The crime of the nineteenth century

I call the Risorgimento “the crime of the nineteenth century” not just because in that century there was nothing else so thoroughly vicious, sordid, and hypocritical.  It’s that Italian unification was vicious, sordid, and hypocritical in a distinctly nineteenth-century kind of way.  The idea that you can violate treaties and agreements before the ink is dry and invade and conquer smaller nations without even the slightest hint of provocation, and that’s all okay if it promotes “progress” or “national destiny”, that’s the sort of thing nobody would have thought to believe before the time of Napoleon.  Sure, conquest had been going on for a very long time, but the Huns and the Vandals never had the chutzpah to claim they were doing the world a favor with their predations.  That was reserved for the kingdom of Piedmont.

Like all “nationalists” of the 1800’s, Italian nationalists loved their nation so much, they felt compelled to destroy everything distinctive about it and replace it with a carbon copy of England.  For “national greatness”, the Italians threw away the true sources of their past greatness:  the Catholic church and political decentralization.  Not surprisingly, post-1870 Italy’s most notable contribution to the world is fascisim–which is just Risorgimento state-worship taken to its logical conclusion.

I’m gratified (but not surprised) to learn that my favorite historical revisionist, The Mad Monarchist, shares my disdain:

In the end, the unification of Italy was not so much the voluntary union of all Italians but, with republican help, the effective conquest of the Italian peninsula by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia under the House of Savoy…

The Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies is regarded by most history books as the most religious, reactionary and backward region of Italy and thus it is no surprise that the Two-Sicilies holds a special place in my heart. The truth is that the Two-Sicilies had a slight higher literacy rate than Sardinia, it had the first railroad and the first telegraph system in Italy and was the only state with a balanced budget and the security of some gold reserves in the bank. Those who dismiss the kingdom as primitive and backward, frankly, don’t know what they are talking about and are simply repeating the propaganda of the liberal nationalists and republican revolutionaries. Of course, wherever the nationalists went they carried out the farcical show of having a plebiscite but these were never legitimate. There was no secrecy allowed, Sardinian troops guarded the polling places and flagrant intimidation was used as well as simple lies.

In the Papal States, when Sardinian troops invaded to “keep order” (how many conquerors have used that excuse) even though no disorder existed, they held plebiscites in which many refused to participate and some wrote in the name of the Pope or even St Peter. Nonetheless, the nationalists declared victory. In the Two-Sicilies they claimed a ridiculous 99% vote in favor of union with Italy.  [What proves] The fact that this was a total lie (if the number was not enough) is the fact that Piedmont-Sardinia had to keep 120,000 troops in the Two-Sicilies for more than a decade afterwards to put down the constant rebellions and uprisings against Italian rule. Yet, these were the people who Cavour, Garibaldi and others claimed were yearning for freedom from the Bourbon yoke! As many as 60,000 Sicilians were arrested for their opposition to unification and many towns and villages completely destroyed for refusing to submit to the new order. The southern part of Italy once the Kingdom of Two-Sicilies has suffered economically ever since, despite being on firm footing when independent. To this very day southern Italians make less than half of what their northern counterparts do. And this is what they called “progress”?

2 Responses

  1. You might add testimony in the best way we know. What was the emigration rate of Southern Italy before the Risorgimento? It seems to me that people only started leaving in large numbers AFTER unification.

  2. I would like to find a reference on that. It would be fun to throw it in the face of any Italian celebrating unification.

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