Italy Between 1768 and 1814

1768 – 1788: the Republic of Genoa sells Corsica, for some time in a state of endemic revolt against Genoese dominion, to France: uprising of 1729-32, which sees an intervention by the emperor alongside Genoa and in its favor; second revolt of 1733-39, which marks the rise of the Paoli family and in 1736 gives life for a few months to the ephemeral independent reign of Theodore of Neuhoff; open intervention by foreign powers with the landing in 1738 of French troops, who tried to exercise a certain armed mediation between the contenders, and the occupation of the islets of Maddalena and Caprera by Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy; new independence insurrection of 1753 and generalate of Pasquale Paoli from 1755 to 1769 with a struggle against Genoa and France at the same time.

According to GLOBALSCIENCELLC, the Peace of Vienna and the subsequent Treaty of Aachen set the new structure of the peninsula for about fifty years: a political change is followed by a profound cultural and civil renewal, a period of economic recovery. It is the effect of a general climate of enlightened reformism. Among the sectors that show signs of progress the most and most rapidly, there is the economic one. The tax system is rationalized, a large number of projects and ideas are developed that are capable of making an extraordinary contribution to trade and agriculture. This last sector is characterized by a particularly favorable trend, making Italy one of the main suppliers of Europe for raw silk (Piedmont, Lombardy, Calabria), oil (southern Italy), wine and, in some years, wheat. Trade is strengthened thanks to the new practice of free ports: the first is that of Livorno, to which over the century are added those of Trieste (1717), Ancona (1732), Civitavecchia (1748) and finally Messina. The intensification of land trade is also supported by the seafaring recovery, favored by the opening of new roads.

Venice, like the other oligarchic republics of Genoa and Lucca, remains outside the movement of eighteenth-century reformism. The Peace of Passarowitz (1718) definitively brought down its centuries-old oriental and Mediterranean policy. Inside, it failed to resolve the contrast between the fifty great patrician families, holders of all power, and the miserable and ravenous nobility of the Barnabotti, and the other conflict, no less serious, between the dominant city and the mainland.. Brescia and Bergamo begin to turn their gaze towards Austrian Lombardy and Friuli towards Austria; among the patricians, Angelo Querini knotted in 1761 an unfortunate conspiracy with the Barnabottis to make the government less oligarchic, followed by the more conservative attempts of Giorgio Pisani and Carlo Contarini (1780); but the oligarchic limit,

In the Kingdom of Sardinia, under Vittorio Amedeo II, high administration was reformed (1717), criminal and civil legislation was unified (1724), education was encouraged and the University of Turin strengthened, the nobility stripped of all goods and privileges for which it is not possible to produce a legitimate title of possession and promoted the transformation of most of the nobles into state and dynasty officials, launched an energetic jurisdictional policy towards the Catholic Church and the clergy, contained in its immunities and replaced in many charitable institutions by state assistance. This jurisdictional aspect was abandoned in the last years of the reign of Vittorio Amedeo II and under his successor Carlo Emanuele III. The Savoy reformism continues only in favor of Sardinia,

In the Papal State, reforming activity, albeit cautious and slow, is not entirely absent, even if the papacy is one of the favorite targets of the enlightened sovereigns, to the point of forcing Pope Clement XIV to suppress with the bull Dominus ac Redemptor del 1773 the unexpected Society of Jesus. Pius VI (1775-98) implements a tax reform aimed at simplifying the collection of taxes, has a land registry carried out in 1777, resumes the reclamation work in the Pontine marshes and is a generous patron of artists and literati.

The picture of the states placed within the sphere of Habsburg or Bourbon domination or influence appears to be different. In Lombardy, first Count Beltrame Cristiani and then Count Carlo di Firmian are intelligent executors of the reforming activity of the Empress Maria Theresa: the central point of their work is the compilation, between 1748 and 1755, of a general land registry, which, entered into force in 1760, it allows to transfer the tax burden from trade to land ownership and at the same time to lay the foundations for a rational development of Lombard agriculture. The economic explosion of the Lower Lombardy region dates back to this period, ie the irrigation area with the cultivation of rice, artificial lawns and the large livestock patrimony; in the hilly area, the cultivation of mulberry trees is extended and generalized, and with it the domestic industry of raw silk. The other major reform is the administrative one, which divides the territory into provinces and municipalities, incorporating cities and countryside into the same unit. There are also many economic policy reforms aimed at achieving on the one hand a centralization of power and on the other a rationalization of administrative structures accounts). Nor is there lacking under Maria Theresa a jurisdictional policy towards the Church, which even becomes overwhelming under her son and successor Joseph II (1780-90),

In Tuscany, passed to Francesco Stefano di Lorena in 1737, the reforming activity started immediately thanks to the Regency Council. Even if soon hated by the subjects and even if it cannot break the insurmountable limits that the personal interest of Francesco Stefano – engaged in the war of the Austrian Succession and in that of the Seven Years and therefore in need of the greatest possible amount of money – places on every policy reformer, the regency not only knows how to reorganize the state, resolving the thorny question of the Medici allodial assets, rearranging the public debt, stipulating treaties with the Ottoman Empire, but also initiates some reforms (transfer of entire families of Lorraine peasants to the Maremma; favor given the silk industry; limitation of feudal jurisdiction), taking care to favor a partial decentralization of power, favoring greater collaboration between the government and the local ruling class. The small and fragmentary reformism of the regency is replaced by a real synthetic program of reforms with the arrival of the young Pietro Leopoldo in 1765: a program that is not exempt from some conflict with that of the imperial brother Joseph II, both for the different attitude towards Tuscany, considered in Vienna as a ‘second birth’ for the Habsburgs, and for a different way of understanding the reforms. Surrounded by the best elements of Tuscan culture and administration,

Bourbon possessions also feel the effects of the eighteenth-century reformist movement. In Parma, which has become a center of French culture, the soul of the reforms is the minister (since 1756) G.-L. du Tillot, especially when he held the reins of the state for the minor Ferdinand (1765-71). In Naples, Charles of Bourbon knows how to take advantage of the precious collaboration of Bernardo Tanucci and the work of Antonio Genovesi, one of the most representative figures of the political-economic reform movement of the Kingdom. Thanks also to the support of a centuries-old anticurial tradition, the reforms are resolved above all in a tough anticlerical and antifeudal struggle for the existence of an enormous political power in the baronial class and for the accumulation of privileges and exemptions enjoyed by the clergy (1741, agreed with the Holy See which limits the fiscal immunity of ecclesiastical assets and the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical forum). Charles of Bourbon left for Spain in 1759, and the reform action continued even with Ferdinand IV, indeed it extended to Sicily, where in 1781 the Marquis Caracciolo, an authentic ‘Enlightenment’, was sent as viceroy.

In the last years of the 18th century. the reforming activity ceases almost everywhere: in the Kingdom of Sardinia the advent of Vittorio Amedeo III means the abandonment of the previous reforming work and the beginning of a clearly conservative policy; Bourbon reformism rapidly regressed in Parma and Naples; in the Austrian dominions, on the other hand, after the death of Joseph II and the advent of the former Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo with the name of Leopoldo II (1790-92), there is at most a more cautious practice.

1789-1814 The French Revolution did not limit itself to modifying, with the subsequent Napoleonic period, the territorial structure of the peninsula, but also had a catalytic effect for those exponents of the educated class who, faced with the abandonment of reform activity by the princes, beyond the simple reformism pushed by liberal-constitutional ideals. While the Italian sovereigns remain as if paralyzed in the face of the succession of events, not a few Italians (this is the case, for example, of Filippo Buonarroti) decide to share and make revolutionary ideas and programs their own. However, they are an elite: most of the country remains hostile to the Revolution.

Italy Between 1768 and 1814

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