‘British Foreign Policy and the Italian Occupation of Rome, 1870’

Owain Wright

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    5 Citations (Scopus)


    This article explores the action taken by the British government when the Italian army occupied Rome in 1870, bringing the Risorgimento and the unification of Italy to a conclusion. It enhances understanding of British policy towards the newly-unified Italian state by examining the Gladstone government’s decision to maintain a British warship at the port of Civitavecchia throughout the Roman crisis. Previously, this action has been explained as resulting from the British government’s need to strike a balance between the pro-Italian sentiments of the United Kingdom’s Protestant population on the one hand and the concerns of its Roman Catholic minority over the safety and dignity of the Pope on the other. While acknowledging the full significance of these concerns, this investigation calls attention to additional factors which help further to explain British policy. First, it contends that the reality of a united Italy had become a source of potential embarrassment to the British prime minister, William Gladstone. Secondly, it places the British preparedness to intervene in Italian affairs within the wider context of Great Britain’s foreign relations and strategic concerns. In particular, it argues that successive British governments were concerned that the newly-unified Italy might disintegrate or be dismantled by hostile foreign powers, while concurring with the theory that the mid-Victorian generation aspired to include the new Italy within a wider ‘anglicised globalisation’ of Southern Europe.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)161-176
    JournalInternational History Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2012


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