Students who travel abroad to study in Italy probably know a thing or two about the history of Ancient Rome. The legend of the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, the assassination of Julius Caesar and the fall of the Roman Empire are all pivotal moments, not only in Rome’s history, but the history of Western civilization as we know it.
On the other hand, some students may be surprised to learn that Italy is actually a very young country. Key events in the 19th and 20th centuries formed the political borders, social attitudes, and government that shaped the country.
Read on to learn about four major historical events that had a direct impact on the formation of modern-day Italy.
The Revolutions of 1848
The famous revolutions of 1848 were a major turning point in European politics. Although each participating country had its own set of issues, revolutionaries were united in their desire to abolish the long-standing feudal system in Europe and end monarchical rule.
The Italian revolution of 1848 was born in Rome, where liberal thinkers and intellectuals rallied to eradicate foreign Austrian rule over the Italian states. After ruler Pope Pius IX abandoned the war against Austria, Italian revolutionaries overthrew his administration and declared a new Roman Republic. This victory was short lived, however, as the French eventually helped the Austrians defeat the Roman Republic, and Italy once again found itself under foreign rule—which led British historian G. M. Trevelyan to famously describe the revolutions of 1848 as “the turning-point at which modern history failed to turn.”
The 1861 Unification of Italy
As students attending university in Italy might already know, the country was once composed of several states, ruled by various European powers. The Italian unification or Risorgimento picked up where the 1848 revolutions left off, led by political figures Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. After a two year offensive which resulted in the liberation of several Italian states, Garibaldi clashed with fellow unifier Cavour, and eventually handed over his free states in the name of unification. In 1861, Italy was finally declared a nation-state under the ruler Victor Emmanuel II.
To honor the sacrifices he made to unify Italy, Garibaldi stars in many monuments across the country—including one atop the Janiculum Hill in Rome. Close to the university campus, this famous historical site is easily accessible to students who study abroad in Italy at JCU.
The Rise and Fall of Fascism in 20th Century Italy
Like many other European countries, the aftermath of WWI left Italy heavily in debt and its government and people divided. To reunite the country, Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party who promised to restore Italy to its former glory by eradicating the liberal government. The Fascist Party truly oalesced during the 1922 March on Rome, and Mussolini officially became dictator in 1925.
The Formation of the Italian Republic, 1946
After a nation-wide referendum following World War II in 1946, Italians voted in favor of a Republic, forever ousting the monarchy. Students of history know that this moment marked the beginning of modern Italy as we know it – and the first time in Italian history when women were given the vote! Following the birth of the republic, Italy experienced a massive economic boom, became a founding member of the NATO alliance, and helped form what would ultimately become the European Union.