Italian historian and poet, b. at Brivio, 8 December, 1807; d. at Milan, 11 March, 1895. He was at first a student of theology, but left the seminary without completing the course, not feeling himself called to the priesthood. after this he turned his attention to literature, and taught the Italian language and literature at Sondrio in 1823, at Como in 1827, and at Milan in 1832. While at Como Cantù wrote a tale in verse called "Algiso o la lega Lombarda" (1828), which attracted well-deserved attention; the "Storia della citta e della diocesi di Como" (2 vols., Milan, 1829-1832) made him still better known. Shortly afterwards appeared "Ragionamenti sulla Storia Lombarda nel secolo XVII" (Milan, 1832), which was published later under the title "Commento storico ai Promessi Sposi de A. Manzoni, o la Lombardia nel secolo XVII". In this work Cantù expressed liberal views in his comments on the Austrian policy, and was consequently condemned to thirteen months' imprisonment. The miseries of the incarceration were described by him in the well-known historico-political novel, "Margherita Pusterla" (Milan, 1838), a book widely read and frequently republished.
About this date Cantù began his most important work, the "Storia universale" (35 vols., Turin, 1837, and succeeding decades). The work was often reprinted, and has been translated into English, German, French, and Spanish. It is the first historical work by an Italian which, in a well-finished and vigorous style, gives a philosophical treatment of the development of all civilized peoples from the remotest times to the pontificate of Pius IX. Cantù, it is true, did not draw directly from original sources, but depended on French and German authorities, the value of which he did not always judge with sufficient acumen. He worked up the material thus obtained, however, with entire independence. Yet he showed the influence of the Romantic school, of which Manzoni is the most important representative, and he sought to combine Church and State, politics and religion. The effect of the Romantic movement is still more evident in those works in which Cantù treated the history of Italy of his own time, as in: "Storia dei cent' anni, 1750-1850" (5 vols., Florence, 1851); "Storia degli Italiani" (3 vols., Turin, 1879). Constantly viewed with suspicion by the Government on account of his political opinions, he was obliged to make his escape from Milan to Piedmont when the Revolution of 1848 broke out, but he returned when the uprising came to an end. He was a member of Parliament from 1859 to 1861, and from 1874 until the time of his death he was the director of the archives of Lombardy. In addition to the more important publications mentioned above, Cantù wrote a large number of small historical works and numerous popular books and tales for the young, most of which passed through several editions, and were translated into other languages. Among these minor writings may be mentioned: "Letture giovanili", 4 vols.; "Buon senso e buon cuore"; "Il giovinetto dirizzato all bontà"; "Il galantuomo"; and many others. A complete edition of his poetry appeared at Florence in 1870.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online