Benedetto Croce: Biography, Contributions And Works

Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) was a historian, politician and philosopher born in Italy in 1866. His figure is considered one of the most influential in his country during the first half of the 20th century. Although he was a defender of liberalism, echoes of his works can be found in thinkers such as the Marxist Antonio Gramsci or the fascist Giovanni Gentile.

Coming from a very wealthy family, he suffered the tragedy of being orphaned when an earthquake killed his parents and sister. Some biographers relate this fact to Croce’s loss of religious faith, who declared himself an atheist despite the fact that, in his early youth, he considered wearing the habits.

Source: ESTERNE. PUBLIFOTO / OLYCOM – PUBLIFOTO. Creative Commons Attribuzione-Condividi

Croce was the founder of La Crítica , a newspaper that became one of the most important publications in Italy among intellectuals and politicians. The popularity of his articles led him to become a member of the Senate. Until the arrival of fascism, he held several different positions in the country’s public administration.

After the Second World War he was one of the calls to try to restore normality to Italy. For a few years he returned to the political scene. After retiring, he continued his philosophical works until his death.

Article index

  • one


    • 1.1


    • 1.2

      In Rome

    • 1.3

      Return to naples

    • 1.4

      Entry into politics

    • 1.5


    • 1.6

      After the war

    • 1.7

      Last years

  • two


    • 2.1


    • 2.2


    • 23


    • 2.4

      Philosophy of Practice

    • 2.5


  • 3


    • 3.1


  • 4



Benedetto Croce was born in Pescasseroli, in the Italian Abruzzo, on February 25, 1866. His family was quite well-off. His mother had rather liberal leanings, while his father was a supporter of the monarchy. It seems that Croce received a religious, conservative and monarchical upbringing.

When he was 9 years old, the family moved to Naples. There, the young Benedetto entered the barbarite college. According to biographers, during his youth he seemed destined to wear habit, although afterwards he lost all interest in religion.


In 1883 a tragedy occurred that totally changed Croce’s life. He was with his family on vacation on the island of Ischia when an earthquake struck the area. The house they were staying in was destroyed and his parents and sister died.

The young man was buried under the rubble for quite some time, being rescued when he was about to die.

Croce inherited his family fortune, allowing him to live comfortably and focus solely on his intellectual work.

In Rome

Croce was welcomed by his uncle Silvio Spaventa at his home in Rome. There he lived until he came of age. The house was a frequent meeting place for intellectuals and politicians of the time and the young man took advantage of the teachings of his uncle’s friends. For example, Antonio Labriola was the one who explained Marxist concepts to him.

The future philosopher began to study law at the University of Naples. However, he never took the classes very seriously and, in fact, did not finish his studies. Instead, he preferred to attend classes in moral philosophy taught by Labriola.

Return to naples

In 1886, Croce definitely left Rome to settle in Naples. Since he had financial resources to spare, he devoted all his time to study, except for the time he spent traveling to Spain, France and Germany.

One of the turning points in his life occurred in 1903, when he founded the magazine La Crítica . Croce used this publication to disseminate his ideas and his historical and philosophical analyzes on the society of his time.

Croce himself stated that “the founding of La Crítica marked the beginning of a new period in my life, the period of maturity and harmony between myself and reality.”

One of his closest collaborators at that time was the philosopher Gentile. However, the relationship was broken when fascism came to the Italian government.

Through La Crítica , Croce assumed the role of moderate figure in Italy at the time. It promoted the image of a hard-working and beautiful country, which attached great importance to effort, freedom and civic sense. According to biographers, Croce extrapolated his image of himself to the country in which he lived.

Entry into politics

Croce’s fame grew as he published his articles in the magazine. This caused that it was called to participate in the political life. In 1910, he was appointed senator, focusing his work on carrying out a profound educational reform.

In that period, he became one of the biggest critics of Italy’s involvement in the First World War. At first, this made him quite unpopular, but as the conflict unfolded, opinions changed and Cruce gained more influence in society. .

Between 1920 and 1921, Cruce held the Ministry of Public Instruction. The assassination of the socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti, in 1924, made him realize the danger of fascism.

In 1925, he was the author of the Manifesto of the anti-fascist intellectuals , a response to Giovanni Gentile’s writing ” Manifesto of the fascist intellectuals .”

In his article, Croce denounced the violence and lack of freedom that the fascist regime supposed. Eventually, he ended up retiring from politics.


Like the rest of the country, Cruce had to take sides on the rise of fascism in his country. At first, by his own admission, he thought it was just one more right-wing movement. He believed, then, that he only wanted to counteract the individual freedoms with few restrictions that the left wanted.

However, the violence and restrictions on rights that Mussolini brought with him caused him to change his opinion. Cruce became a tough opponent of the fascist regime, which he considered a tyranny. In fact, inside and outside of Italy, it became the symbol of this opposition.

After the war

Croce returned to politics after the end of World War II. The situation in Italy was very turbulent and, as an influential and respected figure, he tried to mediate between the different anti-fascist parties.

To do this, he was part of several governments as a minister without portfolio. In 1943, he was appointed secretary of the Liberal Party, a position he held for three years.

Although his pro-monarchy stance did not succeed, Croce played an important role in shaping the new democratic republic.

Last years

After completing his duties as a public figure, Croce retired from politics and returned to his studies. He founded the Italian Institute for Historical Studies and continued working until his death. On one occasion, when asked about his state of health, the author replied: “I will die working”.

Benedetto Croce passed away in 1952, still being one of the most influential and respected figures in the country.


Croce, in addition to his status as a benchmark for Italian liberalism, developed an important philosophical and historical work. His influence even reached thinkers of such divergent ideologies as fascism or Marxism.


Croce analyzed Marxism and Hegelian idealism. From the latter, which affirms that reality is given as a spirit that determines social organization and history, it took on a rationalist and dialectical character. Thus, he affirmed that knowledge occurs when the particular and the universal are related.

From there, Croce created his own system that he called Philosophy of the Spirit. This thought shows the author as an idealist who only considered pure concepts real. In his work, he concluded that reality could be reduced to logical concepts.

Croce rejected all religions, considering them the opposite of logic. He did the same with metaphysics, which for him was only a justification for religious ideas.


Croce also dedicated part of his work to aesthetics, understood as theoretical activity based on the senses, a kind of doors to reality. Language would be the fundamental concept of aesthetics.


As noted above, Croce attached great importance to logic. This would be the rational element that explains the universal, above the aesthetic realm. Logic would be the way to achieve the goal set by the author: to develop a concrete, universal and pure concept.

This pure concept would make it possible to explain the universal truth against scientific concepts, for Croce tools that have been artificially constructed.

Philosophy of Practice

The scholar considered the individual will to be of vital importance. He thought that reality is rational, so each individual can conceive of it in a different way. This causes social disciplines to be necessary, in charge of organizing people’s lives.

In this way, the laws that govern society would be, in a certain way, amoral, since their objectives do not coincide with those of morality. Something similar happens with politics, which he defines as the place of meeting / disagreement of different interests.

Regarding the State as an idea, Croce is opposed to Hegel, since he considers that the State does not have any moral value. It would only be the union of individuals who organize how to relate legally and politically.


According to experts, Croce is very historicist in his theories. For him, history is knowledge, including contemporary. In this way, he considers that history is not the past, but that it is something alive when it is studied for an interest that appears in the present.

The author also thought that the historiographic discipline was very useful to understand the concrete facts and their origin.

Finally, he considered that History, as an absolute concept, was the history of freedom, the way in which the human being evolves and is realized. As a good liberal, he claimed that the translation of this on the political plane was liberalism.


Croce’s work is normally divided into three different stages. The first is that of historical and literary studies, also dealing with Aesthetics. The second, the considered period of maturity, in which he focuses on philosophy.

Finally, a period of theoretical deepening in which he revised his Philosophy of the Spirit, giving it a historicist character.


Historical materialism and Marxist economics (1900).

Aesthetics as a science of expression and general linguistics (1902).

– Logic as a science of the pure concept (1909).

Breviary of aesthetics (1912).

Essay on Hegel (1912)

Theory and history of historiography (1917).

Ariosto, Shakespeare and Corneille (1920).

The Tale of Tales (1925)

Manifesto of the anti-fascist intellectuals (May 1, 1925).

History of Europe in the 19th century (1933).

Last trials (1935).

Poetry (1942).

History as thought and action (1938).

The character of modern philosophy (1941).

Philosophy and Historiography (1949).

Croce, the king and the allies (1951).


  1. Biographies and Lives. Benedetto Croce. Obtained from
  2. Metahistory. Benedetto Croce. Retrieved from
  3. Ruspoli, Enrique. The philosophy of the spirit of Benedetto Croce: art, philosophy and history. Recovered from
  4. Caponigri, A. Robert. Benedetto Croce. Retrieved from
  5. Liukkonen, Petri. Benedetto Croce ‘biography. Obtained from
  6. Simkin, John. Benedetto Croce. Retrieved from
  7. New World Encyclopedia. Benedetto Croce. Retrieved from

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