Why was anti-clericalism such an important aspect of liberalism in France and Italy in the second half of the nineteenth century? The mid-nineteenth century was a time of great change throughout Europe. Revolutions and social upheavals meant new ideologies and perspectives coming to the forefront as existing social orders began to crumble under popular pressure. Liberalism was one of these new causes, designed to make a fairer and more benevolent society for all its sectors. However Liberalism could not succeed in a church dominated state. Thus anti-clericalism came to become a symbolic part of the liberal cause.
Before examining separate aspects of the liberal struggle, it is necessary to look at the whole movement and its aims. The liberal idea was to make the government and economy fairer and more accessible to the lay person. They wanted a constitution with representational institutions which would make the wishes and opinions of the people known to the rulers without bias or cover up.
They also wanted parliamentary representation of individual citizens rather than mass group electorates such as the estate system. Freedom of speech, freedom of press, and free trade were another liberal demand, as well as equality before the law, with open trials free from influence or interference. To accompany the new franchise system would be upgraded education and economic development to civilise the new nation.
The liberals were not necessarily atheists or even opposed to Christianity all, so why did anti-clericalism become such an integral part of their regime? In France one of the foremost reasons for this was the churches' views with regard to social change. The Catholic Church had always been a great advocate of traditionalism. They looked back to the ancien regime when the church had been all-powerful, and though since 1789 its influence had been in...