Crime and the Southern Question: Mafiosi and Camorristi

  • John A. Davis


Law and order were to become central issues in the rapidly widening public debate that took place during the 1870s and 1880s on Italy’s social and political development since Unification, but it had always been particularly closely associated with what came to be known as the ‘Southern Problem’. Indeed, the tendency to reduce events in the South to the vocabulary of crime and public order had been evident from the time of Unification, when not only the peasant ‘brigands’ but indeed all suspected opponents of the new state in the South were denigrated as criminals. Republicans and democrats were freely described as camorristi and agents of organised crime, while rival political factions within the South were no less ready to use the same language against their own opponents. Liborio Romano was one of the best known, but by no means the only victim of this form of indictment by criminal association.1


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  1. 2.
    Although published later A. Niceforo L’Italia Barabara Contemporanea (Palermo, 1898) offers eloquent examples.Google Scholar
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    G. Mortillaro Nuovo Dizionario Siciliano-Italiano quoted in G. Fiume Bande Armate (1984) p. 39.Google Scholar
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    See P. Alatri Lotte Politiche in Sicilia Sotto il Governo della Destra 1866–74 (Turin, 1954);Google Scholar
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    See esp. G. Fiume Bande Armate (1984) and Ch. 3 above.Google Scholar
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    Tommasi Crudeli, quoted in P. Villari Scritti sulla Questione Sociale (Florence, 1902) p. 440.Google Scholar
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    The most recent studies are: A. Blok The Mafia of a Sicilian Village 1860–1960 (Oxford, 1974);Google Scholar
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    The most perceptive modern studies of the Southern Italian latifundist economy are those of M. Rossi Doria (e.g. ‘Struttura e Problemi dell’Agricoltura Meridionale’ in M. Rossi Doria Riforma Agraria e Azione Meridionalista (Bologna, 1948)). Amongst the most detailed contemporary descriptions see: S. Sonnino ‘I Contadini in Sicilia’ in Franchetti and Sonnino Vol. 2. In English see: A. Blok (1974) pp. 64–79; J. and P. Schneider (1976) pp. 58–71; D. Mack Smith ‘The Latifundia in Modern Sicilian History’ in Proceedings of the British Academy (1965) pp. 87–93.Google Scholar
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    Giunta per l’Inchiesta Agraria (Rome, 1882) Vol. IX, p. xxvii; on Calabria compare the general description in P. Arlacchi Mafia, Peasants and Great Estates (Cambridge, 1983) pp. 123ff with the detailed and critical analysis inGoogle Scholar
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    The range of mafia activities are described most fully in the essays by Franchetti and Sonnino, but see also G. Alongi La Maffia nei Suoi Fatti e Nelle Sue Manifestazioni: Studi sulle Classi Pericolose della Sicilia (Turin, 1886) esp. pp. 111–22.Google Scholar
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    G. Salvemini ‘Un Comune dell’Italia Meridionale: Molfetta’ in Opere IV (1963) p. 21.Google Scholar
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    See F. Coletti ‘Classi Sociali e Delinquenza in Italia 1891–1900: La Delinquenza in Sardegna’ Giornale degli Economisti (1911), pp. 611–28.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 143; see also S. Wilson ‘Conflict and its Causes in Corsica 1800–35’ SH Jan. 1981, pp. 33–69.Google Scholar

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© John A. Davis 1988

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  • John A. Davis

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