Unification (Risorgimento) is the chain of events which took place during the 19th century and which led, ultimately, to the unification of the various states within the Italian peninsula to form the country of Italy.
Since the fall of the Roman Empire the general history of Italy has been one of invasion and conquest and division. In the north the peninsula was dominated by powerful city-states, often foreign controlled. In the south there were nation-states. There was no real concept of unity and no great feeling of nationhood nor the desire to unify.
However, following Napoleon's invasion the country was briefly united with four main controlling factions: Piedmont, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Naples and the Papal States, all effectively controlled by Napoleon.
Following the fall of Napoleon the country returned to its former situation: numerous states each fighting for itself. The difference was however that in Europe as a whole there was a general surge of nationalistic spirit and in Italy there was the realisation amongst some that it had almost been acheived under Napoleon and was a real possiblity.
The catalyst for unification was in Piedmont (the region was officially the Kingdom of Sardinia) which had as a figurehead the only Italian monarch, King Victor Emmanuel of the House of Savoy. In 1852 in the kingdom Camillo Benso di Cavour became prime minister and he wanted Italian unity.
Cavour carefully gained favour with major European powers, for example, he sent troops to help in the Crimean War and score points with the French so that when Piedmont and Austria went to war, the French sent troops to help fight against the Austrians. Following this the regions around Piedmont rose up in rebellion and they joined with Piedmont under treaties overseen by Cavour.
Garibaldi organised a small army of just over 1,000 red shirts and invaded the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies which soon capitulated, weakened internally by its corrupt government. Garibaldi then marched north on Rome but it was there stopped by an army from Piedmont, not because they wanted to defeat Garibaldi but because there were many French soldiers in Rome and Cavour knew that they could easily defeat Garibaldi's army.
Instead, Cavour brokered a deal whereby Piedmont would annex the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies under a constitutional monarchy. Then in 1861 Piedmont changed its name to the Kingdom of Italy. Soon after a vote in the Papal States (excluding Rome) added them to the kingdom.
The final pieces of the country - Venetia and Rome - were annexed in deals with their ruling powers (Austria and France respectively).
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