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The history and culture of Italy

The history of Italy can be characterized as two periods of unity separated by a millennia and a half of division. In the sixth to third centuries BCE the Italian city of Rome conquered Peninsular Italy; over the next few centuries this empire spread to dominate the Mediterranean and Western Europe. This Roman Empire would go on to define much of Europe’s history, leaving a mark in culture, politics and society that outlasted the military and political.

After the Italian part of the Roman Empire declined and “fell” in the fifth century (an event no one at the time realized was so significant), Italy was the target of several invasions, and the previously united region broke apart into several smaller bodies, including the Papal States, governed by the Catholic Pope. A number of powerful and trading orientated city states emerged, including Florence, Venice and Genoa; these incubated the Renaissance. Italy, and its smaller states, also went through stages of foreign domination. These smaller states were the incubating grounds of the Renaissance, which changed Europe massively once more, and owed a lot to the competing states trying to outspend each other on glory.

Unification and independence movements for Italy developed ever stronger voices in the nineteenth century after Napoleon created a short lived Kingdom of Italy. A war between Austria and France in 1859 allowed several small states to merge with Piedmont; a tipping point had been reached and a Kingdom of Italy was formed in 1861, growing by 1870 – when the Papal States joined – to cover almost all of what we now call Italy.

The kingdom was subverted when Mussolini took power as a fascist dictator, and although he was initially skeptical of Hitler, Mussolini took Italy into World War 2 rather than risk losing out. It caused his downfall. Modern Italy is now a democratic republic, and has been since the modern constitution came into effect in 1948.This followed a referendum in 1946 which voted to abolish the previous monarchy by twelve million votes to ten.

Describe the culture of the nation during the early 1800’s: (At least one paragraph.)Italian society after unification and throughout most of the Liberal Period was sharply divided along class, linguistic, regional and social lines. The North-South divide is still present to this day. On 20 September 1870, the military forces of the King of Italy overthrew what little was left of the Papal States, capturing in particular the city of Rome. The following year, the capital was moved from Florence to Rome. For the next 59 years after 1870, the Church denied the legitimacy of the Italian King’s dominion in Rome, which it claimed rightfully belonged to the Papal States. In 1929, the dispute was settled by the Lateran Treaty, in which the King recognized Vatican City as an independent state and paid a large sum of money to compensate the Church for the loss of the Papal States.

Liberal governments generally followed a policy of limiting the role of the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy as the state confiscated church lands. Similar policies were supported by such anticlerical and secular movements as republicanism, socialism, anarchism, Freemasonry, Lazzarettism and Protestantism. Common cultural traits in Italy in this time were social conservative in nature, including a strong belief in the family as an institution and patriarchal values. In other areas, Italian culture was divided: aristocrats and upper middle class families in Italy at this time were highly traditional in nature and they emphasized honor above all, with challenges to honor ending in duels. After unification, a number of descendents of former royal nobility became residents of Italy, comprising 7,400 noble families. Many wealthy landowners maintained a feudal-like tight control over “their” peasants. Italian society in this period remained highly divided along regional and local sub-societies which often had historical rivalries with each other.

What styles of architecture and historical buildings did the nation have in the early 1800’s? (At least one paragraph.)Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style, which cannot be simply classified by period or region, due to Italy’s division into several city-states until 1861. However, this has created a highly diverse and eclectic range in architectural designs. Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements

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