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German volunteers in the armed conflicts of the Italian Risorgimento 1834-70

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Between 1834 and 1870, Germans participated in the armed conflicts of the Italian Risorgimento in the ranks of both Mazzini and Garibaldi and of the Pope and Francis II of Naples. While acknowledging the difficulty in analysing the motives of historical actors, the essay compares the reasons that led these Germans to volunteer and fight. For those who fought for the cause of Italian unity, the networks created in exile in the 1830s remained decisive down to 1870, whereas the mobilization of volunteers in Germany for the Papal states reached its height only later between 1867 and 1870. Despite these chronological differences, the methods used in terms of the media and forms of organization to mobilize the volunteers and to legitimize war were very similar across the political spectrum. The foreign volunteers were described by their own side as brothers, but as mere mercenaries by the respective enemy side. At the same time, Germans and Italians brought their national stereotypes to the various armed groups and armies in which they served and in ways that made the latter important places for the staging of national 're-virilization' achieved through heroic fighting.
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Keywords: Francis II; Garibaldi; Germany; Italy; Mobilization for war; Pius IX; Risorgimento; internationalism; mercenaries; nationalism; volunteers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: European University Institute, Florence

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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