Giuseppe Mazzini

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Mazzini, Giuseppe

(jo͞ozĕp`pā mät-sē`nē), 1805–72, Italian patriot and revolutionist, an outstanding figure of the RisorgimentoRisorgimento
[Ital.,=resurgence], in 19th-century Italian history, period of cultural nationalism and of political activism, leading to unification of Italy. Roots of the Risorgimento
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. His youth was spent in literary and philosophical studies. He early joined the CarbonariCarbonari
[Ital.,=charcoal burners], members of a secret society that flourished in Italy, Spain, and France early in the 19th cent. Possibly derived from Freemasonry, the society originated in the kingdom of Naples in the reign of Murat (1808–15) and drew its members from
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, was imprisoned briefly, and went into exile. In Marseilles he founded the secret society Giovine Italia [young Italy], which led a vigorous campaign for Italian unity under a republican government. Mazzini went to Switzerland, then to London (1837), working untiringly at revolutionary propaganda. His influence on Italian radicals, as well as on revolutionaries throughout Europe, was tremendous. During the revolutions of 1848revolutions of 1848,
in European history. The February Revolution in France gave impetus to a series of revolutionary explosions in Western and Central Europe. However the new French Republic did not support these movements.
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, when uprisings occurred in Milan, the Papal States, and the Two Sicilies, Mazzini returned to Italy; in 1849 he was one of the leaders of the Roman republic. After its fall he resumed his propaganda from abroad. He organized unsuccessful uprisings in Milan (1853) and an ill-fated expedition in S Italy (1857). He often came secretly to Italy, although he had been condemned to death in absentia. Back in London in 1858 he founded the newspaper Pensiero ed azione [thought and action]. He supported Giuseppe Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily, but unlike GaribaldiGaribaldi, Giuseppe
, 1807–82, Italian patriot and soldier, a leading figure in the Risorgimento. He remains perhaps the most popular of all Italian heroes of the Risorgimento, and a great revolutionary hero in the Western world.
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, he remained a confirmed republican. His relations with Camillo Benso di CavourCavour, Camillo Benso, conte di
, 1810–61, Italian statesman, premier (1852–59, 1860–61) of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The active force behind King Victor Emmanuel II, he was responsible more than any other man for the unification of Italy under the house of
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, the Sardinian premier, were strained; although both strove for Italian unification, their ideas were opposite, Cavour relying for help on a foreign power (France), Mazzini believing in revolution and war based on direct popular action. He was briefly imprisoned (1870) in Italy for revolutionary activities. Mazzini's work was inspired by his great moral strength. His program was not only political, but deeply social, aiming at human redemption on a religious and moral basis, at liberty, and at justice. His literary style is remarkably fine. He wrote on politics, social science, philosophy, and literature. A selection of his works has appeared in English (6 vol., 1890–91).


See biographies by G. O. Griffith (1932, repr. 1970), S. Barr (1935), E. Holt (1967), and D. M. Smith (1994); study by G. Salvemini (tr. 1957).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mazzini, Giuseppe


Born June 22, 1805, in Genoa; died Mar. 10, 1872, in Pisa. Italian revolutionary; bourgeois democrat; a leader of the Italian national liberation movement and head and ideologist of its left-wing republican-democratic tendency. Son of a physician who had been active in the Ligurian Republic.

Mazzini studied jurisprudence at the University of Genoa. In 1827 he joined the society known as the Carbonari. From this time his whole life was devoted to the struggle for the national liberation and unification of Italy. In 1830 he was arrested and, after spending 2 l /2 months in prison, was exiled. The failure of the Carbonari movement prompted him in 1831 to found in Marseille the secret patriotic organization Young Italy. Its political program envisaged Italy’s liberation from the oppression of the Austrian Empire, the end of the absolutist regimes and secular power of the popes, and the creation of a united, sovereign Italian state in the form of a bourgeois-democratic republic based on universal suffrage and political freedom. For him the way to achieve these aims was an all-Italian revolution and partisan war of the “lower strata” led by bourgeois revolutionaries.

Mazzini looked to the people as the main force in the national liberation struggle; however, he avoided the question of allotment of land to the peasants, afraid of alienating the liberal nobility and landholding bourgeoisie from the nationalist movement. His idea that the most numerous and poorest classes should be drawn into the revolution by promising to improve their material condition was gradually superseded by his idealistic ethical-religious conception, which viewed participation in the liberation movement as the religious duty and sacred mission of the Italian people, entrusted to them by god (hence his slogan “God and the people”).

Thanks to the intensive propaganda waged by Young Italy, Mazzini’s ideas gained wide circulation, chiefly in the northern and central regions of the country, where a network of secret Mazzini organizations was created. However, the conspiracies and uprisings that Mazzini and his followers incited in the 1830’s and 1840’s ended in failure as a result of alienation from the masses and the haphazard choice of the moment to act.

Desiring to widen the mass base of his organization, Mazzini sought to draw the workers into the struggle for the unification of the country. In 1840-41 he founded in London (as part of Young Italy) the Union of Italian Workingmen, with branches in a number of European countries. With the aim of rallying the democratic and republican forces of Europe and spreading the idea of the solidarity of the European peoples in the struggle against tyranny, in 1834 he founded in Switzerland the revolutionary organization Young Europe, and in 1847, the Peoples’ International League.

With the onset of the Revolution of 1848-49, Mazzini went to Milan, where he founded the newspaper L’ltalia del Popolo (Italy of the People), which called for support for the struggle to unify the country and for the convocation of a general Italian constitutional assembly. After the fall of revolutionary Milan, Mazzini, as a rank-and-file soldier, joined Garibaldi’s detachment, which was retreating to Switzerland. In February 1849, in connection with the new revolutionary upsurge, he went to central Italy. From March to July he headed the triumvirate (government) of the Roman Republic of 1849, having become an inspiration for its heroic struggle against counterrevolutionary intervention. The fall of revolutionary Rome forced him to emigrate.

The defeat of the Revolution of 1848-49 prompted a number of left-wing democrats to criticize the shortcomings of Mazzini’s program and methods. The number of his followers decreased, especially after the failure of the Milan Uprising of 1853, which he helped organize. Striving to overcome the increased disorder among the democrats, in 1853 he founded the republican Party of Action. During the war in 1859 against Austria and the new revolutionary upsurge of 1859-60, as an opponent to the plans of Piedmontese monarchists to create the Northern Italian Kingdom, he appealed for a broadening of the popular movement in order to liberate and unify all Italy. In the spring of 1860 he helped organize Garibaldi’s liberation expedition to the south; after Garibaldi’s army entered Naples, Mazzini, who arrived there in September 1860, advised Garibaldi to use the revolutionary troops for the liberation of Rome and seek for the convocation of a general Italian constitutional assembly to decide the question of the political structure of a reunited Italy. But the plan for completing the unification of the country by revolutionary-democratic means was not realized. Mazzini once again emigrated.

In the 1860’s, fighting for the reunification of Rome and Venice with the Italian state that was formed in 1861, he and his adherents earnestly tried to employ workers to fulfill this mission and tried to assume leadership of workers’ societies to familiarize them with the political struggle. However, the plan that he developed for the social reconstruction of society was Utopian in nature. Sincerely indignant at the difficult situation of the masses and predicting the inevitability of the “liberation of the workers,” he hoped to end social inequality and the system of hired labor by creating consumers’ and industrial associations that would bring about the union of capital and labor in the hands of the producers. He emphasized that the transition to a just order ought to be accomplished by peaceful means, “without sudden and violent disturbances to property previously acquired.” Mazzini decisively rejected the inevitability of the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie; this was one of the reasons for his negative attitude toward the Paris Commune and the First International.

As an indefatigable fighter for the unity and independence of Italy and as an ardent upholder of democratic and republican principles, Mazzini occupies an honored place in the history of Italy.


Scritti editi ed inediti, vols. 1-101. Imola, 1906-61.
In Russian translation:
Izbrannye mysli. Moscow, 1905.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.