Carlo Cattaneo and the Swiss Idea of Liberty

Jonathan Steinberg

in Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalization of Democratic Nationalism, 1830-1920

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264317
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734472 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Carlo Cattaneo and the Swiss Idea of Liberty

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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Carlo Cattaneo (1801–69), who belonged to Mazzini's generation, took an active part in the Risorgimento, wrote important works in many fields, and became a leader of the national rising in his native Milan in 1848. Like Mazzini he had to flee, and settled in Lugano in Italian Switzerland. Unlike Mazzini, Cattaneo preferred to see a federal, not a unitary Italy. A principled republican, no less pure in his belief in democracy than Mazzini, he thought a federal and decentralized structure more appropriate for Italy, and opposed Mazzini's vision of a centralized democracy of individual citizens. Though Cattaneo lived the rest of his life in Switzerland and in 1858 was granted honorary Swiss nationality, this chapter argues that he never accepted the Swiss concept of liberty, Gemeindefreiheit (communal liberty). This communal democracy frustrated his reform schemes and exasperated him personally.

Keywords: Risorgimento; republicans; communal democracy; Switzerland

Chapter.  8482 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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