Above: the architects of Italian unification (1861).
Mazzini,the founding father of the kingdom of Italy described Italy in 1871 as a ‘living lie’,’the dead corpse of Italy’ and ‘the ghost of Italy. He was very unhappy about the state of things.
To begin with very few Italians spoke Italian, and most of them did not consider themselves Italian but Piedmontese,Tuscan or Neapolitan. Italian was spoken only by 2.5% of the population of 26 million.
Another major problem faced by the Italian kingdom was the division that existed between the North and the South of Italy. In the south the majority of the population was illiterate, lived in poverty and was near starvation. Cavour saw unity as the expansion of his own state, Piedmont. The people of the south had little or no say in how Italy was run, they simply had Piedmontese rules enforced on them. The immediate results of unification for Southern Italians was a higher cost of living and higher taxes. The introduction of free trade in Southern Italy resulted in riots and violent demonstrations. This confirmed in the minds of the Northerns that Southerns are ‘’rotten’’.
The Kingdom of Italy established in 1861 only united the majority of the peninsula. Venetia was still part of the Austrian Empire, Rome was still ruled by Pope Pius with the support of French troops and Cavour had just sacrificed Nice and Savoy as ‘diplomatic pawns’. Garibaldi was not happy with this arrangement and twice attempted to resurrect his ‘March on Rome’ but in both cases he failed.
There was also a big division between the church and state. In 1865 a new civil code separated the church and state. A year later the pope issued a decree banning catholicism from participating in the political life of Italy. When in 1870 the state invaded Rome for the final stages of unification, the pope declared himself ‘a prisoner in the Vatican’. This deep division was to remain until 1929 when Mussolini negotiated the Lateran Pact with the pope.
In conclusion then it is clear that Italy was more divided than united during this period. For many ordinary people the only contact with the new state was through being forced to pay taxes. In 1861 the people did not automatically became Italians simply because now they lived in a unified Italy. Therefore, Italy was divided but the Italians were not. However, now the Italian nation had in its hands her own destiny without the interference from Austria and France.