King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences

Garibaldi: the man and the nation

By Paola Hayward, Senior Library Assistant, Library Services

1848 was a tumultuous year for Europe: Austria, France, Germany and Italy experienced uprisings against their governments and rulers. In Italy, in an attempt to gain independence from foreign powers, popular uprisings started in Sicily and spread across the Italian mainland, across several duchies, states and kingdoms and culminated in battles in the Piedmont area against the Austrians.

Although the events of 1848 did not overthrow the Austrians, they nevertheless paved the way for the formation of an independent Italian state, which was finally established in 1861. They also contributed to the weakening of the Papal States and to the consolidation of an Italian identity.

Title page and frontispiece portrait of GaribaldiTitle page and frontispiece portrait of GaribaldiUnification was credited to several political figures, among whom Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Count Camillo Cavour and King Victor Emmanuel II are the best remembered.

The revolutions of 1848 occurred across many European states and were a protest against old systems of government, feudalism and absolute monarchy. Individual protest movements were aided by the rise of a popular press, disseminating news of shared discontent and in some cases the seeds of revolutionary activity.

Though the backdrop against which these revolutions were set – growing industrialism, discontent among those outside ruling power structures and a rising tide of liberal reform – was shared across nations, the revolutions were largely uncoordinated. The successes of the various revolutions are often viewed by historians as limited, though in Italy and other larger European nations they had lasting impacts in terms of the relationships between the old ruling class and the rest of the population. An analysis of failure would perhaps align them with the outcomes of the Arab Spring, another series of political movements that have not realised the dreams of many and have, like the European revolutions of 1848, seen death and destruction on a tragic scale.

In this exhibition

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