The historically and culturally important region of Tuscany is in northwest and central Italy. The region of Tuscany was named after the Etruscans, who were the original inhabitants of the area in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. In the 12th century, Tuscany became fragmented as a result of the struggle between the papacy and the emperors. However, this tension that existed between the church and state did not halt cultural development. In fact, the tension was beneficial for Dante Alighieri, who was one of the most prominent literary figures in Italy. One of Dante's most renowned works, "La Divina Commedia", is studied throughout the world today. About one hundred years later, Francesco Petrarca or Petrarch wrote his celebrated sonnets, which have been compared to those of William Shakespeare. Another literary figure and a contemporary of Petrarch, was Giovanni Boccio. In the early 14th century, Boccio wrote "Decameron", a collection of short stories describing the plague that tore through Florence and Tuscany. Alighieri, Petrarch, and Boccio were all influential literary figures in Florence and they placed Tuscany at the forefront of Italian culture.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Tuscany was under the control of the Medici dynasty. Allessandro de'Medici became Duke of Florence in 1530 and politically, Tuscany remained stable for nearly two hundred years. However, in 1735, when the Duke Gian Gastone was overthrown by the family of the Hapsburgs headed by the Empress Maria Theresa. Francis of Lorraine, who was Maria Theresa's husband, was given the position of Duke in exchange for the territory of Lorraine, which had been previously taken away from him. Their son, Leopold turned out to be one of the most notorious and successful leaders in the history of Tuscany. As well as making widespread reforms in the government and reorganizing trade and taxation, Leopold gave the Tuscan landowners and squires more rights than they have ever held.
Historically, the region of Tuscany was greatly affected by the French Revolution. In 1799, French forces entered Florence and forced the dukes into exile. As a result, the French were able to gain a powerful hold over Tuscany, but they were not strong enough to defend themselves against a revolt from the Tuscans who managed to eradicate most of the French influence. The Italians, with the help of the Austrians, regained Florence, but it was only to be lost again to another French force headed by Napoleon. In 1801, Tuscany became the kingdom of Etruria by the Treaty of Luneville and then it became part of the French Empire in 1808. Nonetheless, after the Congress Of Vienna in 1815, there was a growing movement for Italian national unity and independence. In 1848, a revolution in Vienna initiated uprisings against Austrian rule. The following decades saw uprisings in several regions and in 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was established. During this Italian Unification, the territory of Tuscany was incorporated into the new nation.