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The history of Italy resembles a theatre of struggles over power which since earliest times has impacted the cultural and political divisions of the country. The Pelasgi are considered to be the first inhabitants of the Palatine, the hill on which the history of Rome Italy was to rise later.

It was only around the 11th century that many Italian cities started asserting their autonomy wherein an involved model of communal government began to evolve. A burgher class which had become wealthy in trade and banking had begun to assert its leadership. Cities such as Milan, Genoa, Venice, Florence and Pisa had become powerful and independent City-States. This was the beginning of the end of feudalism in Northern Italy because these “Comuni” resisted the efforts of both the old nobles and rulers to control them. And, though there was turbulent violence and divisive rivalry amongst citizens, especially the one between the supporters of the popes and supporters of the emperors, the cities were able to contribute in a major way to the rising cultural energy of a new Italy.

The unification of Italy had its roots in the 18th century when intellectual changes dismantled traditional values and institutions. The French Revolution was instrumental in bringing about awareness in “liberal Italians”. From 1859, under the able and liberal leadership of Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, Sardinia and the support of France and England Italy marched on towards a final unification. After a number of political and military upheavals, a united kingdom of Italy took birth in 1861. Victor Emmanuel was declared king of united Italy. The only sad fact at that point in time was the absence of Rome, which was still a papal possession and Venice under Austrian control.

Venice became part of Italy when Prussia defeated Austria in the Seven Weeks War in 1866. Venice was given as a reward to Italy for siding with Prussia. The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 saw Napoleon III withdrawing his troops from Rome. As a result of being unprotected, the city of Rome and the remaining Papal States, witnessed the entry of Italian troops without any opposition. Rome voted in favor of unification with Italy in October 1870 and in July 1871 was made the capital of a united Italy.

 

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