National Unity and the Violence of the Last 19th and 20th Centuries

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The desire for national unity should be seen to account largely for the violence of the last 19th and 20th centuries. This can be seen from the many patriotic uprising revolutions against the rulers of the many small kingdoms and states that existed then. This is the period of Nationalism in Europe. It is the period characterized by the unification of Italy and Germany. Unification in Italy was sparked by Giuseppe Nazzini. Mazzini was born at Genoa in year 1805. He is one of the highly rated political idealists of the struggle for Italian’s independence. His political interests started while still a student at the University of Genoa.

He gathered youths whom he shared his dream with. His primary goals were to put to an end the Austrian dominance in Italy and the sequential papal power, and to bring Italian unity, republicanism, democracy, and freedom of all the oppressed. With enthusiasm he held that with unity and God’s help, Italians would succeed in eliminating the various oppressive rulers and set up a one democratic republic governed from Rome. He dreamt of a new democratic Europe controlled by its people but not sovereign rulers as he stated. “The republic, as I at least understand it, means association, of which liberty is only an element, a necessary antecedent. It means association, a new philosophy of life, a divine Ideal that shall move the world, the only means of regeneration vouchsafed to the human race.i” B. Mussolini 1932.

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By 1840s he had become a recognized leader of the Italian nationalist revolutionary movement. His efforts and plea to the Italians to resist the oppressive rule were appreciated. Italians of all walks of life headed by intellectuals positively responded to his calls.Many freedom uprisings and revolts were met by a lot of resistant and many of his supporters lost their lives. Emiliana P. Noether.1984. Led by Mazzini, the young Italy planned a national rising of which upon being discovered, many of the leaders were executed and Mazzini was condemned to death. Mazzini used the opportunity to accelerate the war for a united nation, as some of his writings depict. “No people ever die, nor stop short upon their path, before they have achieved the ultimate aim of their existence, before having completed and fulfilled their mission. A people destined to achieve great things for the welfare of humanity must on day or other be constituted a nation”ii. Emiliana P. Noether.1984.

During King Napoleon era, Most of Italy was under foreign rule. The north of Italy was controlled by Austria and the south by the Spanish. The Italian leaders due to the need for a united Italy headed by Mazzini and Cavour formed secret societies that organized the movement for Italian unity. Their movements and revolutions never succeeded and hence they realized that noble thoughts and brave patriots could not bring independent. They needed well trained soldiers and assistance from allies to fight Austrians. Mazzini persistently called for mass action and national uprising a move that resulted to violence. With a well trained Sardanians army, improved agriculture, a good railway line and developed industries, Sardania had the strong economic base required to lead the movement of unification. With an enlarged army and assistance of their allies, they were able to defeat the Austrians. With this achievements, the northern Italy was well progressing towards unification. This was the first step towards Italy’s unification. Consequently, at the same time, a new movement was rising in the south. This movement was aimed at freeing Sicilian islands under the command of Giuseppe Garibaldi, through Mazzini’s inspiration. Through continued revolutionary uprising all the Italian states were consolidated into one united Italy. Marvin Perry etal. 1995.

Just like Italy, German unification started by developing a strong economic base in Prussia, which later came to be the regions leading power. German unification was led by Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck’s dream was for a united Germany with Prussia as a dominant state. He advocated for war as he believed that a country could only be united through war, as depicted by his speeches “The great question of the time will be decided, not by speeches and resolution of majorities, but by blood and Iron”iii. Under Bismarck’s rule, with the help of Austria, Prussia defeated Denmark and captured their two coastal regions. He also led his army into defeating the Austrian army and took hold of a number of German states that were under Austria. With this defeat over Austria, Prussia and the new states were organized as the North German confederation. Marvin Perry etal. 1995.

Unsatisfied without uniting the southern Germany states, with the help of the south German states, he declared war with France and defeated them. The northern and the southern Germany states were unified under Prussian leadership with king William 1 as the Germany’s Kaiser and Bismarck as the nation’s chancellor. The German states were united under a strong central government. Marvin Perry etal. 1995.


Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932. (Modern History Sourcebook.)

Adolf Hitler: The Obersalzberg Speech. (Modern History Sourcebook.)

Marvin Perry etal. 1995. History of the world Boston Dallas Phoenix.

“Mazzini and the Radical Movement in Nineteenth Century Italy,” International Journal of Social Education, 3 (April 1987), 59-72.


  1. Giuseppe Mazzini.
  2. Emiliana P. Noether. “Mazzini and the Nineteenth Century Revolutionary Movement”.
  3. History of the world page 518.