1848 was an incredible year in European History. The year is known in some countries as the Spring of Nations or even the Springtime of the Peoples. Starting in France in February, revolutions and political upheavals effected over 50 countries and spread out from Europe into Latin America. It remains the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history. Some historians emphasize the serious crop failures, particularly those of 1846, that produced hardship among peasants and the working urban poor. Technological change was radically affecting the life of the working classes. A popular press extended political awareness, and new values and ideas such as popular liberalism, nationalism and socialism began to emerge. However the revolutions were less homogeneous and coordinated than seems at first glance, with the result that within a year, reactionary forces had regained control.
In Italy the rise of nationalism would eventually lead to unification of the country. However in 1848 the different states that constituted the North of Italy were part of the Austrian Empire. The Papal States - in the middle of the country had witnessed the election of Pope Pius VI on 1846, a reforming liberal - he immediately pardoned hundreds of prisoners and gave hope to the Poor. This popular start to his papacy was lost when he refused to fight against the Austrian Army - who represented the Hapsburg Empire, which was Catholic. Refusing to endorse this war he had to flee Rome, and when he returned he did so as a reactionary. On July 12, 1849 Pope Pius IX was escorted back into Rome and reigned under French protection until 1870
However it was in the South - in the tinderbox that was Sicily that revolution started and soon spread up the coast to Naples. Well Dressed mobs had been collecting in front of the Jesuit college and according to contemporary accounts 'hissing and threatening to burn the building down' It was agreed that the Jesuit community was to leave to ensure the peace of the city. A battalion of the National Guard took control of the college - and the next morning a huge crowd gathered. A regiment of Swiss Guard were called in to strengthen the National Guard. Speakers were whipping the crowd up, who responded to their speeches with cries of 'Viva' or conversely expressions of disgust. At 4pm fifteen carriages burst out of the gates of the colleges -containing the Fathers. On the box of each carriage rode a National Guard , each carriage escorted by two horseman. Followed by cavalry and a battalion - according to an eyewitness this strange procession passed off almost in perfect silence. Descending to the sea where a steamer was waiting and the crowd was the most dense. As it moved away from the shore there was a general shout of joy