rule.

The Papacy Loses Rome and Latium

With the fall of Napoleon III in September 1870, the Pope lost the protection of French troops for his territory of Rome and Latium. On September 20, 1870, troops sent by Italy entered Rome. Pope Pius IX refused to accept Italy's occupation of the city, and he withdrew to his palace at the Vatican and declared himself a prisoner. Italy annexed Rome on January 18, 1871, and King Victor Emmanuel saw the unification of Italy complete. Addressing Italy's parliament he said:

The work to which we consecrated our life is accomplished. After long trials of expiation Italy is restored to herself and to Rome.

On May 13, Italy issued its Law of Guarantees, which left papacy with the Vatican and other palaces. On May 15, Pope Pius IX responded with an encyclical, stating:

When We were defeated by Our enemies in accordance with the mysterious design of God, We observed the severely bitter fortunes of Our City and the downfall of the civil rule of the Apostolic See in the face of military invasion ...

We are suffering to be established and to thrive to the ruin of all authority and order. May God unite all rulers in agreement of mind and will. By removing all discord, claiming the disturbance of rebellions, and rejecting the ruinous counsels of the sects, may these rulers join in a common effort to have the rights of the Holy See restored. Then tranquility will once again be restored to civil society. [note]


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