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For centuries, Sicilian "men of honor" have fought the controls of government. Between 1820 and 1860, rebellions shook the island as these men joined with Sicily's intellectuals in the struggle for independence from the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples. This lively account-the first to locate the emergence and evolution of the mafia in historical perspective-describes how those rebellions led to the birth of the modern mafia and traces the increasing influence of organized crime on the island. The alliance between two classes of Sicilians, James Fentress shows, made possible both the revolution and the mafia. Militancy in the ranks of the revolution taught men of honor how to organize politically. Communities then resisted the demands of central government by devising alternative controls through a network of local groups-the mafia cosche.Fentress tells his operatic story of honor and crime from the viewpoint of the Sicilians, and in particular of the great city of Palermo-from Garibaldi's historic arrival in 1860 to the spectacular mafia trials around the turn of the century.
Drawing on police archives, trial records, contemporary journalism, and government reports, he describes how enduring political power plus a (richly deserved) reputation for violence helped the mafia secure covert relationships with groups that publicly denounced them. These contacts still protect today's mafiosi from Rome's efforts to eradicate the organization. The history of the mafia is indeed, Fentress shows, the history of Sicily.
James Fentress lives in Italy where he has written articles on Sicilian and Italian society in English and Italian papers and journals. He taught political philosophy at Brunel University in London.