Mazzini and Nationalism

Author: Giuseppe Mazzini, 1805-1872. Founder of Young Italy (1831), Mazzini was an Italian activist and politician and one of the most significant figures in the push of nationalism and democracy.

Context: Published in 1852, in a time when revolutions such as the French (1848) and others were happening with comparable frequency, the ideas of nationalism and unification were picking up steam.

Language: Mazzini wrote in a very “matter of fact” tone. It read optimistically in the sense that if everything he stated was followed, Italy would be in a great position. This piece exuded a great deal of confidence and grabs the intended audience’s attention.

Audience: The European people.

Intent: Inspire Europeans to come together and unite as one, increasing pride in their respective countries.

Message: He states, “They speak the same language, they bear about them the impress of consanguinity, they kneel beside the same tombs, they glory in the same tradition.” Having said this, he questions why these people with so much in common do not unite as one and reap the benefits from such behavior. He alludes to the fact that not many European countries have such unity and how advantageous it would be.

Why: To respond to the uprisings and revolutions of the prior few years. He determined that one of the main issues in Europe was a lack of unity and explained how he felt they could improve their situation.


AUTHOR: Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian politician and journalist and played a vital role in the eventual unification of Italy. In 1831, he traveled to Marseille and started a up a secret society, Young Italy, which promoted Italy’s unification. Mazzini pursued his thoughts regarding unification by creating similar groups to Young Italy, such as Young Germany, Young Poland and Young Switzerland.   After Italy was successfully unified, he became a strong advocate of the European unification (( .

CONTEXT: This was published in 1852; two years after Mazzini had been hiding from the Swiss police. Leading up to 1852, Mazzini had been traveling around Europe promoting European unification as well as Italian unification. Revolutions had been prominent all around Europe, such as the French Revolution of 1848 and the October Revolution in Vienna in 1848 (( .

LANGUAGE: Mazzini wrote with a very confident tone, adamant about what was best for Italy. He states what must be done gives specific instructions to the readers regarding Italy’s nationality and unification. His tone is also very prominent when discussing the lack of nationality Europe’s counties have, and how he believes the nations should go about fixing this.

AUDIENCE: Mazzini is directing this piece towards everyone in Europe, specifically those who live in nations undergoing turmoil. He wished to persuade the people to unify their nations for the betterment of Europe as a whole.

INTENT: Mazzini’s intent in writing this was to evoke the people of Europe to make more of an effort to unify their nations. He was trying to show them how big of an issue it was that these nations and Europe itself was not unified.

MESSAGE: Mazzini’s message was to inform the people they would receive much more benefits by living in a unified nation and continent.

WHY? This was written in response to many of the revolutions Mazzini had noticed occur around Europe. He realized that multiple nations were struggling with unification and nationalism, and he encouraged them to find a way to become one.

Day by Day Nationalism

“Nationalism has become general; it grows daily and it has already grown strong enough to keep all parts of Italy united despite the differences that distinguish them.”

-Count Cavour (Camillo Benso)

While this quote from Benso, who would become Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia, applies to Italy it could be applied to many different countries in Europe at the time.  Nationalism is no longer a fad at this time, it is assumed now.  Unity is now a key word in the development of new countries.  Giuseppe Mazzini wrote “unity is a necessity in the world.”  As Count Cavour wrote unity has become strong in Italy but it is needed everywhere.  Unity comes with nationalism and the two words are very important together. Count Cavour touches on it briefly and the important part of his quote is that nationalism is continuing to grow.  It is growing on a daily basis, the people are becoming more unified.  Mazzini also wrote “The question of Nationalities, rightly understood, is the Alliance of Peoples”.  This quote is the basis for what Cavour is seeing put into action.  Cavour says nationalism has become general but he is thinking too general.  While he is looking just at Italy, many other places in Europe are becoming more unified.  This is not a separated occurrence in Italy, many people are taking Mazzini’s words to heart.  Count Cavour did not know it but his writing was a base point of what nationalism is.  Italy is just one of the many in Europe who were “unified despite the differences that distinguish them.”

Mazzini on Social Change

Writing in 1852, Mazzini served as a national figure, advocating for the nationalism of Italian democracy. He saw Europe not as a unified whole, but a fractured state full of violence and crises. For Mazzini, they key to peace was unity. In his eyes, Europe was taking two two forms: social and nationalities. “I say, which all have agreed to call social, because, generally speaking, every great revolution is so far social, that it cannot be accomplished either in the religious, political, or any other sphere, without affecting social relations […]” Mazzini notes that no tangible change can be made in society without, first, a social change. While other philosophers we’ve read have offered ideas of non-violent changes and revolutions, Mazzini insinuates a more palpable declaration of this notion. He states; “The question there is now, above all, to establish better relations between labour and capital, between production and consumption, between the workman and the employer.” Mazzini proposes social changes that will directly affect they way people live, cooperate with one another, and the ways in which society conducts itself. He offers social changes that would not only be felt on a national level, but also on an intimate and personal level.