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Carlo Cattaneo

CARLO CATTANEO, was born in Milan in 1801 and died at Castagnola, near Lugano, Switzerland, in 1869. A student of the philosopher Gian Domenico Romagnosi, he graduated from the University of Pavia in 1824 and taught secondary school in Milan. In the early 1830s, Cattaneo also became a regular contributor to Romagnosi's journal Annali universali di statistica, writing mostly on agriculture, commerce, and finance. In 1839, he founded his own journal, Il Politecnico, which became a milestone of Lombard progressive culture. The journal and the publication of Notizie naturali e civili sulla Lombardia established Cattaneo's reputation as an expert whose advice the Habsburg government often sought before 1848.

A leading proponent of free trade and critic of protectionism, Cattaneo was among several Lombard intellectuals of his generation to become convinced that the policies of the Habsburg government were detrimental to the economic progress of the region and, hence, also to its social and political progress. Gradually he was drawn into a circle of Milanese leaders who pressed for changes in official policy.

Although he did not take part in conspiracies, Cattaneo lost confidence in the possibility of major reforms under the Habsburgs, and during the Five Days of Milan (March 18-22, 1848) he headed the revolutionary war council. His republican and democratic preferences brought him into conflict with members of the Milanese upper class who had asked for military assistance from King Charles Albert of Savoy.

During his brief but intense experience as a revolutionary leader, Cattaneo developed a deep distrust of the Piedmontese monarchy and its supporters. He stuck to these political views throughout the period of struggle for the unification of Italy that followed the revolution of 1848. Cattaneo also clashed with Giuseppe Mazzini because he perceived the Mazzinian brand of republicanism as incompatible with Italy's diverse political and cultural traditions.

In August 1849, when Milan was again occupied by Austrian troops, Cattaneo and his wife fled to the shores of Lake Lugano. There he resumed his old profession as a secondary school teacher and also formed a partnership with another exile, the publisher Alessandro Repetti, to publish a documentary series on the events of 1848, I documenti della guerra santa, and the Archivio triennale delle cose d'Italia, which remain important sources for the history of the revolution of 1848.

While remaining active in the movement for Italian independence, Cattaneo in the 1850s resumed his scholarly pursuits and wrote historical and philosophical essays in which he argued for a federation of democratic republics in Italy. In 1860 he was elected to the first Italian parliament but chose not to take his seat or return to Italy. Even so, his political ideas remained influential among progressive intellectuals of the post- Risorgimento and among the critics of monarchy and of moderate liberal political hegemony in the twentieth century.
Clara M. Lovett

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