Category Archives: Italian History

Some Innocent Popes

Innocent IV / ztopics.com

Innocent IV / ztopics.com

From the twelfth century to the eighteenth century several Popes called Innocent stand out: they are:-

Innocent III (Lotario dei Conti di Signi). He was Pope from 1198 to 1216, and as he was born in 1160 this shows he became papal at the early age of thirty-eight. Historians agree that his pontificate was a high point of the temporal and spiritual supremacy of the Roman see (the Vatican). He was certainly powerful, being able to judge between rival emperors in Germany; at one point he actually deposed one – Otto IV.

   This Innocent excommunicated the awful King John of England, who had refused to recognise the Pope’s appointment of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. He also set up the Fourth Lateran Council in the year 1215. Continue reading

The Committee for the Liberation of Upper Italy

'Let's find some fascists!' / histomil.com

‘Let’s find some fascists!’ / histomil.com

(Comitato di Liberazione nazionale Alta Italia) Rather a mouthful both in English and Italian, this was a committee established in January, 1944 in an attempt to coordinate anti-Nazi as well as anti-Italian Fascist partisans. Actually they had already been grouped within purely local Committees of National Liberation, but the CLNAI wanted more: they wished to combat not only the Germans and fascists but also the Allies and the anti-fascist government in Rome. Continue reading

The Czechoslovakian Crisis

The historic meeting at Bad Godesberg / collections.yadvashem.org

The historic meeting at Bad Godesberg / collections.yadvashem.org

Many years before The Czech Republic and Slovakia freed themselves from the yoke of being simply Czechoslovakia, this crisis evolved from territorial demands made by Adolf Hitler. One of the results of the Treaty of Versailles of unhappy memory was that over three million Germans were living in the Sudetenland, bordering with Germany and Austria. When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, he stated that he wanted the inclusion of these three million in Germany. Continue reading

Revolutions of 1830

 France, Belgium, Poland & Central Italy: The July Revolution in France expelled Charles X and replaced him as King with Louis-Philippe. The Austrian Netherlands belonging to Belgium were united with Holland at the Congress of Vienna (1815), to form the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. But Roman Catholic Belgians (mostly French-speaking) resented the dominance of the Protestant Dutch (Flemish-speaking) in this new state.

After the expulsion of Charles in the July Revolution, there were riots in Brussels, exacerbated by the sending in of Dutch troops in an attempt to restore order. By September most of Belgium was in a state of revolt and Dutch King William asked the Great Powers for help. As Prussia, Russia and Austria were by their nature opposed to revolution and also fans of the monarchy, they were cautious to the extent of being un-cooperative, because if they sent soldiers to help the Dutch, French pressures would be inclined to compel Louis-Philippe to send aid to the Belgians. Continue reading

The Blackshirts

Giacomo Matteotti - a victim of the Blackshirts / hc-blackmilk.xf.cz

Giacomo Matteotti – a victim of the Blackshirts / hc-blackmilk.xf.cz

This was an early 20th century nickname or expression facilely describing the ‘Action Squads’ or Squadre d’Azione. These were ‘fascist’ paramilitary groups formed in Italy before 1920. They played a real part in the rise of Benito Mussolini (q.v.), recruited from war veterans, rebellious students (most 20th century students were naturally rebellious; in the 21st century they  formed themselves into ‘trade unions’ – a bit of a misnomer since students either do not want to study, or will work but without sufficient attention to detail; the unions are supposed to be supportive of the wage-earning man or woman).

Recruits were also easily found among working class youth, though ‘working class’ is itself a misnomer, but one is not permitted to use the expression ‘lower-class’ as it might offend sensibilities. ‘Under-class’ is perhaps the best term best invented by the politically correct. Continue reading

What was the ‘Risorgimento’?

The word means ‘resurgence’ but that will not mean much to students. It was a nineteenth century movement designed to unite Italy, which had not been united since the Roman Empire;  even then solidarity had not been achieved.

The origins of the idea came from ‘enlightenment ideas’ stirring in the eighteenth century, especially in the final years, with Bonaparte as the inspiration. The movement got itself together after the Congress of Vienna 1814/15. It is strange to relate that it commenced with insurrections – not one would have thought the best way to unite a country –  but small rebellions in the 1820s and actual revolutions of 1848 paved the way, helped by violent anti-Austrian feelings and the fiery and compelling speeches of Mazzini, and the more moderate Gioberti. Continue reading

Switzerland and the Swiss Guards

Originally named Helvetia, this is a landlocked democratic European republic, with boundaries to the east with Liechtenstein and Austria, to the south with Italy; the west by France and finally to the north with Germany. The official name now is the Swiss Federation.

In the tenth century Switzerland was a small part of the Holy Roman Empire (q.v.) but the Swiss Confederation was established in 1291, when the ‘cantons’ or regions of Uri, Schyz and Unterwalden formed a mutual league for defence. There was a brief period of Austrian domination, producing among other things the ‘William Tell Incident’ in which a Swiss archer of note was supposed to have shot an arrow through an apple balanced (how?) on his son’s head and followed this remarkable feat by putting a second arrow through an Austrian official’s heart. The stuff of dreams, perhaps, but the Swiss believe it. Continue reading

Esquilache: attempts at reform in 18th century Spain

Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marqués de Esquilache was born around the beginning of the 18th century, perhaps 1700? He became that most difficult of objects – a Spanish politician – and  was made Minister for War and Finance when Charles III (Carlos Tercero) was on the throne.

At that time Naples was a part of Spain and Leopoldo was sent there to be Minister of Finance by 1759. He returned to Spain where he bravely tried to introduce reforms, especially in the Spanish fiscal system, a permanent bugbear. It is still a bugbear today. Continue reading