Monthly Archives: May 2010

Book review – “Terroni: All that was done to ensure that the Italians of the south would become ‘meridionali’ (southerners)” by Pino Aprile

The history of the south of Italy, as seen from those who were “liberated” by the north

Anthony M. Quattrone

Pino Aprile’s “Terroni: All that was done to ensure that the Italians of the south would become meridionali (southerners)”, published by Edizioni Piemme, is one of those books that could cause a revolution, albeit a peaceful one, if read by enough people at the same time. It could become “the spark that starts the fire” by igniting a sentiment of unity among southern Italians, who are discovering that something is missing in mainstream history books informing how Italy was united 150 years ago. Aprile explains, through a series of anecdotes and historical events, how the south of Italy has ended up becoming the “minority” of the country, relegated to a backward condition with respect to the north of the nation and to the rest of Europe, when 150 years earlier, Naples was, in Aprile’s account, behind only Paris and London on many counts. The book’s title is a political statement. He uses the word “terroni”, which is a derogatory term used by northern Italians to describe those from the south, and its root is “terra”, that is, land. It can be translated generally to mean peasant, with a negative connotation. In the subtitle Aprile uses the Italian word “meridionali”, which can be translated literally as “southerners”, and it also has a pejorative connotation, rather than a geographical one.

Aprile very ably connects the events of 150 years ago to today, either in terms of similarity between those of the past and today’s events, or showing the actual causal relationship between yesterday’s events and today’s. He recounts how the Piedmontese government had set up the first concentration camps in 1860 and 1861, where thousands of Neapolitan and other southern Italian soldiers and irregular combatants were deported and left to die within a few years, preceding by approximately 80 years the notorious Nazi concentration camps in Europe. The comparison between the Nazis and the Piedmontese soldiers is continued also when Aprile describes how the towns of Pontelandolfo and Casalduni were destroyed by the Bersaglieri infantry troops in August 1861, in the same way that the Nazis destroyed Marzabotto in September 1944. In both cases, the civilian population was massacred in response to the action of irregular combatants against occupation troops. Aprile also draws a comparison between the torture used by the American military in Abu Grahid and what the Piedmontese did in the years following the unification of Italy. His analogies between past events and today’s allow the reader to immediately relate to events that took place 150 years ago. Read the whole article


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Southerners protest against racist museum in Turin

The Lombroso Museum in Turin is targeted for racism by southern Italians

Demonstration against the Lombroso Museum in Turin on 8 May 2010 (Photo La Stampa)

Anthony M. Quattrone

As Italy prepares to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the country’s unification, there are many in Naples and in the south of the nation who believe that there is not much to celebrate.  Their feeling is that the south was the loser in the process to unify Italy, because it lost its freedom and its relative wealth.  They sustain that in 1860 the south was way ahead of the north in terms of industry, education, science, art, and standards of living, and that independent Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, whose capital was Naples, was condemned to be dissolved as a result of a conspiracy led by Great Britain and other contemporary big powers 150 years ago.

On 11 May 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi and about 1,000 followers invaded Sicily and made their way up the boot, defeating the Neapolitan army, and handing the rich southern kingdom to an indebted and impoverished French-speaking king, Emanuel II of the House of Savoy.  By 13 February 1861, when Gaeta fell, King Francis II went into exile as a guest of the Pope in Rome, and on 19 March 1861, the last Borbonic bastion, in Civitella del Tronto, fell, and all of the soldiers who surrendered were executed by their Italian “brothers”.

Several cultural organizations and political action committees from the south have taken steps to respond to official commemorations by scheduling peaceful, non violent counter celebrations.  The Civil Insurgent Movement, the Neoborbonic Cultural Association,  Party of the South, and For the South are among the most active in pursuing an organized timetable of demonstrations, which, in many cases, will coincide with the official celebrations organized by the Central Government.

The first demonstration took place on 8 May 2010 in Turin, when several hundred participants gathered in front of the Lombroso Museum to protest against the exhibition of dozens of skulls of southern patriots, who are known as Brigands in “official” history books.  Cesare Lombroso was an Italian social scientist who, at the end of the 1800s, founded the Italian school of positivist criminology, whereby he theorized that criminals could be identified by physical defects.  He is particularly detested by southern Italians due to his definition of an inferior Southern Italian type race which he opposed to the Northern Italian one, based on measurements he made of the skulls of dead southern patriots and common criminals whose remains the soldiers from the invading Piedmont took back to Turin. Read the whole article

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Filed under History