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Giuseppe Mazzini

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Giuseppe Mazzini

Since the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the contently divided Italian states watched as the rest of Europe (and Russia) unified into centralized political entities. The world was becoming populated with nations, and for years Italy acted as the playground for wars and political maneuvers between greater European powers. Enter Giuseppe Mazzini, a political activist referred to as "the beating heart of Italy". Once exiled from his own homeland, Mazzini fought for his dream of a unified nation of Italy, and beyond that, a unified Europe.

Giuseppe Mazzini Summary

Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian journalist, political activist, and spiritual founder of the Italian revolutionary movement for independence and unification. Not a battlefield commander by any means, Mazzini was a politically minded revolutionary, responsible for instilling a sense of nationalism and republicanism in his homeland of Italy.

Giuseppe Mazzini Portrait Study Smarter

Although Giuseppe Mazzini would not live to see his greater political ambitions reach fruition (by the time of his death, Italy had mostly found its independence, but under a monarchy rather than a democratic republic), the activist was successful in promoting his ideas of Italian nationalism into the mainstream. In 1946, three years after the fall of dictator Mussolini, Italy officially became a republic, fulfilling Mazzini's dream. As one of the first believers in a united Europe, the establishment of the European Union in 1949 met another of Mazzini's hopes.

Giuseppe Mazzini Life

Giuseppe Mazzini Early Life

Giuseppe Mazzini was born in June 1805 in Genoa. At the time, the Republic of Genoa was a political entity within the Ligurian Republic, a French republic established by Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy. From a young age, Mazzini revealed himself to be a prolific writer and scholar. He was accepted into the University of Genoa in 1819 and graduated with a law degree seven years later, at the young age of twenty-two.

Giuseppe Mazzini Italy Map Study Smarter

After graduation, Mazzini worked as a lawyer and honed his craft as a writer, compiling articles, essays, and many letters. Already, many of his writings discussed liberation and unification for Italy. Unsatisfied with the individuality of his pursuits, Giuseppe Mazzini joined the Carbonari association in Tuscany in 1827. The secretive organization vowed to overthrow absolute monarchal rule in Italy. The dangers of belonging to such a society were real; in 1830, Mazzini was betrayed by a fellow Carbonari member to the police as the secret organization was dissolving. Mazzini was jailed for six months.

Giuseppe Mazzini Beliefs:

Politically speaking, Giuseppe Mazzini was a staunch Italian nationalist, even denouncing more liberal Western ideas as threatening to nationalism. At one point, Mazzini exchanged letters with Karl Marx, but soon disavowed the Marxist cause, partially because of his intense faith in God. Mazzini was not a Catholic or even a Christian (often being an opponent of the Catholic Pope), but he had a deep personal belief in God and thought it important in establishing a divine right to nationalism.

Giuseppe Mazzini Later Life

While in prison, Mazzini cultivated a greater sense of purpose in achieving Italian nationalism. As a condition of his freedom, Mazzini was exiled to Marseille, France. It would not be for another 18 years that Mazzini could return to his homeland, the country that he sought to revolutionize. While in France, Mazzini became a leader for other Italian exiles, forming the Young Italy political activist group. The goal of Young Italy: unify Italy and form an independent, singular, non-monarchial republic. The group swelled to over 60,000 members.

Love your country. Your country is the land where your parents sleep, where is spoken that language in which the chosen of your heart, blushing, whispered the first word of love; it is the home that God has given you that by striving to perfect yourselves therein you may prepare to ascend to him.

-Giuseppe Mazzini

Despite his rising popularity and influence, Giuseppe Mazzini failed in inspiring any meaningful insurrections within Italy. After traveling to Switzerland and England, his writings gaining even more attention, Mazzini was finally invited back to Italy in 1849. Seemingly, the political shape of Italy was turning in his favor: Rome and Tuscany had become republics. In Rome, Giuseppe Mazzini was elected Triumvir, effectively the leader of the government.

The Catholic Pope had different plans. Calling upon aid from Catholic armies across Europe, the short-lived republics in Tuscany and Rome were toppled. In the following years, Mazzini tried to organize more insurrections, each failing. Mazzini placed great blame on himself for the failure of the independence movements. In 1861, Italy almost achieved total unification, but unification under monarchal rule, the House of Savoy. Displeased, Mazzini fought against the shape of the new Italian government until he died in 1872.

No nation deserves freedom or can long retain it which does not win it for itself. Revolutions must be made by the people and for the people.

-Giuseppe Mazzini

Giuseppe Mazzini Nationalism

Giuseppe Mazzini worked for his vision of Italy as an independent, republic nation. Mazzini was careful not to tread into ideas of socialism, as he ideologically disagreed with both Marx and the fundamental proposition of the German philosopher's movement.

Giuseppe Mazzini Italian Flag Study SmarterItalian national flag adopted in 1861. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Mazzini wished to bestow upon Italian citizens a sense of national pride and patriotism to inspire the creation of an independent nation. He argued, using his deeply religious beliefs, that God had placed each Italian citizen on their peninsula, in proximity to each other, for a reason. Mazzini further asserted that the shared Italian language and cultural heritage of the disparate city-states necessitated a movement towards establishing an Italian nation. Additionally, Mazzini was a supporter of women's rights in Italy, advocating for women to naturally share equal citizenship in a free and independent Italy.

Giuseppe Mazzini Importance:

Giuseppe Mazzini was important to the history of Italy's transition into a nation. Notably, his efforts were not direct (he was not a frontline revolutionary), but his works influenced many others. Italian revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II, as well as hundreds of thousands of Italian citizens, were well acquainted with Mazzini's ideologies.

Giuseppe Mazzini Significance

Throughout history, Giuseppe Mazzini has been regarded as both a hero and a failure in Italian history; Mazzini considered himself a failure, writing, "I thought I was awakening the soul of Italy, and I see only the corpse before me."

Statue of Giuseppe Mazzini in Italy.Statue of Giuseppe Mazzini in Italy. Source: Livioandronico2013, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Giuseppe's political activism is responsible for putting Italy on its path to becoming an independent, modern nation. He did not live to see Italy become a free, independent republic, but historians credit Giuseppe's political ideologies with sparking a sense of national urgency in his country.

Giuseppe Mazzini - Key takeaways

  • Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian political activist and spiritual founder of the Italian revolutionary movement. He worked to establish Italy as a unified and independent democratic republic.
  • Between the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and Italy's unification in the 19th century, the country acted as a political playground for greater European powers to wage wars within.
  • Mazzini instilled a sense of national pride within Italians, arguing that their religion, common language, and cultural heritage demanded independent nationhood.
  • Giuseppe Mazzini was unsuccessful in inspiring meaningful and lasting insurrections within Italy. At one point, he was the head of an Italian government that was defeated by the Catholic Pope. After World War II, Italy finally became a unified republic.

Frequently Asked Questions about Giuseppe Mazzini

Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian political activist and spiritual founder of the Italian revolutionary movement. He worked to establish Italy as a unified and independent democratic republic.

Giuseppe Mazzini was an influential writer and activist whose ideas of unification and national pride swept through Italy. Although he was not a frontline revolutionary, he attempted to start multiple insurrections that failed. 

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) was an Italian political activist and spiritual founder of the Italian revolutionary movement. He worked to establish Italy as a unified and independent democratic republic.

Giuseppe Mazzini was an influential writer and activist whose ideas of unification and national pride swept through Italy. Although he was not a frontline revolutionary, he attempted to start multiple insurrections that failed. 

Final Giuseppe Mazzini Quiz

Question

Which was a phrase often used to describe Giuseppe Mazzini? 

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Answer

"the beating heart of Italy" 

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Question

Where was GIuseppe Mazzini born? 

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Answer

Genoa 

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Question

What was the name of the secretive Italian political organization that Giuseppe Mazzini joined in 1827? 

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Answer

The Carbonari

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Question

Where was Mazzini first exiled to after his jailing in 1831? 

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Answer

France 

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Question

What was the name of the political organization that Giuseppe Mazzini founded while in exile in France? 

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Answer

Young Italy

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Question

What was the name of the political position bestowed upon Giuseppe Mazzini when he returned to a republican Rome in 1849? 

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Answer

Triumvir

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Question

Which better describes the Italian unification of 1861? 

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Answer

Mostly unified under a monarchy 

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Question

What was Giuseppe Mazzini's impression of socialism/ Marxism? 

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Answer

Mazzini was distrusting of Marx and his system and disavowed socialism based on his deep belief in God. 

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Question

What was Giuseppe Mazzini's opinion on women's rights in Italy? 

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Answer

Mazzini was a supporter of women's rights and believed that all Italian women should be citizens in a unified Italian nation. 

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Question

What was Giuseppe Mazzini's impression of his accomplishments before his death in 1872? 

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Answer

Mazzini was discouraged, considering himself and his mission a failure. 

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