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In the 18th century, Italy was still divided into smaller states, but differently than during medieval times when the political entities were independent and were flourishing economic and cultural centers almost unrivaled in Europe. During the 18th century, all of them were submitted, in one way or another, to one of the greater hegemonic powers. This process of conquest and submission began during the early 16th century, when France was called on by the Duke Milan to intervene in his favor and from there never stopped.
Starting from the northwest, the kingdom of Sardinia was controlling the alpine western area and the island from which it took its name and ruled by the Savoy family. The kingdom of Sardinia was the youngest political entity in Italy and, possibly because of that, the strongest and most independent. Milan was found dominating part of the central plane, Venice was in control of the east, and Genova was dominating the coastal area south of the kingdom of Sardinia. Central Italy was ruled by the Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States, while the south was united under the kingdom of Sicily.
While the kingdom of Sardinia and the republic of Venice could be considered independent, Milan was submitted to Austrian direct authority through vassalage. The Duchy of Tuscany was part of their sphere of influence as a vassal state, given as a fiefdom to the Empress Maria of Habsburg’s husband. Finally, the southern state, the kingdom of Sicily, was historically a Spanish domain.
This was the geopolitical picture in Italy when the tumult of the French Revolution crossed the Alps, and the military campaigns of the legendary Napoleon Bonaparte would initiate a chain of events that would have massive reverberations across Italy throughout the 19th century.