Italy Modern History

Renaissance, foreign rule and unification (14th to 19th centuries)

The Black Death pandemic killed a third of the country’s population in 1348.17 Between the 14th and 16th centuries, Italy was not a political unit as it was fragmented into multiple states. In the north there were city states such as the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Florence, the Duchy of Milan or the Republic of Genoa. Around the city of Rome were the Papal States, and to the south was the Kingdom of Naples, later a member of the Crown of Aragon, and therefore of the Spanish Monarchy. During this time the Italian Renaissance emerged, a period of great achievements and cultural changes in Italy that lasted from the end of the 14th century until around 1600, constituting the transition between the Middle Ages and modern Europe. His cultural achievements include literary works by writers such as Petrarca, Baltasar de Castiglione and Nicolás Machiavelli, works of art by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and architectural works, such as the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and the Basilica of Saint Peter. in Rome.

Given its fragmentation, it was the scene of the interests of the European powers during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, which led to conflicts such as the Italian Wars, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Spanish-Austrian conflict over the Neapolitan possessions, as well as of the French and Napoleonic Revolutionary Wars, the Emperor Napoleon I was crowned the first King of Italy on May 23, 1805, in the Cathedral of Milan. There were still conflicts during the first half of the 19th century, when the Italian nationalist sentiment appeared that would lead to the Unification of Italy, materializing the 17 of March of 1861, when the states of the Italian peninsula and the two Sicilies were united forming the Kingdom of Italy, which would be organized by King Victor Emmanuel II, of the House of Savoy, hitherto ruling in Piedmont and King of Sardinia. The architect of Italian unification, however, was Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, the king’s chief minister.

From unification to today

Rome, for its part, remained separate from the rest of Italy under the command of the Pope and was not part of the kingdom until September 20, 1870, the final date of unification. Then a plebiscite was held in which Rome was chosen as the capital of said Kingdom. Outside its limits, only the small State of the Republic of San Marino remained. A conflict with the Holy See originated, called the Roman question, for the independence of the Pope from Italian politics, which was only resolved in 1929 with the Lateran Pacts. By these agreements, Italy ceded a meager part of its territory (the Leonine City in Rome and little else) which it left to the sovereignty of the Pope. The fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini that occurred in 1922 led the country into an alliance with Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, leading to defeat after World War II. During the course of this war and in the following years, thousands of Italians emigrated outside the country, mainly destined for Argentina, Chile, Belgium, the United States, France and Germany.

In the last blows of World War II (1943 – 1945), as a country that belongs to European Union according to, Italy was divided into three different countries: a) the south was controlled by the allies, being King Victor Emmanuel III, who had deposed Mussolini but without declaring war on Germany; b) a center dominated by a very destructive war front, with battles as tough as Montecasino, but respecting Rome; and c) the north led by the Nazis and Mussolini, under the name of the Social Fascist Republic of Saló.

At the same time, there was a National Liberation Committee (CLN), made up of an association of parties and social movements opposed to Mussolini’s fascist regime, the Italian Communist Party being the majority both for its social roots and for its ideological combativeness towards fascism.

King Victor Emmanuel III tried to wash the image of the monarchy after his support for the fascist regime of Mussolini, for which he promised that after the end of the war the Italian people could choose their form of government by means of a referendum. It was celebrated in 1946, showing the great Italian division: republic in the north and monarchy in the south. Finally, the popular vote opted for the abolition of the monarchy, the establishment of a republic, and the drafting of a constitution.

In the postwar period, the main political parties in Italy were three: the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and Christian Democracy (DC). The first years there was a coalition government with representatives of all parties, led by the winners of the elections, the Christian Democrats.

  • In 1947, a new Constitution of a liberal conservative nature was drawn up, especially with regard to religion, as it respects the Lateran Accords signed by Mussolini (1929) so that the Vatican would recognize Italian unification.
  • He launched a program of national reconciliation, since the requirements of the left, the majority in the country, to end Mussolini’s legacy could lead to a civil war.

But in 1947-1948 the situation turned around: since the PCI and the PSI had jointly obtained more votes than the Christian Democrats, they decided to unite to form the Popular Democratic Front (FDP) in the 1948 elections. the Cold War and the Truman Doctrine, the US was alarmed at the possibility that the PCI would come to the government and Italy would approach the communist bloc, for which it carried out numerous propaganda actions and economic aid to prevent the triumph of communism in Italy.

Italy Modern History