After 1848, the Unification of Italy and that of Germany were significant political events and a total vindication of middle class nationalism.
In Italy, Mazzinni, Cavour, Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II were instrumental in forming the Italian State.
The vision of a united liberal republic based on democratic values and popular sovereignty led to the founding of young Italy, an organization which spread these ideas among the middle classes.
The struggle for unity and republicanism would also involve outside powers like France, Britain and Russia who were supportive, critical of misgovernance or tolerant towards a united Italy. Piedmont was an important centre of struggle under Cavour the Prime Minister of Piedmontese ruler Victor Emmanuel.
Cavour turned to Papoleon III for help against Austria after 1849. Austrian troops were sent to protect her interests. In the ensuing armed conflict, Milan fell to the Piedmonts forces and this led to withdrawal of Austrian troops from Northern Italy.
By 1860, other parts of Italy including Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Savoy Nice, Lombardy and the eastern parts of the Papal States merged with Piedmont. Rome and Venetia were occupied in 1870 to complete the unification process. However the newly formed Italian state was not to be ruled by a popular republic as envisioned by Mazzinni but by elite which was obviously from the privileged class.
German unification was as much a political as a cultural process. The formation of the German state was not easy. There were a number of non-German speaking people in South and West Prussia, Bohemina, Moravia, Solvenia; and Schelswig – Holstein was ruled by Denmark and Hanover by England. Thus many solutions were considered. Prussia nursed ambitions as the leader of a future united Germany.
Bismarck, appointed Minister-President in 1862, was a conservative and would favour monarchical rule. Under Bismarck, Prussia went to war with Austria and forced Austria to surrender Schleswig Holstein, Hesse-Cassel and he also made peace with South German states like Baden, Bavaria and Wurttemberg.
Austria withdrew from any involvement with the German Confederation. Prussia also went to war with France in 1869 when France tried to secure Luxembourg and Belgium and opposed Prussia’s support for a Hohenzollern candidate for the German states as well. This would obviously help in the process of unification.
The war ended with the treaty of Frankfurt in February 1871 by which Alsace Lorraine was ceded perpetually to Germany and France also had to pay an indemnity of 5 billion francs.
In January 1871, the German empire was proclaimed at Versailles. The dominance of Prussia was obvious over the rest of Germany, just as Piedmont seemed to have dominated the process of Italian unification.
In 1940, a trip to Italy was made by British amateur diplomat James Lonsdale-Bryans. The trip, which was arranged with the support of Lord Halifax, was to meet with German ambassador Ulrich von Hassell. Lonsdale-Bryans proposed a deal whereby Germany would be given a free hand in Europe, while the British Empire would control the rest of the world. It is unclear to what extent this proposal enjoyed the official backing of the British Foreign Office. Halifax himself had met with Hitler in 1937.
The International power game in these years was marked by an extremely important development; namely, the widening of political interests outside one’s own immediate regions. The world was now a state where power games were played. For instance, naval power by the beginning of the 20lh century was no longer the prerogative of Britain.
By 1897, Germany had built a large fleet. Also, Britain was no longer the sole economic power around which the world economy revolved. A worldwide industrial capitalism had emerged and there was growing competition for control of the world market and control of different regions.
Diplomatic rivalry led to the formation of blocs and when the Franco – German clash over Morocco erupted into the Agadir crisis (when Germany sent a gunboat to seize the south Moroccan port of Agadir) and Austria annexed Bosnia followed by Italy’s occupation of Libya in 1911 and with Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece pushing Turkey out of the Balkans by 1912, these multiple crises culminated in the crisis of 1914.
On 28lh June 1914, a Serbian student terrorist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austrian heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was visiting Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Within five weeks, Europe was plunged into a World War.
A freshly energised wave of patriotism swept over nations in Europe foment the war began. Liberal, labour and socialist opposition to the War notwithstanding, the number of volunteers went up phenomenally by the next few weeks. Nationalism came to the forefront as the overwhelming ideology of this era driving men and women to sacrifice for their country.
Nations were at war with each other, putting behind them the tranquil years of the 19lh century liberal Utopia and the bourgeois sense of security. Now crisis would be followed by crisis, revolutions would dramatically change the social hierarchies never to be reversed again the existing moralities would be severely challenged.
Bourgeois liberalism would itself undergo drastic changes and the ideology of nation and nationalism, a product of 19th century Europe, would henceforth extend to multiple political groups. States after the First World War, given the status of nations, would no longer be confined to the old, ‘developed’ world.