Camillo Benso di Cavour

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Cavour, Camillo Benso di


Born Aug. 10, 1810, in Turin; died there June 6, 1861. Count; statesman and diplomat of Piedmont (Kingdom of Sardinia) and of Italy during its unification; ideologist and leader of the moderate liberal monarchist bourgeoisie and of the part of the nobility that was becoming bourgeois in its outlook. His family belonged to the aristocracy.

Cavour graduated in 1829 from the Turin military academy. In 1847, together with C. Balbo, he founded the newspaper IlRisorgimento, which became the voice of the moderate liberal movement. During the Revolution of 1848–49 he became a deputy to parliament. From 1850 to 1852 he was minister of agriculture and commerce and in 1851–52 was also minister of finance. From 1852 to 1861 (with a break in 1859) he was prime minister of Piedmont and also headed several ministries, including foreign affairs and finance. Cavour’s domestic policy was aimed at transforming the economic and political structure of Piedmont along bourgeois lines and included promotion of free trade, tariff reforms, and encouragement of railroad construction and banking. His government carried out a number of anticlerical measures, such as changes in the laws dealing with the church, abolition of religious orders, and government expropriation of church lands. Cavour’s policies promoted the development of capitalist enterprises in Piedmont and the expansion of the new ruling group, the liberal bourgeoisie.

Cavour’s ultimate aim was the unification of Italy under the Savoy dynasty. However, in the 1850’s his plans were limited to the creation of the Kingdom of North Italy. Fearing revolution, Cavour sought to carry out this task by means of dynastic combinations and diplomatic deals; in this he relied on an alliance with the France of Napoleon III, a relationship cemented by the verbal agreement made at Plombières in 1858. In 1859, as a result of clever diplomatic maneuvers, Cavour succeeded in provoking Austria into a war with Piedmont, during which Cavour hoped to liberate Lombardy and Venetia with military support from Napoleon. However, the separate peace between France and Austria, the Peace of Villafranca of 1859, upset Cavour’s plans and forced him to resign.

As the Revolution of 1859– neared, Cavour was returned to power, in January 1860. As a result of popular movements, absolutist regimes had been overthrown in Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and the Romagna. Taking advantage of this situation, Cavour brought about the unfication of these states with Piedmont. At this time and during G. Garibaldi’s southern expedition (which began in May 1860), Cavour’s tactic was to assimilate into Piedmont “one after another of those parts of Italian territory that could be won by the sword of Garibaldi or torn out of age-old dependency by popular uprisings” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 15, p. 94). Seeking to avert any further spread of revolution, Cavour sent Piedmontese troops in September 1860 into the papal territory and subsequently into the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which had been liberated by Garibaldi’s army. With the proclamation of the united Kingdom of Italy in March 1861, Cavour became the first prime minister of Italy.


Discorsi parlamentari, vols. 1–4. Florence, 1932–69.
Il carteggio Cavour-Nigra dal 1858 al 1861, vols. 1–4. Bologna, 1926–29.
La liberazione del Mezzogiorno e la formazione del Regno d’Italia: Carteggi di Cavour …. vols. 1–5. Bologna, 1949–54.
Lettere edite ed inedite, 2nd ed., vols. 1–7. Turin, 1883–87.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 13, 15. (See index of names.)
Dobroliubov, N. A. Poln. sobr. soch., voi. 5. Moscow, 1941. Pages 131–75.
Chernyshevskii, N. G. Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 6, 8. Moscow, 1949–50. Gramsci, A. Izbr. proizv., vols. 1, 3. Moscow, 1957–59. (See index of names.)
Skazkin, S. D. “Kavur i vossoedinenie Italii.” Istorik-marksist, nos. 5–6, 1935.
Omodeo, A. L’opera politica del conte di Cavour, vols. 1–2. Florence, 1940.
Mack Smith, D. Cavour and Garibaldi, 1860. Cambridge, 1954.
Romeo, R. Cavour e il suo tempo, vol. 1. Bari, 1969.