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Victor Emmanuel Ii King Of Sardinia History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Victor Emmanuel II king of Sardinia was affirmed King of Italy in 1861 when the country turned into a nation-state. The 1930s was a tense period for the peace which was achieved in 1919. This was the time when Benito Mussolini established his fascist party. A crucial factor during this period and which this assignment will analyse is Italy’s quest in Abyssinia taken by the lead of Mussolini.

This paper is going to give prominence to Italy after WWI and some interests which came along with the Cold War period which remain consistent in Italy’s foreign policy nowadays. Of course one cannot miss out stating that Italy was a member with NATO and one of the six founders of the EEC which led Italy for integration economically and politically. As a conclusion I will conclude by stating the imminent problems Italy faces such as illegal immigration, unemployment, low standards of living in the South compared to the industrialised North.

Unification of Italy

Despite the setbacks of 1848-49, these lead the way to the Italian unification. The factors which mainly united Italy were its Italian language, religion and its geographic position as it is a peninsula in the centre of the Mediterranean. Italy’s unification came along through wars such as the war with Austria (1859), Garibaldi and the 1000 redshirts frightened more Cavour as Garibaldi’s popularity would put the position of Victor Emmanuel II a risk, the annexation of Venetia (1866) and the conquest of Rome (1870).

Napoleon conquered the Italian peninsula and created the puppet King of Italy in 1792. He combined the smaller Italian city-states into larger units to make his rule more efficient but opposition to him as a foreign ruler stimulated Italian nationalism. The defence of Rome created the hero Giuseppe Garibaldi considered as the “sword of the unification”. He joined the Young Italy movement and was commander in the conflicts of the Risorgimento. He was a friend of Giuseppe Mazzini the “soul of the unification” who was a ‘Carbonaro’. Mazzini was the first influential revolutionary of the ‘Risorgimento’ as the movement had dissatisfaction with the re-establishment of the old monarchies. Meanwhile Camillo Benso di Cavour was the “brain of the unification” and founder of a political journal “The Resurgence”. Within a few years he transformed Piedmont into modern state by removing duties, built railways. Finally he also reorganised the army. Cavour was aware that Piedmont needed strong allies against Austria. In 1854, when the Crimean war broke out he was asked by Britain and France to send troops because Austria needed assurance that if she joined the allies, Piedmont would not take advantage of the situation.

During the Paris Peace Conference in 1856, Cavour drew the attention on grievance of the Italians and pointed to Austria as their main cause. During the following two years, the relationship between France and Sardinia-Piedmont improved since Napoleon III had long-standing sympathies towards the Italians. Cavour always supported the interests of people struggling to be free. Hence he knew that a military campaign against Austria in Italy would mean following his uncle’s footsteps.

Alliances and Alignments

The Dual Alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary was defensive in nature. This was Bismarck’s reaction to Russia’s implied threat in the aftermath of the Berlin Congress. However, this alliance should not be regarded as Bismarck’s final choice between Austria and Russia but their affiliation was for Austrians who escaped from the diplomatic isolation. On the other hand the triple alliance (1882) was made between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.

Consequently through these alliances, Bismarck managed to isolate France completely from the other powers. While Britain never bothered to form an alliance with any of the other powers since it followed the policy of “the splendid isolation”. For that reason by the Mancini Declaration Italy would not be drawn in an alliance which would work against Britain.

The Scramble for Africa

Mussolini wanted glory and conquest: his style of leadership needed military victories. He had often promoted the idea of restoring the glory of the Roman Empire. In fact Richards states that:

“Italy was desperately anxious to fill her pockets and vindicate her claim to be a major power by acquiring colonies [1] “.

Mussolini was intent on avenging the humiliation the Italians had suffered back in 1896 against the Abyssinians. The dispute over territory between Abyssinian soldiers and Italians over the incident in Wal-Wal was Mussolini’s main excuse for invading Abyssinia in 1935.

In 1933 the Four Power Pact was signed and committed states to cooperation for a period of 10 years. On 7th January 1935, the Franco-Italian agreement was signed to counteract what they perceived to be an increasing German threat to their national security. The Italians still anti-German at this time, welcomed this alliance with the French [2] .

Britain and France failed to take Mussolini’s threat of invading Abyssinia seriously. In 1935 France, Britain and Italy signed the Stresa Pact to resist any German attempt to alter the Versailles Treaty by force. During this meeting they didn’t even raise the question of Abyssinia so Mussolini took it for granted that he had a free hand in Colonial Expansion [3] . After 8 months the League finally put forward a plan which would give Mussolini some of Abyssinia. He rejected it. [4] 

Mussolini conquered Abyssinia: the last independent African Nation. At this point the Covenant of the League made it clear that sanctions had to be introduced against the aggressor as this was a clear case of a large state attacking a weaker one. However, they were not too effective as oil was not banned and also the Suez Canal was not closed to Mussolini’s supply ships [5] . The Canal was the Italian main supply route to Abyssinia – both Britain and France were afraid that closing the canal could result in war with Italy [6] . This decision was fatal for Abyssinia. Mussolini was astonished at the League sanctions: France’s and Britain’s silence at Stresa over Abyssinia had led Mussolini to think that they would not take his adventures in Abyssinia negatively. Mussolini considered the sanctions a ‘front of conservation, of selfishness and of hypocrisy [7] ‘.

During this period the Hoare-Laval Plan, a secret dealing between Britain and France was trying to solve this crisis. These two Foreign Ministers aimed to give Mussolini 2/3 of Abyssinia in return for his calling off the invasion. Laval threatened Britain that if they didn’t agree to the plan then France would no longer support sanctions against Italy. While Britain activated modest economic sanctions against Italy, Laval promised Mussolini that Italy’s access to oil would not be disrupted. This policy came to be known as ‘all sanctions short of war [8] ‘.

When Italy’s conquest of Abyssinia was completed by May 1936, Haile-Selassie made a last appeal to the League of Nations:

“It is not merely a question of settlement in the matter of Italian aggression. It is a question of collective security; of the trust placed by States in international treaties; of the value of promises made to small states that their integrity and their independence shall be respected and assured. It is a choice between the principle of equality of States and the imposition upon small Powers of the bonds of vassalage [9] “.

On 9th May 1936, Abyssinia was annexed – collective security had been shown as an empty promise. It was evident that Italy could not pursue its interests at Abyssinia and Spain and at the same time guard its security in central Europe, that is why it opted for an alliance with Germany. After 1935 Europe experienced a collapse of Balance of Power and signed the Rome-Berlin axis in November 1936.

Italy after WWI

By the formation of military alliances, Europe was divided into two groups of alliances. At first these alliances were formed to prevent war and were meant to keep the balance of power in Europe. Leaders believed that if one nation had more power than the other, war could be avoided but the threat of war grew in spite of these alliances. In fact Bismarck’s balance of power collapsed.

Italy was united in 1870 but there was a serious division between North and South since the North was industrial while the South was still agricultural. After WWI a gap still existed between the rich and the poor. As a result socialism became very strong and popular in Italy.

The Italo-Turkish war purpose was to add colonies in North Africa. This war revealed the weakness within Italy which failed an expansionist policy. After the war, Trieste and Trentino were handed over to Italy as part of compensation for her involvement in the war. This left Italy dissatisfied since the government had expected to receive parts of the Dalmatian Coast. As a result Italy became known as a “have not” country.

By the Treaty of Versailles signed at the end of WWI the Italians believed that it treated them badly. Italy had not been given the land promised at the Secret Treaty of London in 1915 and as a consequence Italy’s foreign Minister Orlando left the Commission humiliated.

Benito Mussolini set up the Fascist Party and promised to solve Italy’s problems. He came to power in 1922 and was appointed Prime Minister by King Victor Emmanuel to prevent a Communist revolution in Italy. Accordingly in 1922 the March on Rome established Mussolini and the Fascist Party as the most important party of Italy. By the late 1920 there was a more expansionist and aggressive foreign policy. Mussolini’s notion reflected imperialist ambitions even before WWI during the Abyssinian crisis. Mussolini saw and adopted aggressive foreign policy (1933-39) as a destruction of domestic problems of a country.

Italy and the Cold War

Despite the inability to agree on various national interests there still remained some interests in Italy’s foreign policy which remained consistent.

Starting with the Truman Doctrine introduced by USA was a policy to contain communism with financial aid to the West of Europe and to support the communist political party in Italy. It had the tendency to have a more equidistant approach in foreign policy. Internationally Italy has a long welcoming relationship with USA. This is due to the fact that both countries worked together in areas such as the Atlantic alliance (NATO), within the UN and promote prosperity and peace. Important to note is that USA’s thousands of military troops are based in Italy which is a sign of cooperation between both countries for the cause of avoiding terrorism.

Communism formed in Italy by the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI) by breaking away from the Socialist Party. The PCI fought against Nazi in WWII and after war it became a contributor to the Italian constitution while supported by many voters. But PCI was replaced in 1991 by the Partito Democratico della Sinistra (PDS).

Italy guarded the equidistance policy (1933-36) with Britain and France while authorizing German revisionism of the Treaty of Versailles without committing herself to either bloc. Mussolini dreamed of promoting his Italy in his “Mare Nostrum”. In fact Italy acknowledges the role as one of the strongest country in the Mediterranean. Italy’s policy nowadays, is an image of the rights and responsibility in regards to regionality in the Mediterranean.

The notion of opportunism in foreign policy seized opportunity in national interests especially in post-Cold War and Cold War period as it initiated multilateral agreements. It saw instances available for its infrastructure, benefits and economic recovery and therefore an extension of switching alliances. The notion of opportunism hence let Italy paving the way for EU integration. Italy’s influence in EU integration was by Altiero Spinelli with his Ventetone Manifesto (1941) from where he had long been advocating the notion of US of Europe. Peace and stability in EU was by federalising European states. In terms of reputation, Italy benefited more, guaranteeing the best situations for society and making the best out of its circumstances.

Priorities in Italy’s Foreign Policy

There is an overlapping level of importance in Italy’s Foreign Policy considering that the Right wing is more ready to give priority to US while the Left wing tends to be more prone to give EU greater role in its foreign policy. But the three main priorities which are still present in foreign policy are the relations with USA, the EU, and the Mediterranean. So it is clear enough to say that after the end of the Cold War there was a more active foreign policy.

As I have been mentioning before the Mediterranean is crucial in Italy’s foreign policy. The notion of Mare Nostrum or Italian opportunism put the Mediterranean in the sphere of influence and with an obligation to take more responsibility in the region. This in fact entails cooperation agreements, in tackling the North-South divide issue.

On a multilateral basis there are initiatives within the transatlantic relationship which almost brought 50years of peace in Europe and in the rest of the world to prevent another conflict. In 1961 with the fall of Berlin Wall strife between the Western and Eastern blocs faded and brought the Balkan area together. This is also what happened in post 9/11 with the ominous warning of clash of civilisations where if freedom and respect for humanity don’t exist there is no expectation for peace. In this state of affairs the West set the goals for integration within the EU. But the countries which enhanced most and label themselves in the Atlantic bond must take action in catastrophe where humanity is in danger.

Italy’s contributions in regards to culture and history are a melting pot to Europe:

“Take the art works of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, …. add the architecture of Venice, Florence and Rome and you have just a fraction of Italy’s treasures from over the centuries [10] “.

Italy an EU member, being the 7th largest economy in international affairs today has the world’s 6th highest export, a strong member of G8 industrialised nations and G20 especially when it comes to role with USA, China and EU. Italy is also the 5th major tourist destination where revenues which enter from the tourism sector are profitable enough.

The Italian peninsula at the centre of the Mediterranean is a major destination for migrants who reach the Italian shores. This cause brings a challenge to the Republic of Italy. Hence immigration in Italy turned to be a political dialogue tackling migration as a security issue and fulfilling policies particularly having connotations to human rights. Roberto Maroni stated “My concern as interior minister is to guarantee the highest possible levels of security, first and foremost by combating clandestine immigration [11] “.

One of the reasons to which Italy can adopt a more developed role is within its domestic politics. Italian politics is generally considered a complex and puzzling affair, steeped in clientelism, corruption, excessive party influence, a byzantine bureaucracy, and last but not least, mysterious conspiracies as well as bloody episodes of political violence [12] . September 11 coincided with Berlusconi coming in office in May 2001. But in 2006 the “L’Unione” led by Romano Prodi formed the government of the time but resigned after 9 months after a policy about operation troops in Afghanistan and US expansion military base failed. He focused on the importance of making Italy important in the special relationship with USA on the same lines of Britain since the latter was a US ally. In this way Italy will have these benefits and translate to energy and oil resources. One can notice that USA is still one of the benchmarks in Italy’s policy. Prodi was again criticised in 2008 when the UDEUR party left his coalition. All this caused turmoil because Parliament was diffused and elections were held in April. But Berlusconi won his 3rd term in 2008 and so the party is dominated by the centre-right politics. When Berlusconi came to power in 2008 a law was passed giving him immunity from prosecution while being in office. Consequently in November 2008, Italy was affirmed in recession. Nevertheless the main shock experienced by the earthquake in Aquila in 2009 left several people homeless and towns heavily damaged.


Undoubtedly in my opinion I strongly agree with the quote of Michael Clark “Gli italiani non si sono mai messi d’accordo riguardo a dove si trovino i loro interessi nazionali.”

This is due to the fact that one of the problems that characterise Italy’s foreign policy is the notion of inability to agree on various national interests.

Everyday examples include the division between the industrialised North and the poor South. In fact the Italians in the North want to form part of Austria and France since they speak their languages. Certain zones in the north as Venice, Turin are the richest of Europe while the Sothern part is the opposite with few industries and few job opportunities for youths. On administration level, Berlusconi though went through several mistakes in his administration he always sought his aims and succeeded.

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