GIUSEPPI FERRARI, A major proponent of democratic federalism and socialism in the Risorgimento, Ferrari was born to a middle-class family in Milan on March 7, 1811. After earning a law degree at the University of Pavia and studying philosophy with Gian Domenico Romagnosi, in 1838 Ferrari immigrated to France in search of greater political freedom and intellectual stimulation than were possible in Habsburg Lombardy. He moved in Saint Simonian and socialist circles in France and became acquainted with Pierre Leroux, Georges Sand, and François Buloz, editor of the Revue des Deux Mondes. Ferrari wrote for the Revue and for Leroux's Revue Independante, but at the same time he took courses at the College de France where he met Jules Michelet and Edgar Quinet. Following in their footsteps, he published philosophical treatises, with an eye to an academic appointment, which he obtained at the University of Strasbourg in 1841. His lectures on early modern Europe became a cause celèbre when Louis Veuillot, editor of the ultramontane newspaper L'univers, attacked the rector of the university for allowing an atheist as well as liberal Catholics and Protestants to teach there. Ferrari was forced to resign, and he accepted a post at the lycée of Rochefort-sur-mer, where he became involved in left-wing conspiracies. Ultimately, he fled Rochefort to escape arrest. The Bonapartist coup of December 2, 1851, put an end to his academic aspirations, and he joined Proudhon and other intellectuals in intransigent opposition to the Second Empire. In the 1850s, he wrote his most important political works, Filosofia della rivoluzione (Philosophy of the Revolution) and the Histoire des revolutions d'Italie (History of the Italian Revolutions), and collaborated with Carlo Cattaneo in the publication and dissemination of works on the revolutions of 1848.
Ferrari had no official role in the Milanese revolutionary
government of 1848, nor did he take part in the fighting against
Austrian troops. His contribution to the revolutionary
experience came later, after he had returned to France. His ties
with radical and socialist leaders from several European
countries, including Russia, gave him a broad perspective on the
revolutionary experience and motivated him to try to analyze the
failure of Italy's revolutionary governments within the context
of long-term historical trends in European society. His
reflections on 1848, and his dialogues with other intellectuals
such as Edgar Quinet, led him to reinterpret the French Revolution as the fountainhead of modern democratic ideology and
ultimately to develop a generational theory of historical
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October 14, 2004.
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