Hidden History

European history has endured countless number of revolutions that has shaped the world, as we know it today. The era of enlightenment and the French revolution revealed the principles of equality, citizenship, sovereignty and a movement against absolute monarchy.

However, the fall of Robespierre in some sense ended the French Revolution. Many People then sought to keep the principals of the revolution alive but no longer did they focus on the modification of the society as a whole but rather retreated to the secure crux of secret societies. Early and mid 19th century Europe was perhaps an era of revolutionary secret societies. These weren’t just one or two but rather a whole host of societies expanding throughout Europe. Most of these societies were largely unconnected however these groups internationalized the modern revolutionary convention.

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Also, in the process of modernization, they spearheaded the phenomena of forming organizations to contest monarchial-religious authority. Others that had existed for decades influenced many revolutionary groups, notably the Freemasons (a fraternal organization). This group upheld frank debates about the political issues at that time, particularly those related with the enlightenment. Most of the governments in Europe accepted the Freemasons since they abstained from political advocacy. This story of the secret societies cannot be totally reconstructed, but it has been neglected and avoided.

Early 19th century Europe witnessed the era of the Carbonari, which were secret revolutionary groups in Italy. Like most of the other secret societies that were emerging during this epoch, their goals regularly had a patriotic focus, however they did not have much of a political agenda. Their main aim of attention was at those who were unhappy with the political situation in Italy during this period. Members of the Carbonari were influential in the unification of Italy and the further progress of Italian nationalism. The most influential man to arouse the people of Europe against their kings was Giuseppe Mazzini, a veteran of the Carbonari.

He created the society for modern revolutionary nationalism: Young Italy. Mazzini’s vision of revolutionary nationalism was not confined to Italy alone but was in fact a universal nationalistic movement. He perceived the people of society as ‘one earthly interpreter’. Politically, Italy’s national movement was the most successful. German nationalistic movements were restricted by the Prussian and Austrian monarchies and other movements were only beginning at the time.

The nationalistic movement in Italy formally became the center of the European national evolution in 1834 when Mazzini undertook the task of keeping the international character of the movement alive by creating Young Europe for furthering the principals of liberty, equality and humanity through out Europe. Hence, this era of secret societies was notably influential in the further uprising of nationalistic feelings and movements. References: Billington, James H (1980). Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. New Jearsey: Transaction Publishers. p125-150.

Peter H. Reill Ellen Wilson (1996). Encyclopedia Of The Enlightenment. New York: Book Builders Incorporated. p544-546.