The History of Sicily

Sicily and the New Kingdom

Shortly after unification, the new government sent Piedmontese and other northern civil servants to govern the island. These new officials tried to impose a new system of taxation as well as to institute military conscription, something the Bourbons had not done. This did not endear the Sicilians to them. The new government was not successful in bringing order to the region, especially to western Sicily, which was poorer than the east. Brigandage by individual gangsters increased as did the activities of the Mafia, which in some villages constituted a government of its own. The government sent General Giuseppe Govone (1825-1872), who became a virtual dictator, with full power. So harsh were his measures that he had to be recalled. In the years leading up to the twentieth century, hatred for the government became so strong that the island became virtually ungovernable.

However, there were several reasons for this beyond the government’s mismanagement. First, the Mafia proved harder to suppress than first thought. Second, the Sicilians resented the way Garibaldi had been treated by the new Kingdom. Most important was the fact that the island was denied any degree of governmental autonomy. Instead, its people suffered from the incompetence and neglect that representatives from the north visited upon them.


Teatro Bellini, Catania