Saturday, 8 May 2010

Peasants and Players

In Berlusconi land the horizons are changing to a one state country. Impressive amounts of propaganda by the Belusconi owned media state that the country is on sound financial backing and foundation when the truth is that if the UK called in their loan Berlusconi would have his country bankrupt in one day.But nevertheless the peasants or those that were the peasants continue to vote him into power. It comes down to one thing , if you put the carrot in front of the donkey the donkey will walk . This has always been the way with a country where education was for the few and where the idea of culture is dead in a land of art.The peasant now and in the Italian wars of Independence was merely an interference in the workings of men.
The Italian war of independence, all three of them, were wars that unlike most wars of the time had very few peasants in the ranks. Much of the Italian army were students, middle class and poroffesional soldiers. The peasants who normally make up an army were totally apathetic to the Italian struggle. The struggle if we are to get to the nitty-gritty was essentially a middle class one almost exactly the same reasons as the British Civil War in America and the American Civil war later.
  The peasants' state of severe and chronic deprivation, characterized by inadequate housing, chronic disease, particularly pellagra and malaria, was compounded by heavy indebtedness and taxation.
Poor harvests in 1845-47 aggravated an already tense situation.  The prices for staples like grains and maize, which had been fairly stable in 1817-1844, increased sharply after 1845.
 In the regions of Lombardy and Venetia, which were then part of the Austrian Empire, and in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the few impediments to international trade encouraged extensive purchases of foodstuffs by foreign buyers, particularly British, thereby further depleting domestic reserves.

Northern Italian peasants

Other causes of peasant unrest were more regional. . Peasants in the mainland provinces of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and in many mountain regions throughout the peninsula, resented the frequent purchases and misappropriations of communal lands by private individuals.

 The loss of communal lands, and of common rights of usage on land both public and private (known as usi civici in the south), was particularly hard on the poorer peasants and on those who relied on pasturage. Peasants who demanded retention of these ancient communal rights were often called comunisti .
That label confused this very specific use of the term with the more ideological one, thereby intensifying a widespread suspicion of peasant radicalism, fueled also by conservative perceptions of the peasants' role in the French Revolution of 1789.

Initial peasant reactions to urban agitation were by no means hostile. . Traditionally religious and loyal to the clergy, many peasants were buoyed by the election of Pope Pius IX in 1846 and by his promises of reform. By 1848 a sense of expectation prevailed in many villages, where priests often took it upon themselves to speak for their parishioners.
 Peasant demonstrations, plantings of liberty trees, and the destruction of tax records followed the news of urban agitations in Palermo and Naples (January), Genoa, Turin, Livorno, Florence and Rome (February), Milan and Venice (March).

Peasant sympathy for the revolution was short-lived.  Italian revolutionary movements raised issues that had little interest for most peasants.
Demands for constitutional government, voting and civil rights, and national independence reflected and essentially urban and middle class agenda.

  Revolutionary elements willing to confront the "Agrarian Question" were a minority everywhere.  Peasant support for the revolution waned quickly after March 1848, although after that date many peasants served the national cause in the war against Austria as conscripts in the Piedmontese army.
carracci. Peasant eating beans
 With that significant exception, peasants either dropped out or turned against the revolution most notably so in Venetia, where peasant support was scorned by the revolutionary government and courted by the Austrians.


Most of Garibaldi's men were those that fought for the "Man" rather than an ideal although they did obviously have an idea of liberation and freedom. But the "General" was one of those men who uncannily arise in a given moment of crisis, just like Oliver Cromwell and Adolf Hitler (albeit rather negative moment). The Garibaldinians were made up of all classes but were not exclusively peasant stock.Most in my opinion were a little bit up the intellectual ladder and we may think of them as enlightened working class men and lower middle class. Thats my feeling and is by no means a real fact. I say that because the peasants of Venetia cheered Radetsky when he rode past with his army as the Austrians lowered taxes wherever they went.Later when the Italians passed according to sources there was silence


  1. An interesting comparison with the UK. I am at present reading a history of the English Volunteer regiments formed in 1860 as a response to fears of French invasion.

    They seem to have been far more worried about how to stop working class men from joining than they were about fighting the French.

  2. Thats hilarious!!!! Very English.I must read it at once.Thanks John. By6 the way I'm trying to do some models of the Italian wars