6

The French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Restoration of Austrian Power in Italy, 1789–1848

The seeds of change planted by the ill-fated Italian reform movements of the eighteenth century were given life by the unrest that swept throughout much of Europe at the close of the century. It is with the French Revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath that both domestic reform and the prospect of Italian national unity found their most ardent expression to date. Yet the subsequent defeat of Napoleon and the establishment of a reactionary European settlement under the Austrian foreign minister, Prince Klemens von Metternich, conspired to bury most reforms—although he found some necessary—dashing hopes and effectively postponing change in Italy for a generation. Nonetheless, the nationalistic and progressive aspirations that awakened in Italy during the 1790s would not die. The result was a period of constant probing, intellectual disquiet, organized resistance to the status quo, and ever more numerous attempts to find a formula that would ensure Italian independence.


INFLUENCES FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY TRADITION

Among the Italians whose ideas influenced this period of intellectual and political ferment was the renowned Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668–1744). As Enlightenment theories of natural rights

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