Kingdom of Italy

Lombardo-Venetia 1797-1815

The Vienna Congress (1814-1815) created the Kingdom of Lombardo-Venetia, consisting of the pre-revolutionary Duchies of Milan and Mantua and the Terra Ferma with the city of Venice herself. Lombardo-Venetia was united with the Empire of Austria in Dynastic Union. Milan and Venice became capitals. Austria was the dominant military power on the Italian peninsula, Milan the base of military operations such as the Expedition against Sicily in 1820, the Intervention in Savoy-Piemont in 1821, the Occupation of Bologna 1832-1839.
The Austrian hold of Lombardo-Venetia was the major obstacle to the realization of the dream of Italian Unification propagated in the Risorgimento. In 1848, the Austrian monarchy was temporarily paralized, and her control over Milan and Lombardo-Venetia questioned; in 1849, Austria not only restored her control over Lombardo-Venetia, but also restored the pope to the Papal State, as well various expelled dynasts to their thrones. Yet the liberal constitution of Savoy-Piemont-Sardinia remained in force, and Savoy-Piemont-Sardinia, in alliance with France, in the War of Italian Unification 1859, defeated Austria, which ceded Lombardy, but not Venetia, to France, which in return for Savoy and Nice, ceded Milan to Piemont-Sardinia.

In contrast to the traditional kingdoms the Austrian Emperor ruled, the newly created Kingdom of Lombardo-Venetia had no previous constitution to be respected (the one of the Kingdom of Italy disregarded), no representative body to be consulted (three estates), and the Austrians failed to establish a Lombardo-Venetian diet. Absolutism was resurrected.
Austrian rule brought political stability and peace; the Horses of San Marco were restored to Venice. Within a few years, the Austrian administration reduced taxes, was more humane in the procedure of drafting soldiers (in comparison to the Nepoleonic administration), reduced the budget deficit, increased spending on public projects such as road construction, the hospitals, schools etc. Austrian Law, book censorship and a secret police were introduced, Freemasonry banned, the Carbonari persecuted. However, Italian patriotism and liberalism was not suppressed; Milan became the center of the activities of Giuseppe Mazzini's Giovine Italia (Young Italy). Attempts of the Austrian administration to create a nobility and bureaucracy loyal to the dynasty failed to win the loyalty of the population.
In 1817, Lombardo-Venetia had a population of c. 4 million; by 1847 it had risen to 5 million. Milan was the second largest city of the Austrian dominions. The Kingdom had two universities, Padova and Pavia. Lombardo-Venetia had a separate currency, 100 centesimi = 20 scudi = 1 Lira, in coins (banknotes were very unpopular, as Austria had undergone state bankrupcy in 1811 and the banknotes lacked backing). Investments were made to increase the size of the network of northern Italy's navigable rivers; attempts were made to introduce steam shipping. Railway construction began in 1840. However, the Austrian administration rejected the concept of connecting Milan by rail with (Piemontese) Genova; political reservations prevailed over economic arguments. In 1830 all of Venice was declared a free port. The industries of Lombardo-Venetia, most notably textile, metal and leather industries, in Venice shipbuilding, flourished, promoted by the administration. In 1817 the import of machinery, of steam ships and of fuel for steam engines was freed of import tariffs (Italy has hardly any coal deposits). A machinery industry emerged in the country; demands for a change in the curriculum of secondary schools, increasing hours in instruction in the natural sciences and technology at the expense of classic languages remained unanswered. Private schools were to educate a much needed skilled workforce. Despite press censorship, over half of the books published in Italy in 1835 were published in Lombardy-Venetia; Milan was a cultural center with an impact far beyond Lombardy-Venetia.
In 1838, Emperor Ferdinand I. of Austria (since 1835) was crowned in Milan.
In 1848, revolutions took place in most cities of northern Italy, Germany and Austria. Austrian General Radetzky maontained in control over Lombardo-Venetia, despite revolution in Milan and war declared on Austria by Savoy-Piemont-Sardinia. In 1849 the war was decided in favour of Austria.
Another decade of neoabsolutist Austrian administration followed. After 1848, drastic measures were undertaken against Italian patriots. A number of supporters of Giuseppe Mazzini were executed. An insurrection Mazzini had planned in Milan for 1853 failed. Austrian rule over Milan was terminated in the war of 1859.

The second centennial of the end of the Republic of Venice, from Venezia Net
DOCUMENTS Rulers of Lombardy-Venetia, from World Statesmen
REFERENCE Franz Pesendorfer, Eiserne Krone und Doppeladler. Lombardo-Venetien 1814-1866 (Iron Crown and Double Eagle. Lombardo-Venetia 1814-1866), Wien : Deuticke, n.d. (after 1989); in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on April 24th 2004, last revised on November 10th 2004

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