Italy and the French Revolution
The French Revolution’s impact on Italy has aroused fierce debate. Did the Risorgimento originate during the Enlightenment, the dawn of national awareness, or was it another nineteenth-century spin-off of the French Revolution? Historians have not reached a consensus on this question, but many believe that the social and political changes induced by the Revolution—and therefore its influence on the Risorgimento—would have been impossible without the Enlightenment.
The last chapter described how Enlightenment measures stimulated only the limited development of a modern bourgeoisie. The growth of groups profiting from inflationistic economic trends and antifeudalistic governmental action through the acquisition of land, management of noble holdings, or rents, a "primitive" capitalism, increased tensions with the ruling classes and contributed to the impoverishment of many peasants. In addition, because of the Europe-wide price rise, real wages dropped and poverty increased dramatically. This social crisis coincided with the cultural and political crisis, the growth of radical ideas, and the new emphasis on cultural and linguistic unity.
Thus, the Italian situation had become critical by 1789, when the French Revolution exploded. Between then and 1795, the Revolution found both popular support and a warm welcome from disillusioned Italian intellectuals. Disorders erupted in several states, as in Naples, where demonstrators wished "to do as the French are doing," or Piedmont, where crowds shouted "Long Live France!" The intellectuals had already gone beyond cultural considerations, advocating Italian political revival. Piedmontese playwright Vittorio Alfieri, who dedicated one of his works to "the American liberator," George Washington, symbolized this feeling. Intellectuals published draft constitutions, favored French ideals, and transformed Masonic lodges into Jacobin organizations. The