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What If Italy Had Never Been Unified? by Rooksmoor

Author says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Rooksmoor's excellent blog Tablets of Lead. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

Please click the icon to follow us on Twitter.Writing recently here about the possibility of Belgium never being created I was reminded of the various counter-factual geo-political aspects I included in my steampunk story, 'The Skyborne Corsair': http://rooksmoor.blogspot.com/2008/12/skyborne-corsair-chapter-1-steampunk.html  One was the continuation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands as late as 1865 and the other was that Italian unification had been incomplete leaving three states: Padania, i.e. unified northern Italy, the Papal States of  the central Italian peninsula and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (which for ease I had retitled 'The Sicilian Kingdom') covering southern Italy and Sicily.  Giuseppe Garibaldi has been left as a terrorist living in Tunis planning to bring these three kingdoms together. Of course, in our world by 1861 most of Italy had been unified and following the exclusion of French influence from the country during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, the remaining Papal held areas were united with the country and Rome became the capital.

In today's posting I am going to look at the possibilities of Italy not become a unified state in the mid-19th century and what would have been the differences for subsequent history.  Though the process of the unification of Italy is usually dated as starting in 1850, as with the unification of Germany, the seeds of the process can be seen as being planted by Napoleon's conquest of large parts of Europe.  Italy was the first region in which he began reorganising the geo-political arrangement, creating republics which were either ruled directly from France or were effective puppet states modelled on the post-revolutionary French model.  Later these tended to become kingdoms, often dished out to his relatives or generals to rule.  Napoleon's earliest victories despite pushing Austria from northern Italy, then restored its status to the eastern side of northern Italy by giving it Venice; a move that was reconfirmed after Napoleon was defeated in 1815.  Austria was to rule Lombardy and Venetia, covering north-eastern Italy until 1866; the Austrians would hold Trentino sitting between these two provinces until 1919.  Under Napoleon Rome was to become ruled directly from France.  The attempts to exclude Austria from northern Italy and break the connection between France, the Papacy and Rome were two key elements of the unification process.  Garibaldi first appears in the unification process in 1849 fighting to defend the short-lived Roman Republic from the French.  Defeat there gave the city back to the Papacy.  The year 1848 saw uprisings across Europe all of which sooner or later were put down by conservative forces.  In 1850 the Austrians finally suppressed the uprising in Venetia, the province in which Venice sits.  Thus, despite the ructions of 1848-50, the first attempts of Italians to throw off Austrian or Papal control had failed.
Italian States in 1850

The state that drove unification was the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. This had been created in 1720 when the Duke of Savoy was raised to be King of Sardinia.  In 1799 the French conquest of northern, the king relocated from his capital Turin to Sardinia.  In 1847 the region of Piedmont was united fully with Sardinia to form a single kingdom.  Conte Camillo Benso di Cavour became prime minister of Piedmont-Sardinia in 1852 and as Otto von Bismarck was to do in Prussia in the following decade, he used the basis of a regional power which ruled over some of the main industrial areas of the country as the basis for unifying the state.  As in Germany, unification can be portrayed as much as an annexation of weaker states of a similar national background following the exclusion of other Powers, in both cases Austria and France, from the region.

Thinking of the time favoured the nation-state, i.e. a country in which the people tend to speak the same language and have much the same culture.  Western Europe had a number of states: Britain, France, Spain and Portugal that were already like that in the early 19th century.  However, in central Europe you had the fragmentation of states speaking the same language (or at least a similar language) and in eastern Europe you had the vast multi-national Austrian, Russian and Ottoman empires.  Throughout the 19th century the concept of nationalism, which has seeds as early as the 1810s, for example, the rallying of Prussians to fight Napoleon, was developed politically and culturally.  As literacy improved the development of dictionaries and the regulation of dialects help to provide a basis for nationalist aspirations.  Furthermore in the industrial age it appeared that the petty states of 18th century Europe stood no chance against either the nation-states in terms of industrialisation or the multi-national empires in terms of military power unless they combined.

In 1858, in league with the French, Cavour provoked unrest in Lombardy and the following year took Piedmont-Sardinia to war alongside France against the Austrians.  For the French this had the benefit of weakening its main rival on continental Europe and to some degree taking back the concessions that Napoleon had made to the Austrians.  The Franco-Piedmontese victory gave Lombardy to Piedmont-Sardinia and as happened following Bismarck's victory against the French in 1870, other states began adhering to the victorious regional power: the Duchies of Parma and Modena plus Tuscany joined with Romagna, Umbria and the Marches, formally parts of the Papal States in the United Provinces of Central Italy.  However, rather than creating a rival to Piedmont-Sardinia, the constituents of this briefly existing state offered themselves to Piedmont-Sardinia in 1860 and were annexed.   Piedmont-Sardinia also took  Within two years, Cavour had more than doubled the size of his state, though it came at a high price.  To keep French backing, Savoy, ironically the original home of the rulers of the kingdom and the region around Nice, had to be given to France and were only briefly retrieved by Italy 1943-5.  The willingness of Napoleon III ruler of France to assist the objectives of Piedmont-Sardinia in exchange for quite minor gains, was vital in the achievement of Italian unification.

The second phase of the unification was driven more by Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was more focused on unification for the benefit of Italians than for the rulers of Piedmont-Sardinia.  His invasion of Sicily in 1860, aided ironically by the British who had in the Napoleonic period had been good friends of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, brought southern Italy into the unification process.  Garibaldi's successful fight to Naples ended the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the ruler of Piedmont-Sardinia, Victor Emanuel II, felt confident enough to declare himself King of Italy in February 1861.  To some degree the fact that unification owed more to regional and international Powers rather than 'freedom fighters' was emphasised in 1862 when trying to bring the Papal States into the growing Italy, Garibaldi was arrested on his way to Rome.  Garibaldi tried again in 1867 but failed once more. Rather than make a direct attack at this stage, Victor Emmanuel (Cavour having died in 1861 aged only 50; it is interesting to imagine what would have happened in this phase if he had lived say another 10 years) negotiated with Napoleon III to have French troops leave Rome by 1866.  In contrast to pushing the Austrians from northern Italy, the French were more reluctant to see the end of Papal control of central Italy.  Though the French troops left in 1866 they returned in 1870 when Garibaldi again tried to take Rome and were only pulled out when France needed them for defence against Prussia.

Piedmont-Sardinia certainly benefited from the activities of Otto von Bismarck and his wars to bring about German unification in 1864-70.  Piedmont-Sardinia entered the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 on Prussia's side, being promised Venetia if they were victorious.  Despite the Prussians winning, ironically, the Austrians gave Venetia to the French who had not intervened on Prussia's side against their old rival Austria.  Generously, the French gave it to Piedmont-Sardinia.  This meant that only the Trentino region remained in Austrian hands which it would do until it was given to Italy in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference after Italy had entered the war on the side of Britain, France and Russia against Germany and Austria-Hungary.  The Papacy did not give up its remaining territory in western central Italy without a fight, but having been denuded by the losses in 1860 and surrounded since 1861 on three sides by 'Italy' there was little the Pope could do once French troops had gone, though there was some fighting.  The Pope represented himself as a prisoner in the Vatican City, which remained a sovereign state even though only 0.48 ha large and it was not until the Lateran Accords of 1929 that the Papacy was reconciled to existence of the Italian state. Interestingly the Papal States and Britain were the only two theocracies in Europe, with their head of state also being the head of their established church, now only Britain and the Vatican City remain in this category.

A plebiscite in September 1870 decided that the remaining area of the Papal States would join Italy.  The Italian capital, which had come from Turin to Florence in 1865 moved to Rome in 1871 where it was to remained. Of course, the process of unifying the country culturally had only just begun.  I remember a historian telling me years ago that it was reckoned only 20% of the people living in the new Italy actually spoke Italian as we would recognise it.  Even today Sardinia alone has a plethora of dialects which seem ancient in their roots.  In large parts of north-eastern Italy, German was the language.  It took hard work and a national education system to unite the language of the country and even now, 140 years, on regional dialects remain strong.

In the space of 12 years the patchwork that had been the states of the Italian peninsula and islands had been made into a single state.  Despite the glamour of Garibaldi's campaigns, the unification was actually achieved through deal making in particular with France.  Even Garibaldi's progress needed British assistance.  The one aspect in which Garibaldi's forces made a key difference was in fact in July 1866 when, following the defeat of Victor Emmanuel's forces at Custoza the previous month, Garibaldi's troops were able to defeat the Austrians at Bezzecca and move on to occupy Venetia.  Now, it seems likely that Venetia would have gone to France and then to Piedmont-Sardinia anyway, but it was a moral victory for the Garibaldian forces to actually conquer Venetia themselves.  Without this perhaps France would have thought twice about giving over the province so easily.

What then are the possible different outcomes of these 12 years that would have led to Italy not becoming a unified state?  One key element appears to be the role of France.  It seemed to bend over backwards to assist the growth of Piedmont-Sardinia.  A lot of this is due the Napoleon III's delight in geo-political manoeuvrings across the world.  It was clear that a strong Italian state would be a buffer against France's key rival Austria.  However, Napoleon III may have easily disappeared from the picture.  Though elected President of France in 1848 he seized dictatorial power in a coup in 1851 and was overthrown in 1870 following France's defeat by the Prussians.  If he had lost power sooner or had been more preoccupied as he should have been with defending against Prussia perhaps he would not have had the time or inclination to intervene in Italy.  A particular reason may have been the attempt by Italian revolutionary Felice Orsini to assassinate Napoleon III in January 1858.  In his attempt he threw three bombs at the emperor's coach and killed eight people and wounded 142 others.  It seems clear that a little more luck on his part or bad luck on the emperor's could have led to his death or severe wounding and perhaps a very different approach to Italian affairs.

Without French backing, I imagine that Cavour would still have engineered a war against Austria for the sake of annexing at least Lombardy, say, in 1860.  However, as happened in 1866 there was no guarantee that Piedmont-Sardinian forces could defeat the Austrians.  A defeat or less than conclusive victory would not only have barred Piedmont-Sardinia from receiving Lombardy, but would also have had an impact on the central Italian states which came over to that side in the light of clear success and strong French backing for the move.  Perhaps there would have been a sustained war between Piedmont-Sardinia and Austria.  This naturally in itself would have been in French interests as long as Austria was not too successful.  Even today the region of Piedmont has only 4.4 million people and Sardinia 1.7 million, both would have had far fewer in the 19th century.  In contrast, Austria-Hungary had 52 million people in 1914 and though it would have had fewer fifty years earlier, it would have still been able to call on far greater resources than Piedmont-Sardinia fighting alone.  Thus, it is easy to envisage that without French support, Piedmont-Sardinia would have struggled to push the Austrians from nothern Italy.  They may have ultimately victorious but given the record of both armies, it seems more likely that a stalemated war would have developed without the sweeping victory Cavour needed.

If Piedmont-Sardinia had not been as successful as it was in our world, would the states of central Italy have adhered to it so enthusiastically?  Perhaps the United Provinces of Central Italy would have lasted longer.  Of course, in time, there is a good chance of this unit forming a confederation with Piedmont-Sardinia, but perhaps that would have been on a more equal basis rather than assimilation by Piedmont-Sardinia.  Even Prussia did not absorb all the other states in the way that Piedmont-Sardinia did.  Would the eastern parts of the Papal States have adhered to this grouping or remained under the Papacy.  It seems apparent that there were many in the Papal States who though happy to follow the Pope in spiritual matters were seeking a different structure for political life.  If Piedmont-Sardinia had been snubbed by France and certainly if it had been defeated by Austria then perhaps the UPCI would have formed the basis for a rival focus for unification with Italy becoming more of a (con)federal state than it did become.

Success in the North allowed Garibaldi to go to the South to bring the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the growing 'Italy'.  If the Austrians were still strong in the North it has to be questioned whether he would have been able to shift his focus.  Despite a vote to become part of Italy 1861-5 saw numerous uprisings in the former kingdom leading to more deaths than all the other conflicts of the unification and even talk of a 'civil war'. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was the least developed area of Italy with less than 200Km of railway and with the bulk of its settlements without permanent roads.  However, taxes were low and food cheap.  Emigration from the kingdom was common especially to the USA and Argentina.  As some northern Italians argue today, there was little benefit in assimilating this poor region into Italy.  Workers from the region could migrate North to work in factories and on the land anyway, there was no need to take over an area which needed such development.  It seems quite possible that less romantic fighters than Garibaldi may have concentrated on the North and Centre of Italy and left the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies alone.  The British had propped up the kingdom at the time of the Napoelonic Wars and though it would have been unlikely that they would have taken over the state they may have had a similar relationship to it as they did with Greece after its independence in 1829, perhaps holding some islands or ports.  The kingdom probably would have developed slowly like neighbouring Greece and from 1813, Albania.  Perhaps control of it may have provoked a wider European war as did the tension between Serbia and Austria-Hungary in 1900s-10s.

Despite the fact that Pope Pius IX (Pope 1846-78) granted the Papal States a constitution it is clear that the Papacy wanted to retain control over the provinces they held in central Italy.  He was advanced in his approach to modern technology and oversaw improvements in the infrastructure of his state, but in 1869 he oversaw the declaration of papal infallibility and his educational policy was very conservative.  It seems highly feasible if Piedmont-Sardinia had been distracted by an enduring Austrian presence in the North and if the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had remained independent too, let alone if the French had not been compelled to withdraw their forces, the Papal States could have continued.  It seems likely that if it had reached the 20th century intact it would have remained so up until the present day.  I anticipate there would have been a development in the secular side of the state as the Papal States would have needed the trappings of a modern state, but it would have remained a particular kind of country.  Perhaps ultimately it would have come to resemble Saudi Arabia which holds the religious sites of Islam and yet is not automatically the leader in the Islamic world.  Perhaps it would have been difficult for Popes to separate their spiritual role from being head of a state.  Pius IX was certainly bitter about his loss and before 1929 Catholics were supposed not to engage with the Italian state because it had stolen the Pope's lands.

Would any of the four Italian states have engaged in colonialism the way Italy did in our world?  Austria-Hungary had enough issues with its own internal empire, which continued to grow, for example, taking over Bosnia in 1908, without looking overseas.  However, in the late 19th century and early-mid 20th century Italy did seek to establish an empire, in large part to prove it was an equal of the other Powers, much the way other newcomers Germany and Japan did.  Taking advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire and the Egyptian Empire, which in effect was under British control anyway from 1882 onwards, in 1882 Italy took the Bay of Assab in what is now Eritrea.  The Horn of Africa would be one of the two main regions of Italian penetration.  In 1885 Italy took more of Eritrea and established Italian Somaliland farther South.  Italy invaded Abyssinia, what is now Ethiopia, briefly in 1889 and in a treaty with the Emperor, established Eritrea as a colony.  The Italians invaded Abyssinia again in 1895, but were clearly defeated in 1896.  In 1901 like the other Powers, Italy managed to get a concession in China, in its case Tientsin, close to Beijing.  Italian troops took part in the lifting of the Siege of Beijing in 1905.  In 1911 Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire and seized Libya and the Dodecanese Islands with their primarily Greek population.  Despite British wishes that these islands go to Greece, Italy retained them until the end of the Second World War.  After the First World War, Italy was given Jubaland by the British in 1925 and it became part of Italian Somalialand the following year, extending the border South.  Italy finally conquered Abyssinia 1935-6, but only held it to 1941 when the British captured it and the emperor was restored, effectively the first decolonisation by a European colonial power since the 18th century. 

In 1939 Italy made Albania into a colony.  It was repulsed from Greece in 1940 but occupied much of the country following the German invasion of 1941.  In addition Italy received the Dalmatian coast and regions bordering Albania from the break-up of Yugoslavia by the Germans that year. Italy had Savoy and Nice returned when France surrendered in the summer of 1940 and following the German occupation of Vichy France in 1942 Italy took over Corsica which had been Italian up until 1764 when France had bought it from the Republic of Genoa.  The Italian invasion of Egypt of 1940 was a failure and despite the intervention of the German Afrika Korps, by 1943 the Italians had been expelled from North Africa.  Italy lost all its imperial territories at the end of the war.  Like almost all colonial territories held by the Powers, the Italian empire was more of a burden than a benefit to the ruling country.  Around only 180,000 settlers left Italy to live in its empire, this compares to 655,000 who emigrated to the USA 1890-1900 and 2.1 million who went there 1900-10, though 40% of these people later returned to Italy; 4.192 million moved to the USA 1820-1920; of the current population of Argentina, over 200,000 have ancestry in Italy.

Would any of the four Italian states have engaged in the imperial adventures?  Whilst the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies may have seen a need to reduce over-population, it lacked the resources even to fight in Eritrea let alone the Ottoman Empire, and given the relatively free emigration to the Americas there would seem little point.  It is more likely that Piedmont-Sardinia, frustrated at the failure of the unification process would look overseas and probably to the same locations as Italy did in our world.  Given how difficult it proved for the Italians to defeat even African opponents (despite the use of aerial bombardment in Libya in 1911 and dropping poison gas on Abyssinia in the 1930s, just like the British were doing in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) at that time), it is unlikely that the smaller Piedmont-Sardinia, nor UPCI, would have been any more successful and instead it may have been limited to economic penetration of Greece and Albania.  The Papacy naturally backed Catholic missionaries across the world and it seems likely that their 'imperial' policy would have remained with this approach.

Let us assume that with the failure of Cavour's project and Garibaldi being a little less lucky than he was, and in fact, because of the continued Austrian presence in northern Italy, never invaded Sicily, that we arrive at 1914 with five states in Italy: Austrian-held lands in the North-East, Piedmont-Sicily in the North-West, United Provinces of Central Italy, the Papal States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  By now Lombardy and Venetia might not even be considered Italian by anyone bar Italian nationalists and German would be the dominant language.  In our world, Italy was in the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary from 1882 onwards.  Italy had been angered by the French conquest of Tunisia in 1881 which it had hoped would be its colony, lying such a short distance from Sicily.  When war broke out in 1914, however, Italy reneged on the alliance and the following year entered the war on the side of Britain, France and Russia in the hope of gaining Trentino, Istria and the Dalmatian coast from Austria-Hungary.  The war between Italy and Austria-Hungary was pretty inconclusive but with the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918 Italy was given southern Trentino but lost out on Istria and the Dalmatian coast.  Bitterness over this was one of the factors that aided the rise of to power of Fascism in Italy from 1921 onwards.

It seems unlikely that any of the five small Italian states would have entered an alliance with either side before the First World War. Given how much difficulty the different nationalities in Austria-Hungary (what Austria had become from 1867) caused for the multi-national empire, the Italians may have been among those causing tension and perhaps, given the history of the Italian nationalist terrorists, it may have been an Italian assassinating a member of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, rather than a Serb, who triggered the First World War, perhaps earlier than it occurred in our world.

Assuming the war broke out as it did in our world, perhaps the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies would have favoured the British, but remember right up to August 1914 it was uncertain whether the British would even enter the war.  However, once it they may have used the kingdom as base for actions against Austria-Hungary, though ultimately they used Greece.  Given the British focus on knocking out Germany's weaker allies, in our world, primarily the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary may have been attacked in Lombardy and Venetia.  Of course, it would have been very tempting to Austria-Hungary to knock out Piedmont-Sardinia for good or expand into the UPCI, but whilst it defeated Serbia quickly, the difficulty it faced fighting Russia would have predicated against opening an additional front unnecessarily.  It does seem possible that once underway Piedmont-Sardinia may have allied with France with the hope of knocking Austria-Hungary out of Lombardy and Venetia at least.  It is likely the war would have been as undecisive as in our world, but that Piedmont-Sardinia would have been given the provinces in 1919 or could have seized them on Austria-Hungary's collapse anyway.

Interestingly we may have seen Italian unification beginning in the 1920s. It was the era of  'self-determination' with the revival of Poland and the appearance of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia on the basis of nationality grounds, or at least similar nationality groupings.  Romania grew immensely taking on Transylvania, more than doubling the pre-war country. Even the losers, Austria and Hungary were left with states which equated more to a nation state than before.  Of course, nationality lines (I do not use the word 'ethnic' because I would argue that despite the harsh 'ethnic conflict' we saw in the 1990s when Yugoslavia dissolved, the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes have the same ethnicity, it is a variation in culture that really distinguished them, e.g. Catholic/Orthodox/Muslim and using the Latin or the Cyrillic character sets), are never tidy and a great deal of the difficulties in the 1920s-40 and in the 1990s stemmed from the messiness that comes with human settlement.  Certainly I would easily envisage a northern Italian confederation coming in the 1920s if this had not happened before.  The stumbling block would be the Papal States and I think both Pope Benedict XV (1914-22) and certainly Pius XI (1922-39) renowned for his anti-Communism, would have been resistant to any attempt to take over their lands.

Piedmont-Sardinia may have been far more content with what it received at the end of the First World War than Italy was.  It would have faced the challenge of encompassing more German speakers into its territories, but the growth in size of the state may have headed off some of the tensions that led to the rise of Fascism.  The Italian states would have faced the same challenges from Communism 1918-20 that other states of central and eastern Europe did and it is likely that as in all of these, this would have been defeated.  Perhaps the Papal States troops would have interveneded to ensure revolutionaries were not successful.  Given the experience of all of the states East of Italy in our world, it seems most likely that by the end of the 1920s both Greater Piedmont-Sardinia, its confederation partners of UPCI and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies would all be under a dictatorship.  The most likely model seems to be a monarcho-fascist one (though of course without Fascism being established in Italy we would call it something else) which Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and in effect Hungary, all adopted during the 1920s-30s.  Austria went down the path of clerico-fascism which is another model that parts of Italy may have adopted.  Of course, it was de facto, what the Papal States would have had anyway and this may have given heart to clerico-fascist regimes appearing in Austria, Spain and Portugal.

It seems likely that both Piedmont-Sardinia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies would have ended up in some semi-friendly relationship with Nazi Germany the way Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania did and have supplied troops to fight on the Eastern Front.  Perhaps Slovakia is the best example, because, it seems likely given how many German speakers there would be in Lombardy and Venetia after an additional 80 years of Austrian rule, Hitler would have wanted to absorb these regions into Germany as he did with Austria and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.  He went on to make Bohemia-Moravia a protectorate, which may have been the fate of Piedmont-Sardinia with the UPCI states becoming the equivalent of Slovakia.  However, the relationship between the Italian states would certainly not have been as close as that between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in our world.  Piedmont-Sardinia, assuming it remained an ally rather than a protectorate may have been allowed to take parts of southern France, possibly Corsica, certainly after 1942.  The key difference to our world is that none of the Italian states would have really been in a position to attack Greece or Egypt.  It is likely the Germans would still have gone into Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941 to impose rule in the former and keep the British out of the latter, but it is unlikely there would have been any intervention in North Africa.  Perhaps Rommel would have been sent to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies when in 1942/3 the British and Americans threatened to invade Sicily from Tunisia. 

Pope Pius XII (1939-58) was not like Pius XI who signed an accord with Hitler, but he seems to have found it difficult to find what he felt was the right balance in dealing with the Nazis, not wishing that regime to begin widespread persecution of Catholics let alone himself being arrested or deposed in favour of a more Nazi-friendly Pope.  It is interesting to wonder if his stance would have become more robust if the Germans had sought to occupy the Papal States when taking over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1942/3 and that resistance to the invasion would have pushed him into more active opposition to the Germans.  Given the resistance to the Italian unifiers it seems likely that foreign invaders would have received at least as strong opposition.  Would the Pope have fled, and if so, where?  Portugal?  The USA?  Interestingly, what would have been the attitude to Jewish refugees in the Papal States especially those of Italian origin?  In our world the Vatican City was not occupied, but would the Germans have treated a larger state differently?

In the post-war world, the Italian states would probably have been restored to their situation in 1939.  Given that the Italian monarchy was abolished in 1946 following a popular referendum, it seems likely that this would have happened in Piedmont-Sardinia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies too.  Perhaps, especially in the latter, there would have been a civil war between Royalists and Communists as happened in Greece 1944-8.  It seems likely that the Allies would have encouraged a confederation of the Italian states or even a federal state (they were popular in the 1950s).  Again the difficulty would be the Papal States, especially if the rest of Italy had become a republic.  Possibly the region around Rome would remain distinct and be like a large version of the Vatican City of our world.  To some extent it would depend on how Pius XII had behaved during the war, but I doubt none of the Allies, bar the USSR would have dared tamper with the Papacy, especially if the Pope had made a good showing against the German occupation or pressure.  Generally, as I noted above, I think if the Papal States had survived into the 20th century we would still have them now.  The rest of Italy, as in our world, presumably with its capital at Florence, would be bolstered as an anti-Communist state in the Cold War and would be part of NATO.  Most certainly it would have become part of the ECSC, EEC and the EU that followed.  The Papal States, by now, would probably have a similar relationship to the EU as Switzerland does.

Overall, it does seem feasible that an incomplete unification of Italy would have occurred.  The impact would have meant quite a few differences especially to the course of the two world wars, and to some extent, even the language we use.  The key difference it seems, would have been to those people whose countries were invaded in the construction of the Italian Empire.  It seems likely that Libya and Italian Somaliland would have been divided between the French and British and Abyssinia probably left alone as one of only two independent states in Africa.  The Dodecanese Islands would have gone to Greece, most likely in 1913 when Crete left Ottoman control or, if not, in 1920/23 as a result of the peace treaties.  In Europe, the major difference appears to be the persistence of the Papal States and the implications of a religious leader also running a state with its own economy and military and particular take on diplomacy.  However, it seems most likely that it would be rather like Switzerland in its aloofness from much of the political-economic developments of post-1945 Europe.

Rooksmoor, Editor of Tablets of Lead. You can comment on this story here.


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