Calabrese - History and Cultural Relations

The archaeological record discloses a long and rich history of habitation for the region; Neolithic, Copper Age, and Bronze Age sites are abundant. Earliest records mentioning the Region refer to it as "Bruttia," a name retained until the Byzantine period. Few monuments of the Roman occupation remain, but during that time Christianity was introduced to the region. Byzantine control of all of the south, including Calabria, continued for centuries after the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire. It was broken by the arrival of the Normans in the eleventh century. Prior to this, during the tenth century, was a time when monastic settlements were established in great numbers throughout the region, particularly those devoted to Saint Basil of Caesarea. Napoleon's conquest of the south inaugurated the "French Decade" at the turn of the nineteenth century, and during this period feudalism was abolished, although changes in the law had Little effect on local practice. Large estates owned by absentee landlords remained the norm. Still, during this time the partition of municipal commons (called "domains") for public sale began. The last half of the nineteenth century saw the start of heavy emigration, as the land became less and less able to support the people, and disease and natural disasters took their toll. Agriculture was in crisis, and efforts by the Italian state were confounded by countervailing actions on the part of the traditional landholding families of the region. The volatility of the social and economic situation of the period was increased with the introduction of anarchism and Socialism, and during years of crop failure riots were common. The years between the two world wars saw a concerted movement toward land occupations, which were ultimately legitimated by the state government. This broke the traditional pattern of the feudal estates, as many of the newly occupied properties were even then run on collective lines. In the years immediately following World War II, the Italian government embarked upon the largest regional development program known to Western Europe, specifically intended to address the reality that the south lagged behind the north in industry and infrastructure. Calabria, however, received little benefit from this new effort to improve infrastructure and to develop industry.

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