Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) - pronounced djoo-ZEP-pe mat-TSEE-ni, IPA: /dʒu ˈzɛpp e mat ˈtsiː ni/ - was an Italian nationalist and a leading figure in the Risorgimento, the nineteenth century movement for the political unification of Italy.
Mazzini was born in Genoa, where his father taught anatomy in the University. He studied law, and after graduating in 1827 from the University of Genoa practised briefly as a 'poor man's lawyer' while at the same time working as a journalist, first on L'indicatore genovese (The Genoa Gazette), which was soon closed by the authorities, and then on L'indicatore livornese (The Leghorn Gazette), which was also quickly closed down.
In 1831 Mazzini became a member of the Carbonari, a secret society whose aim was to establish constitutional rule in the Italian states. He was arrested and imprisoned and on his release went into exile in Switzerland. Later in the year, having moved to Marseilles, he founded Giovine Italia (Young Italy), a political society for the promotion of Italian unification, which it believed should be brought about by popular insurrection. The society flourished and within a few years had about 60,000 members, of whom the most significant was Garibaldi, converted to the cause of Italian nationalism by Mazzini in 1833. In the 1830s Mazzini was involved in several plots to foster popular revolts in cities in Sicily, the Abruzzi, Tuscany and Lombardy, but none was successful. Unwelcome in both Switzerland and France, he moved in 1837 to London, where he spent much of the rest of his life and where he continued his work for Italian unification.
In 1848, when a wave of revolutions spread across Europe and there were insurrections in a number of Italian cities, Mazzini returned to Italy and in 1849 was elected one of the three rulers (triumvirs) of the short-lived Roman Republic. Later in the year, when the Republic collapsed under the threat of military action by the French, he left Italy and after short spells in France and Switzerland resumed residence in London, where he continued to plot popular revolts in various Italian cities - but with no more success than before.
In 1860, when Garibaldi and his army of volunteers (I mille, 'The Thousand') conquered Sicily and, crossing to the mainland, marched north to Naples, Mazzini again returned to Italy, but played no part in the events which led to the unification of the country under the Piedmontese king Victor Emmanuel II. In 1862 he joined Garibaldi in the latter's unsuccessful attempt to annex Rome to the new kingdom of Italy, but the greater part of the 1860s was spent in London.
Mazzini was unhappy at the course which Italian unification had taken, and in 1867, when he was elected to the Italian Chamber of Deputies for the Sicilian city of Messina, he refused to take his seat because he felt unable to swear an oath of loyalty to the king. Despite this he came to be regarded as the 'father' of the new nation of Italy, and his death in Pisa in 1872 was an occasion of national mourning.
As well as Giovine Italia Mazzini founded several other societies with political aims, including Giovine Europa (Young Europe) for the promotion of European unification. He was also throughout his life an indefatigable journalist and author. His Doveri dell'uomo (The Duties of Man), published in 1860, is a comprehensive statement of his thought on moral and political subjects.
How far Mazzini's activities helped to bring about the unification of Italy may be disputed, but nowadays it is widely agreed that, apart from the conversion of Garibaldi to the nationalist cause, they had little influence on the events which led to unification. What is beyond dispute is that the Italian state which came into existence in 1861, i.e., a monarchy under the Piedmontese king Victor Emmanuel II, was not the democratic republic whose realisation had been the object of his life's work. The course of Italian history in the decade after 1861 only confirmed his sense of disillusion, and in 1871 he wrote 'The Italy we represent today is a living lie'.