How far do you agree that Cavour made the most significant contribution to Italian unification 1852-61?
Italian unification had been achieved after decades of revolution interspersed with differing political ideas and agendas. Cavour, it would seem, had brought about the prestige and power Italy needed in the form of a powerful Piedmont, therefore realizing the pre 1848 notion of unification via the leading state of Piedmont. However despite the effects of his political and diplomatic activities, his motives were far from nationalistic in the true sense of Italy. Cavour was concerned mainly with his ambitions for a dominant Piedmont in Northern Italy indifferent to the situation in the South hoping not to be hindered by its inherent social and economic inadequacies. This inadvertently aided the wider drive for unification, benefiting from Cavour's diplomatic tact in achieving a vital French alliance and embarking on a successful foreign policy aiding the removal of foreign rule in Italy. Though Cavour inevitably contributed significantly to the unification of Italy, he does not classify as an exponent due to his narrow Piedmontese ambitions and pursuit of self-interests irrespective of national interests. Therefore the question of as to who was the most important and successful of the unification's exponents, only concerns those genuine to the 'Risorgimento', namely, Mazzini, Garibaldi and Napoleon.
The extent of Cavour's role in the process that finally brought about Italian Unification is much debated among modern historians. Many notable contemporary historians have their own school of thought on the extent of Cavour's role in Italian unification. Opinions range from the likes of Mack smith who powerfully believe that Cavour had little impact on Italian amalgamation to historians such as Derek Beales who believe Cavour's impact on Italian Unification was significant. The question on which I am writing this essay specifically asks me to focus on whether Cavour was the most significant contributor to Italian unification and acted as a sole, coherent, energy behind a period of long-term planning that would bring about Italian unification. Ultimately Cavour was neither the above, nor anything near this but he was the sole provider of a unique set of catalyst that allowed a unified Italian Nation to become a reality not an idea held dear by a small number of mainly rich upper class radical thinkers.