Italy: The Papal Victory 1848-1948

Elizabeth Wiskemann re-examines a period of transition between the House of Savoy's reign and the dominance of the Pope in Italy.

We have long been taught with an air of finality that in 1870 Italy was unified under the House of Savoy. In order to bring this about, we learnt, the Piedmontese Army was obliged to destroy the Temporal Power of the Pope who remained a Prisoner in the Vatican. To-day, however, the House of Savoy has vanished from the scene and the Pope is the most powerful person in Italy. What, then, has happened in the last hundred years?

The French Revolution had fertilized the ancient sentiment expressed by Dante and Macchiavelli that Italy should once and for all be freed from foreign barbarians: it had seemed, too, to bring some kind of fulfilment of the liberal hopes of the eighteenth century intellectuals of Milan and Genoa, and also of Naples. Napoleon I expelled the Austrian and Spanish rulers and subjected all Italy to the authority—in some form—of a Corsican Emperor with an Italian name; this Emperor personified the revolt against the ancién regime, a caste system which was worn out.

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