A Political History of National Citizenship and Identity in Italy, 1861-1950

By Sabina Donati | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
National Risorgimento,
the Piedmontese Solution
and the Origins of Italian Monarchical
Subjecthood (1859–1866)

In March 1861, after almost thirteen centuries of political fragmentation and multiple states, the divided Italian peninsula was unified under the House of Savoy and the Italian kingdom proclaimed from the city of Turin. This Italian state stretched from the Western Alps to Sicily and excluded, for important reasons of international politics, the Venetian and the Roman provinces that remained under Austrian and pontifical rule until 1866 and 1870 respectively. Even though realized in a “truncated” way, the national ideal of political unification was finally achieved, thanks to a combination of skilled diplomatic negotiations, Piedmontese dynastic aspirations, French military interventions and mounting nationalist hopes.1

The historical developments leading to a unified Italy under the Savoy King Vittorio Emanuele II shaped and determined not only the Italian process of attaining independent statehood but also the origins of the national citizenship link that came to unite the “divided” peoples of the peninsula. In particular, the period from 1859 to 1866 establishes the historical roots of the post-unification juridical membership status that will subsequently develop throughout the liberal and the fascist epochs. The purpose of this first chapter is therefore to focus on this eight-year period of pre- and postunification Italian history with a view to discussing the genesis and the first characteristics of the national civic bond uniting the Italians of the 1861 state within a peculiar context of internal divisions—linguistic, economic, social and mental—that were also enriched with specific racial considerations. In this way, the still relatively unknown and distant origins of today’s Italian citizenship will finally emerge fully from the dust of archives and of public libraries.

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