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The History of Italy is not that long as a country as we know if today since it is only about 190 years old. The Italian heritage that this area has goes back 3000 years and has a wealth of history. Many countries once claimed this area their own over the last 1000 years. As most other countries Italy also has a history that affected the rest of the world one way or another. We hope that our genealogy friends will take the a few moments of time to learn what this country went through and maybe read about one of their own ancestors and learn more on their own heritage. The Tree Maker hopes you enjoy this short history of Italy and please let us know if you have any suggestions to help us improve this genealogy site.

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History of Italy and its Italian Heritage

Display your Italian coat of arms or your Italy heritage

History of Italy and Italian Heritage: Italy derives its name from the Italic tribes, which began to drive the original Neolithic stock from the peninsula as early as 1200 B.C. These tribes, which included the Veneti, Picenes, Sabines, Umbrians, and Latins, are considered to have been a branch of the Indo-European peoples that over a period of twenty centuries had made their way westward from Central Asia. After the tenth century B.C. the Etruscans, who in the sixth century B. C. made their country, Etruria, the core of the first Italian empire, inhabited the coastal plain between the Arno and the Tiber. The Etruscans however did not succeed in conquering the southern part of the peninsula or the island of Sicily, which had been controlled by Greek colonists since the eighth century B.C.

Around 500 B.C., when the first invasion of Celtic migrants from Transalpine Gaul was beginning, the Latins revolted against the Etruscans and laid the foundation of the mighty Roman state. A century later Rome, the chief city of Latium, began its program of vast expansion, conquering the neighboring tribal states and the Greek settlements in the south. The Roman Empire reached its peak early in the second century A.D. By the end of the fifth century it had declined to such an extent that the Goths, whose home had originally been north of the Danube River, were able to depose the emperor and set up a kingdom uniting the whole peninsula. Italy, however, was restored to the imperial fold under the Byzantine emperor, Justinian, and thereafter, until the Saracen invasions in the ninth century and the Norman invasions in the eleventh, much of southern and central Italy formed a dependency of the Eastern Roman Empire.

The Middle Ages and Renaissance in Italy: In 756 the Frankish king Pepin expelled the Germanic Lombards from Ravanna and five other towns, known as the Pentapolis, and presented the territory to the pope, thus laying the foundation for the Papal States. The alliance of the Papacy with the Frankish crown gave rise to a historic political development, launched on Christmas Day, 800, when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, son of Pepin, Emperor of the Romans. To many Italians the implied suzerainty of German emperors was unacceptable, and such members of the Lombard League as Milan, Mantua, Verona, Padua, and Bologna revolted against imperial authority. Their victory at the Battle of Legnano {1176} gained them virtual autonomy. The municipal republics, such as Florence and Siena, likewise knew a period of bitter strife between the Ghibellines, who upheld the authority of the German emperors in Italy, and the Guelphs, who demanded that Italy be freed from German control.

The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were marked by the beginnings of the Renaissance, the great cultural rebirth stimulated by the rediscovery of Europe's classical heritage. In Florence, Venice, and Rome particularly, wealthy patrons sponsored the creation of such masterworks as the architecture of Giotto and Brunelleschi, the sculpture of Donatello and Ghiberti, the music of Palestrina and Monteverdi, the poetry of Dante and Petrarch, and the paintings of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Throughout the Renaissance, Italy was continually beset by wars among the rival city-states, which gradually succumbed to such petty tyrants as the Visconti and Sforzas of Milan, the Medici of Florence, the Estes of Ferrara, the Gonzagas of Mantua, and the Malatestas of Rimini. Although the maritime states of Venice and Genoa retained their independence, their power began to wane early in the sixteenth century when, as a result of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks and voyages of discovery to the west, commercial interest shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Foreign aggression in Italy was encouraged by the success of Charles VIII of France, who held Naples briefly in 1495. Early in the sixteenth century France made further assaults, but Spain was more successful, both in the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. After the War of the Spanish Succession {1701 - 1714}, southern Italy was ruled in turn by the Hapsburgs of Austria and the Bourbons of Spain. The Treaty of Utrecht {1713} gave Milan to Austria.

Unification of Italy: Italian nationalism was greatly stimulated by Napoleon Bonaparte, who restored French domination over Italy. His Italian campaigns resulted in the establishment of five puppet republics, which were absorbed into the French Empire when he became Emperor in 1804. The next year he had himself crowned King of Italy with the iron crown of the Lombard rulers. Upon his downfall in 1815, the satus quo was restored, and Italy was again ruled in the interests of the Papacy and of such foreign powers as Austria.

By mid-century Italy had become imbued with the revolutionary spirit that prevailed throughout the Continent, and that resulted in the formation of Young Italy and other secret revolutionary societies. Several states were forced to grant constitutional rights, and the liberal concessions made by Charles Albert of Sardinia laid the foundation for ultimate union under the House of Savoy. The poet-philosopher Mazzini guided the final steps toward unification, the soldier Garibaldi, and statesman Cavour. With France, which it had aided in the Crimean War, Sardinia struck at Austria in 1859 and won the Lombard territory. Next the Duchies of Tuscany, Parma, and Modena drove out their Austrian rulers and requested annexation by the embryonic nation. Naples and Sicily were annexed after the famous Red-shirt expedition, led by Garibaldi, had conquered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1816.

The Kingdom of Italy came into existence in 1861, when Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed Sovereign at the first parliamentary session in Turin. Italy's area was further enlarged in 1866, when Prussia had Austria bestow Venetia on Italy as a reward for aid in the Seven Weeks' War. National unification was completed in 1870, when the Franco-Prussian War caused France to withdraw a French garrison that had been stationed in Rome since 1848. The government was then able to make the "eternal city" the national capital and, after the holding of a plebiscite, annexed the remainder of the Papal States. Pope Pius IX refused to be reconciled to this loss of the Papacy's temporal power, and he and his successors remained voluntary prisoners in the Vatican until reconciliation was achieved in 1929.

The Rise and Fall of Fascism in Italy: Joining in the contemporary struggle for expansion, Italy acquired the African territories of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland in the 1880's and, after defeating Turkey in 1912, made Tripoli and Italian possession under the ancient name of Libya. The poet, Gabriele D'Annunzio, and other nationalists also cried out for Italia Irredenta {unredeemed Italy} - sections of Austria-Hungary such as the southern Tirol, the Istrian Peninsula, and the Dalmatian Coast, which had large Italian populations. Although a member of the Triple alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy joined the Allies in World War I, attracted by territorial promises made by France and Great Britain.

With the Allied victory, Italy received most of the territories it had claimed from Austria and Turkey. But when Dalmatia went to Yugoslavia and Italy was given no share of Germany's colonies in Africa, the Italian leaders protested violently. The post war period was one of political and economic collapse, making the country ripe for the Fascist movement organized by Benito Mussolini. In October 1922, the Fascist Black-shirts marched on Rome, and King Victor Emmanuel III requested Mussolini to form a new Cabinet. During the late 1920's the Fascist Grand Council transformed Italy into a totalitarian country, in which the will of the individual was completely subordinated to the will of the state, and Mussolini became an all-powerful dictator.

Faced by the discontent of the unemployed during a depression, Mussolini turned the attention of the people to the necessity of gaining "living space" in Attica. In September 1935, he sent troops into Ethiopia over the protest of the League of Nations and eight months later formally annexed that country as part of Italian East Africa. In April, 1939, Italy seized Albania, whose territorial integrity it had previously guaranteed.

Mussolini and the German dictator, Adolph Hitler, established the military alliance known as the Rome Berlin Axis in May 1939. In World War II, which began four months later, Italy remained a nonbelligerent until June 1940. Then, made confident by German successes, Mussolini declared war on France and Britain and later on the United States. For the "stab in the back" delivered to France, his country gained only a narrow border belt in the Alps instead of Nice and Savoy and Corsica, which previously had been either ceded or sold to France. After the failure of the Italian campaign in Greece, Nazi agents took over the key positions in Italy, and the once proud nation was rapidly reduced to the position of a German puppet.

When the Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943, Mussolini was ousted and the Fascist party dissolved by a "palace revolution" directed by the King and Marshal Pietro Badoglio. The surrender of the Badoglio government occurred in September, as the Allies invaded the peninsula. During the last year and a half of the conflict, which the Germans prolonged until May 1945, the government established under the Allied commission made Italy a cobelligerent.

The Republic of Italy: In June 1944, Victor Emmanuel III delegated his powers to Crown Prince Humbert, who began to rule in his own right when his father abdicated in May 1946. A month later, however, a national plebiscite indicated that Italians preferred a parliamentary republic. The Paris Peace Treaty was accepted by Italy in September 1947. Principal territorial losses included five Alpine districts, which went to France; the major part of the Istrian Peninsula, which Yugoslavia obtained; and the African colonies, which, with the exception of Ethiopia were temporarily assigned to British and French administration. In 1950 the prewar colony of Libya was made an independent state under the sponsorship of the United Nations. Italy was granted permission to administer Italian Somaliland as a United Nations trust territory for ten years. The Dodecanese Islands, seized from Turkey in 1911-12, went to Greece.

In the early postwar period the Popular Democratic Front, organized by Communists and left-wing Socialists, appealed to the northern proletariat with its plans for industrial nationalization and to the southern peasants with its demand for a redistribution of the large estates. The appeal of the radicals was weakened, however, after the 1948 electoral victory of the Christian Democrats, led by Premier Alcide de Gasperi. This victory enabled the government to become more stable, and economic recovery was assured through Marshall Plan grants from the United States. Luigi Einaudi assumed office as the first President of the Italian Republic in May 1948.

Of course much has changed since then and the nation of Italy is a thriving country proud of its heritage. Italy is a place that you would be proud to display your Italian genealogy, family coat of arms or surname history.

Display your Italian Heritage or Family History from Italy

The family tree charts or genealogy charts can display your Italian heritage and show your family history from Italy. We can custom make a history that fits your personal family tree and can go in detail of some of the lives of your ancestors. Simply let us know what you have in mind and we

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