The transition from the first to the second half of the 19th century

Already in the guise of the capital of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814), Milan is a fervent laboratory of projects and reflections on the future of the nation. The Five Days (18-22 March 1848) reprise the same patriotic urges on a higher level, now uniting the enlightened nobles, the bourgeoisie and the working classes, without excluding women, and putting the Italian question into the international spotlight.

On 22 March 1848 a provisional government is formed under the guidance of Gabrio Casati, who remains in charge only until August; in the meantime, Milan votes for the annexation of the Kingdom of Piedmont, which declares war on Austria. Charles Albert of Sardinia, however, is defeated, and Milan and Lombardy return under Austrian rule.

Gas lighting brings lamps into about one hundred streets (1845) and the city begins to make connections with its surroundings (in 1846 the first segment of the Milan-Venice rail line is opened, as far as Treviglio).

A new kind of intellectual emerges, who in pursuit of independent sanctioning of his role takes his distance from the courts, making room for his activity in the public sphere. In Milan, in particular, while the first debates on authors’ rights are underway, the world of letters and the arts makes a forceful contribution to the creation of that civic awareness that in the span of a few decades would spur the process of political unification and construction of a national identity. The Lombard intellectual elites express their commitment through practices of concrete cooperation in multiple directions, from literary to political education, encouragement of arts and crafts to statistics and philanthropy.