Menabrea, Luigi Federico


Menabrea, Luigi Federico
(1809–1896)
   Born in Chambery, in the Savoy region of modern-day France, Luigi Federico Menabrea was a distinguished engineer who served in the engineering corps of the Sardinian army. Elected to the Parliament of Piedmont-Sardinia in 1848, he swiftly became one of the leaders of the destra storica (the historic right). He served as minister for the navy and for public works in the early 1860s and as ambassador to Vienna in 1866. At the end of October 1867, Menabrea formed his first government, which lasted little more than a month. During this month, Giuseppe Garibaldi was defeated at the battle of Mentana, outside Rome, by French forces. Menabrea’s administration subsequently came under fire from Italian patriots for doing too little to make Rome the capital of Italy. The huge debts incurred by Italy during the war with Austria in 1866, and fear of a further war with France if the Roman question were pushed too hard, led Menabrea to choose a course of prudence.
   His second and third cabinets (January 1868 to May 1869, May 1869 to December 1869) concentrated on restoring the public finances. During Menabrea’s tenure, the notorious grist tax on milled grain was introduced in January 1869. Menabrea’s government also privatized the state tobacco industry, selling it to a consortium of Italian and foreign bankers. Both decisions were unpopular. The former led to widespread rioting in rural areas, which the government suppressed at the cost of over 200 lives; the latter, to predictable accusations of corruption. Nevertheless, they were the beginning of a period of austerity that enabled the Italian state to put its finances on a sound footing by the mid-1870s. Menabrea served as ambassador to France and Great Britain for the remainder of his career. He died in his native Savoy in 1896.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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