In the 8th century A. D. Italy was a part of Holy Roman Empire. With the passage of time, the glory and prestige of Holy Roman Empire began gradually to decline. Consequently, Italy was divided into different small units.
The emperors of different countries, especially Austria and France, continued their efforts to establish their dominion over the Italian provinces from 15th to 18th century.
It was in the last decade of the eighteenth century when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the northern provinces of Italy and established the powerful republics there.
When he became the Emperor of France, he incorporated the republics of Italy and the kingdom of Pope into the newly created kingdom of Italy. In this way, Napoleon united the provinces of Italy and formed a new nation which was known as Italy.
Napoleon unknowingly sowed the seeds of national unity in Italy and the people of Italy began to regard him as the liberator but soon people began to detest him due to his oppressive rule.
However, just as the credit for the unification of Germany goes to Napoleon and Bismarck, in the same way, the role of Napoleon and Cavour may be regarded as decisive and significant in the unification of Italy.
At the time of the invasion of Napoleon upon Italy, there were several small states. Napoleon unified them and he applied the Code of Napoleon there. The feudal lords and nobles of Italian states were divested of their special privileges.
Taxes were imposed upon them also. The common people began to enjoy the freedom of speech and writing. The system of education was placed under the control and jurisdiction of central government instead of the church.
As a consequence of the system of administration established by Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy, the people were suffused with nationalist fervour. They began to think over the common problems of the country.
The ideas of liberalism, national and political unity spread over the whole of Italy. In this way, Italy was a political organization of several states. Napoleon Bonaparte was the first man to give national and political unity to Italy. According to Marriot: “he was the first to hold out to the subjects of the kingdom and Duchies and Republics, he overthrew the splendid hope of a united Italy, and his policy was uniformly directed towards its achievements.”