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Elites in search of authority: political power and social order in nineteenth-century Sicily

Riall, Lucy (2003) Elites in search of authority: political power and social order in nineteenth-century Sicily. History Workshop Journal 55 (1), pp. 25-46. ISSN 1363-3554.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hwj/55.1.25

Abstract

Studies of power in nineteenth-century Sicily have long been overshadowed by interest in the mafia, and are dominated by perceptions of feudal backwardness, bureaucratic weakness and criminal deviance. This article challenges such interpretations. It looks instead at the rise to prominence of new elites in Sicilian rural communities during this period, and analyses their complex relations with the state, with the peasantry, and with each other. Their strategy for success lay, it is argued, in a remarkable hold over the tasks of local government, in controlling the market for land, and in manipulating family ties. Yet this article also warns against taking the image of autonomy, authority and longevity, so carefully cultivated by these elites, entirely at face value. Indeed, the research presented here shows that the new elites of nineteenth-century Sicily were divided among themselves and threatened by peasant unrest. Their lack of authority made them ultimately dependent on the state's fiscal and coercive powers.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2008 15:57
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:16
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/741

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