- The idea of a united Italy first took concrete political form under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1793, the Papal States, the Kingdom of Naples, and the absolutist rulers of northern Italy declared war on revolutionary France. Commanded by Napoleon, the French invaded what is today Piedmont and defeated the Austro-Piedmontese army at the battles of Millesimo and Mondovi. The peace of Paris between France and Piedmont-Sardinia (May 1796) assigned Nice and Savoy to France, and after further defeating the Austrians at Lodi, northern Italy was reorganized on republican lines. In July 1797, the Cisalpine Republic was founded, with the tricolor as its flag, uniting all of northern Italy from the French border to Emilia-Romagna. In October 1797, the Treaty of Campo Formio ceded Venetia to Austria in exchange for Austrian recognition of the revolutionaries’gains.In 1798, Napoleon continued his conquests in southern Italy. The Papal States and Naples were occupied and briefly transformed into a republic, Piedmont itself was occupied by French troops, and Pope Pius VI was forced to move to France. Internal developments in France, however, allowed the Austrians, aided by the English navy and the Russian army, to launch a counterattack in 1799 and reconquer most of the peninsula after bloody fighting, especially in Naples. In 1800 Napoleon launched his second Italian campaign and destroyed the Austrian army at Marengo. The subsequent peace of Luneville in 1801 assigned the duchies of Parma and Piacenza to Piedmont and the isle of Elba to France. The Pope was restored to his throne in Rome, but Bologna, Ferrara, and Ravenna were retained by the Cisalpine Republic. The following year, the Cisalpine Republic became the republic of Italy, with Milan as its capital. The Napoleonic legal codes were introduced throughout the republic in 1805, just two years after their introduction in France. Also in 1805, Napoleon turned the republic of Italy into a kingdom and took the crown. The new kingdom’s territories were extended at the peace of Pressburg between France and Austria to include Venetia and Istria (Istria is now part of Croatia). The following year, Napoleon invaded Naples and appointed his brother Joseph to the throne. In 1808, French troops occupied the Papal States and took the pope prisoner once more. In 1809, the Trentino was occupied. All of modern-day Italy except Sicily had been united into one kingdom, and although Bonaparte by now had become as much a crowned prince as any of the continent’s hereditary monarchs, a culture of assertive nationalism as well as of liberal and constitutionalist thinking had been injected into Italy’s politically influential classes. The subsequent attempt to restore absolute monarchy at the Congress of Vienna in 1814–1815 flew in the face of these decisive developments.See also Papacy.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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