‘ The north-south divide was no less evident than it had traditionally been – the Piedmontese government made no attempt to understand the south, as it believed the south to have great wealth in terms of natural resources and land, just waiting for exploitation by the industrialized north. The attitude held by Piedmont seems more like the one a state would hold towards a conquered colony, rather than the part of the ‘nation state’ that southern Italy ostensibly was. The language divide was another fundamental issue that had remained a problem since the 1800s.Thanks to the prolific and esteemed writer Dante’s influence, Italian was accepted as the national language of Italy, but few actually spoke it. A mere 2.
5% of the population, mostly the educated elite, was conversant in Italian – the majority of Italians communicated in regional dialects. A telling sign that unity was far from being achieved was the moment when Victor Emmanuel, King of Prussia, muttered the words ‘at last we’re here’ as he stepped into Rome, the last piece of the Italian puzzle which had finally come under Piedmontese control. Gooch remarks wryly that ‘appropriately, the words were uttered not in Italian but in Piedmontese.’ Language is one of the most fundamental channels of culture.
If even the leader of the Italian state could not take the effort to be conscious of using Italian instead of his native tongue, it not only shows us where his true loyalties lie, but offers a bleak picture with regards to his people’s linguistic and cultural unity. Furthermore, there was a clear religious divide that split the country into two, and many Italian peasants had deeply rooted religious loyalties – the heavy influence of the Catholic pope in the proceedings of 1848 are testament to the fact.This religious divide had always been a potential source of political friction, especially in the light of the Piedmontese government’s unpopularity, and tensions were exacerbated when after the unification, Pius IX forbade Catholics to take part in national elections and rejected the indemnity and guarantees of protection the government offered.
Many heeded his words, and this is clear evidence of how a large proportion of Italians viewed themselves firstly in religious terms, followed by nationalistic ones.Italy was a state in which two different religions were forced to coexist unhappily, not a nation in which citizens embraced their nationality as their primary identity and were willing to put aside all their differences because they viewed themselves as one people. In essence, Italy the state in 1867 lacked a fundamental common link between all its citizens strong enough to bind them together in spite of their many differences, and the fact that its leader was more concerned about Piedmont than Italy, in particular the southern states, certainly did not contribute to the cultivation of Italy the nation.Although Germany, unlike Italy with its many dialects, had German as a common language, as well as a shared cultural tradition based on literary and artistic heritage which provided a basic form of common identity for most Germans, it too faced many fundamental barriers to unification which persisted even after the state had been created and political unity achieved. Germany had a cultural divide between the east and the west, the former being more agrarian and autocratic, the latter tending towards industrialization and liberalism.When the Rhineland was annexed to Prussia, it was extremely resentful as it had very little common with the latter – Rhinelanders considered their country as part of Western Europe, and Prussia as an alien culture from the east.
Although it was politically part of the expanding Prussia, the people of Rhineland certainly did not consider themselves Prussians or Germans. Germany was also clearly divided into two religious spheres, with the Catholics in the south and the Protestants in the north.In 1871, Bismarck became increasingly worried about the political role the Catholics were playing in Prussia’s united Germany – the Catholics felt uneasy about living in such a Protestant state.
To support themselves, the German Catholics formed the Center Party, managed to gain 58 seats in the Reichstag and drew support from all the elements that had opposed Bismarck’s work. In response, Bismarck launched the Kulturkampf, a campaign in concert with the German liberals against political Catholicism, which imposed restrictions upon Catholic education and worship.’Bismarck’s aim was clearly to destroy the Center Party… (he) doubted the loyalty of the Catholic population to the Prussian-centered, and therefore primarily, Protestant nation. ‘ [Encyclopedia Britannica] This action on Bismarck’s, the leader of Prussia-dominated Germany, part clearly revealed his attitude towards the German Catholics.
He did not truly regard them as fellow citizens of the same nation-state, as to him, being Protestant was a fundamental part of being Prussian, and by implication German.By associating the state with one single religion, Bismarck was impeding the formation of the German nation, as by adopting this mentality he was treating the Catholics as outsiders due to their differences. What was even worse was that the Kulturkampf ‘convinced the Roman Catholic minority that their fear of persecution was real and that a confessional party to represent their interests was essential.’ [Encyclopedia Britannica] Bismarck’s reaction confirmed in the eyes of the Catholics that they were indeed treated not as German citizens, but enemies of the state who would potentially stir up trouble at any turn, and as a result their attitude towards the government and the state hardened as well. The Kulturkampf was thus a catch-22 situation which was self-defeating to the cause of national unity in Germany.
Secondly, the German Empire was founded on the ephemeral unity provided from war with France, and it did not take long for that unity to die down.Stiles notes that ‘German nationalism as a mass phenomenon tended to be reactive, erupting in response to perceived threats and then subsiding again. ‘ A common enemy would bring the German states together in a sudden espousal of nationalist rhetoric and submergence of their massive, underlying differences, but how the people felt after the initial wave of euphoria at victory was an entirely different issue altogether.Though initially Prussia’s power appealed to non-Prussians and lessened the appeal of the other great power, Austria, the political ‘unity’ soon became unstable for many.
This was perfectly understandable, as the German state was largely the creation of Bismarck, who instituted a revolution from above, a unity imposed by Prussia, and brought into being a Prussian-dominated empire. For this reason, Hans-Ulrich Wehler remarks that ‘Bismarck had to cover up the social and political differences in the tension ridden class society of his new German state.’ The tensions arose from the fact that Bismarck was trying to mould Germany into an extended version of Prussia, and the cultures of the states which comprised Germany were vastly different and resented Prussia’s imposition. In 1866, Bismarck did not want to annex the remaining northern states, as he saw no advantage of so speedy a takeover else it lead to a dilution of Prussian culture and traditions.Clearly, Bismarck’s focus on Prussia meant that cultivating a national German identity was not on his priority list, for a state would suffice just as well as long as it facilitated the growth of Piedmont – in fact, an enlarged Piedmontese nation would suit him best of all. Hence, the Germany he brought about in 1871 was a state on the rocky road towards becoming a nation, a journey which was increasingly facilitated by the fact that Germans shared a common racial ancestry.
In conclusion, the view put forth in the question has undoubtable validity, and I concur with it to a large extent.Bibliography Jacob E. Safra, Encyclopedia Britannica 15th Edition, Encyclopedia Britannica,1986 N. Doumanis, Inventing the nation Italy, Oxford, 2001 John Gooch, The Unification of Italy, Routlege, 1986 S. Di Scala, Italy: From Revolution to Republic, Westview, 1998 Andrew Matthews, Nationalism Andrina Stiles, The Unification of Germany Andrina Stiles, The Unification of Italy.