Mazzini, Giuseppe

Mazzini, Giuseppe
   An Italian patriot, philosopher, and champion of republican government, Giuseppe Mazzini was born the son of a doctor in the port city of Genoa and enlisted in the Carbonari in the 1820s. His revolutionary activities resulted in arrest in Sardinia in 1830, but the next year he fled to Marseilles where he founded the Young Italy movement with the mission of uniting the states and kingdoms of the Italian peninsula into a republic. Mazzini held that national unification could be accomplished only by popular insurrection, a romantic political reflex typical of liberal movements of the time. His open advocacy of this approach, however, got him banned not only from Italy but also from France.
   Mazzini was equally attracted to ornate conspiratorial projects. From refuge in Switzerland he concocted a plot to use Polish exiles in Switzerland and France to launch an invasion of Savoy, the ancestral home of Piedmont-Sardinia’s ruling family, on the calculation that the action would touch off popular risings in Italy, France, Germany, and Switzerland itself - leading to the creation of a republican and neutral Confederation of the Alps. The easy defeat of the raid by Piedmontese forces badly damaged Mazzini’s status a republican leader. In exile in Marseilles and London, he nurtured the idea of a republican brotherhood of nations and founded a Young Europe movement.
   The revolutionary year of 1848 found Mazzini back in Milan, now coordinating his efforts with Giuseppe Garibaldi; in 1849 he headed the governing triumvirate of the Roman Republic. When it fell, Mazzini’s influence waned as Garibaldi’s waxed. The nationalist movement gravitated toward unification under the House of Savoy, as Garibaldi and Count Cavour assumed its leadership. Mazzini rejected national unification under a crown and continued to agitate for a republic. By 1868, when he settled in Lugano, Switzerland, only 15 miles from the Italian border, Mazzini was no longer a political force in his homeland.
    Griffith, Gwilym Oswald. Mazzini: Prophet of Modern Europe. New York: H. Fertig, 1970;
    Mack Smith, Denis. Mazzini. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994;
    Schroeder, Paul W. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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