One of many secret societies in Italy in the tumultuous decade of the 1830s, Young Italy (La Giovine Italia) was founded in 1831 by Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72) and several other Italian liberals in exile in Marseilles. Mazzini and most of his associates were members of the Carbonari, the major European revolutionary secret society of the time, and borrowed much of the new organization’s structure and technique from Carbonari traditions. In place of the Carbonari emphasis on internationalism, though, Mazzini’s new organization accepted only Italian members, and its goal was a nationalist revolution leading to the creation of an independent Italian republic.

From Mazzini’s headquarters in Marseilles, Young Italy established an extensive network of supporters throughout the Italian peninsula, distributed propaganda, and infiltrated the armed forces and government bureaucracies of several of the small kingdoms into which Italy was divided at the time. The most effective penetration was achieved in the Kingdom of Savoy in northwestern Italy, where large parts of the army were influenced by Young Italy propaganda. Meanwhile Mazzini, who was exiled from France in the spring of 1833, built up an army of Italian exiles in Switzerland and prepared for an invasion of Savoy to launch his planned revolt.

The Savoyard authorities discovered the plot in the summer of 1833, however; 14 members of Young Italy were executed, and many others imprisoned. This proved the beginning of the end for Young Italy. Members in other parts of Italy went to ground, fearing that they would be implicated by Savoyard members, and the planned rising in August 1833 never happened. Unfazed, Mazzini tried to launch the invasion of Savoy anyway in January of 1834, but his volunteers refused to cross the border in the absence of a revolt to support them, while members in Italy refused to revolt unless an army appeared to help them.

The complete failure of Mazzini’s plan led to the rapid dissolution of Young Italy. Unwilling to admit defeat, Mazzini built ever more grandiose plans for a general European revolt until the Swiss government expelled him from the country in 1836 and he went into exile in England. His later career as a writer and Italian revolutionary proved more successful, but secret societies played essentially no part in it.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006


Leave a Comment