Bologna in the long 800

Cavazza Alessandro
Italia, 2019


The dawn of the nineteenth century sees the city of Bologna, like the rest of Europe, grappling with the great social, political and economic transformations that the overwhelming Napoleonic enterprise brings with it, destined to profoundly renew the cultural climate by sweeping away the ancient institutional structures and inserting the city within a modern and centralized state. Not even the Papal Restoration, with its heavy burden of limitations, can stifle the vivid hopes of renewal that the reforming ideas of France have aroused in the minds of the Bolognese people, eager to get out of the economic and political immobility to which government restrictions, obsolete in a country in the process of modernization, force them. Movements such as the Carbonari and other minor political organizations, aspiring to the unification and independence of Italy or at least oriented towards a policy of progressive secularization, collect the underground discontent at the base of the uprisings of 1831; the Provisional Government of the United Provinces, established in Bologna in the same year and flanked by the resurrected National Guard, is in fact the first form of secular state created freely in Italy.

In the Thirties Bologna is decisively defeated by the confrontation with the industrial realities of Northern Italy: failed revolutionary instances, caught between the serious economic stasis and the harsh Austrian military occupation, the city also records a general impoverishment of cultural life following the decline of the prestige of the University, rigidly subjected to assiduous ecclesiastical surveillance. Nor do conditions appear to have improved after the incandescent years of 1848-1849 and the battle of 8 August, when the repressive stranglehold of the papal government is added to the return of the Austrian troops, both definitively forced to retreat only on 12 June 1859.

In the aftermath of the annexation to the Kingdom of Savoy, sanctioned by the plebiscite of March 1860, Bologna witnessed the gradual stabilization of the conservative political structure, promoted by the liberal-moderate class headed by Marco Minghetti, and suffered economic exclusion from the flourishing market of the North supported by decades of restrictive measures. The economic framework of the post-unification period underwent a decisive change thanks to the visibility offered by the Emilian Exhibition of 1888 – an event contemporary to the celebration of the VIII Centenary of the University – which testifies to the significant technical-productive progress made by local industries in the food and mechanical branch. Over the years, meanwhile, the city has equipped itself with the infrastructures that are spreading throughout the country and a master plan (1889) adapted to the new needs. In close relation to the process of industrialization just started are the first class conflicts and the spread of new movements and political parties: the political primacy conquered throughout the region by the Italian Socialist Party, established in 1895, will bring to Palazzo d'Accursio Francesco Zanardi, who will fulfill the function of mayor of the city in the difficult years of the Great War.