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Cavour AUTHOR Denis Mack SmiFrom the world's leading scholar of Italian history a new biography of Cavour the greatest Italian politician of the nineteenth century and architect of Italy's unification from a patchwork of small states into a single nationWhen Count Camille de Cavour died in at the age of fifty soon after the proclamation of the United Kingdom of Italy for the first time since the Roman Empire he was already a legend Lord Palmerston hailed him for achieving a miraculous ending to one of the most extraordinary and romantic stories in all history Gladstone ranked him as the most illustrious liberal in Europe fifty years later the historian George Trevelyan described him as The Master Statesman of his century if not of all timeThis biography of a political genius reveals Cavour from childhood. Among the usual cast of the Risorgimento Cavour hold the ambiguous role of the anti hero Mazzini the tragic plotter of a bygone idealistic age Victor Emmanuel the comical incompetent and Garibaldi the epic leader of international revolutions all stand left right and center as holy men whose individuality was sacrificed on the altar of the “grandeur or rather sanctity of our national objective” Mamiani p118; Denis Mack Smith was probably liberal Italy’s most famous historian outside Italy in the fifties at the time of an increased polarization in the new republic between neo Crocean apologists and Marxist critics that British gadfly landed suarely on the backside of the southern ruminant having in mind of stinging it out of complacency Against both sides’ hagiographic aspirations Mack Smith delights in depicting the forefathers of the nation as deeply flawed and all too often corrupt Although this approach proved its limits most notably in his depiction of Mussolini as pure opportunists such a reading lends itself particularly well to the Risorgimento inasmuch as it departs as much as can be done from the “roman national” and give back to the actors the individual substance that other histories lack As was often noted at the time Cavour’s own “connubio” his autocratic construction of a rightcenter left coalition government legitimized by the threat of the clerical and republican extremes was never far from dictatorship along with a domineering streak and a self professed “pragmatism” Palmerston preferred the term “unprincipled” and he was British this allowed him to construct a self negating ideological construct out of the moderate liberal tradition the constitution and liberalism allowed him to transgress traditions when reuired while reason of state and “pragmatism” allowed for his transgression of the constitution and his much touted conservatism allowed him to circumvent those claims to national interest when his own fancy demanded so The result is an authoritarian personality looming large on the Piedmontese government across ministries Prime Finance Foreign Affairs often Trade or Interior with only theoretical respect for parliament and not much respect for theory anyway Of course Mack Smith’s portrait is not neutral the political climate in which it was drawn up and the author’s own taste for bold and acerbic outlines need to be taken in consideration but it does suggest the existence of a genealogy to Mussolini’s autocracy Mack Smith argues elsewhere for reading Mussolini as an opportunist ready to all sacrifices and contortions to achieve power The filiation of his own brand of mass based dictatorship with that of Crispi is often noted by those eager to see fascism on the left but Mussolini’s own constant reference to the primacy of movement over doctrine of action over theory and to pragmatism is not without echoing Cavour’s On the left the anti giolittian phenomenon cutting across the political divides but leading up to fascism is often said to be a reaction to the floundering of trasformismo and to the narrow electoral basis of Italian representative democracy Alternatively it would seem who could see the fascist “revolution” as the unveiling of an autocratic tradition that had remained so far occulted by the shroud of liberalism but which stretched back to the roots of unification The search for proto fascists seem doubly anachronistic in that it abuses a historical label to dismiss a historical figure but it might be time to give the same attention to Fascism’s relationship with a polyphonic Risorgimento as that which has been given to its relation to Ancient RomeAs Italian policy in the following decades will be torn between the models of French cosmopolitanism and “Prussian socialism” Cavour navigates the European checkerboard of the XIXth century with great freedom turning to Russia right after the Crimean War supporting both the creation of Romania and its occupation by Austria playing France against Britain and Britain against France Those nations were from early on the inspiration for his liberal conservatism with France and Napoleon III showing the way for a conciliation of conservatism and the national idea and Britain offering a model of free trade and socially pacified economy The reader cannot help but think of Machiavelli when reading this life there is a sense in which Cavour’s profoundly unprincipled opportunism is sublimated into a principle Virtue here is the absence of honour a form of political modernity that maybe alone could drag an archipelago of small Italian states outside of the archaic influence of Austria to form a new nation Fortune parliament constitution honour and tradition are all women that Cavour beats and ill use to advance his nation’s and his own interest which miraculously seem to converge How much was is “pragmatism” a code word for low cunning and autocratic self indulgence How much is such pragmatism synonymous with revolution It is easy to find Cavour detestable not least because he curtailed the actual democratic potential of the events he all too often appropriated through manipulation and ruthlessnessThere is a sense however in which all revolution must be conservative for all but those who suffer it by its very definition as historical caesura its possibilities seem limitless always already including some extremes than those sought by its engineers Whatever little institutional continuity is meant to survive the tidal wave has to negotiate and resist the maelstrom of the masses rising Some Garibaldi seem better euipped because of their position in the field and their inclinations to survive the experience Others like Cavour have to give up and of whatever little ideal was moving them in the first place scarifying freedom of the press to his foreign relations or scarifying decentralization to national unity Maybe the most telling in this story is what he managed not to give up despite pressure from all sides a deeply secular vision of the state and an unflinching commitment to free trade

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Taly with tactical brilliance he harnesses the revolutionary campaigns of Garibaldi and Mazzini absorbing their newly won territories into a larger United Italy and then in defiance of a threat of excommunication declares war on the Pope himself in order to establish full authority over all Italian citizens destroying centuries of Papal power in political affairs He oversees the development of a genuine parliamentary system that will guarantee the survival of this precarious new entity and then suddenly only fourteen brief years after the beginning of this personal and national odyssey he diesThis brilliant and judicious biography based om the widest possible range of both published and unpublished sources will become the definitive account of an extraordinary man and his times. Reads like an extended encyclopedia entry

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characters ✓ Cavour AUTHOR Denis Mack Smith à PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook Õ ➵ Cavour Read ➼ Author Denis Mack Smith – From the world's leading scholar of Italian history a new biography of Cavour the greatest Italian politician of the nineteenth century and arOn Born of Swiss French Italian stock an aristocrat raised to manage the family estates he moves gradually from this unexceptional life into local politics his first post is as village mayor watching and learning drawing on the lessons of his own family background as he assesses the chaos around him and prepares himself to achieve his vision And then in his thirty eighth year we see the beginning of his meteoric rise to power within five years he becomes Prime Minister of his native Piedmont Sardinia transforming it into the most powerful and progressive state in Italy in he begins deliberately to precipitate a major European war that despite military setbacks and short term defeats causes the dismemberment of the mighty Austrian Empire and the joining of Northern and Central I. Denis Mack Smith's biography of Camillo di Cavour the most comprehensive modern English language biography of the Piedmontese politician who was a key figure in Italian unification It provides a good overview of his political career though one lacking in personal details and any larger historical context As such it's recommended for anyone seeking to learn about Cavour largely in the absence of anything better