War of Italian Liberation, 1859

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

War of Italian Liberation, 1859


(in Russian, Austro-Italo-French War of 1859), war fought by Piedmont (one of the Italian kingdoms) and France against Austria, which was ruling the territory of Lombardy and Venetia and preventing the formation of a unified Italian state. For Italy the war of 1859 was a war of national liberation and marked the beginning of the struggle for the unification of the country “from above” under the supremacy of the Savoy dynasty that held sway in Piedmont—the struggle that ended in 1870. For France the war was dictated by Napoleon Ill’s aspiration to strengthen French influence in northern Italy, by the expectation of territorial seizure, and by dynastic interests. In July 1858, Piedmont and France signed the secret Plombières Agreement concerning the joint conduct of the war. In return for helping Piedmont drive the Austrians out of Lombardy and Venetia, Napoleon III obtained the agreement of C. B. Cavour, head of the Piedmont government, for the subsequent annexation of Nice and Savoy to France. On Mar. 3, 1859, the French government also signed a secret agreement in Paris with Russia, in which Russia promised France diplomatic support against Austria and France agreed to help Russia obtain the revision of some articles of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1856.

The War of Italian Liberation started on Apr. 29, 1859. The Austrian army (170,000 men), under the command of Lieutenant Field Marshal F. Gyulai, was concentrated between Milan and Piacenza. The allied troops (56,000 Pied-montese and 116,000 French) were under the overall command of Napoleon III and were deployed to the north of Alessandria, which the French troops were able to reach by the middle of May. The Austrian command showed irreso-Iuteness, idled about, and did not make use of its chances to defeat the Piedmontese troops before the arrival of the French. After a series of small skirmishes the Austrian forces suffered defeat on May 20 in the battle with the French near Montebello and on June 4 were routed by the allied troops near the town of Magenta. After this, Gyulai led his army beyond the Mincio River. He was removed from his post and the command was taken over by Emperor Francis Joseph. On June 24 the allies (120,000 men) defeated the Austrians (122,000 men) in the decisive battle near the village of Solferino. The war encouraged the national liberation movement in Italy and led to the May-June national uprisings in Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and the Papal States. However, Napoleon III, who did not wish to see Italy become a strong, unified country and who was troubled by the scale of the struggle for liberation in Italy and also by the threat on the part of Prussia, suddenly broke off his military operations. On July 11, Napoleon III and Austria concluded the separate Villafranca Truce of 1859, according to which Austria relinquished only Lom-bardy and retained its rule over Venetia. This agreement was reaffirmed by the Treaty of Zurich of 1859. By the Turin Agreement of 1860 with Piedmont, France received Savoy and Nice, formerly Piedmontese possessions.


Marx, K. “Mir ili voina?” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 13.
Engels, F. “Po i Rein.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “Srazhenie pri Madzhente.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “Srazhenie pri Sol’ferino.” Ibid. Lenin, V. I. “Pod chuzhim flagom,” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26.
Istoriia diplomatii, 2nd ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1959. Pages 694–98. Nevler (Vilin), V. K istorii vossoedineniia Italii. Moscow, 1936. Obzor kampanii 1859 v Italii. St. Petersburg, 1890. (Translated from French.)
Candeloro, G. Istoriia sovremennoi Italii, vol. 4. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from Italian.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.