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Southern elites: a comparative study of the landed aristocracies of the American South and the Italian South, 1815-1860

Dal Lago, E; (2000) Southern elites: a comparative study of the landed aristocracies of the American South and the Italian South, 1815-1860. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the ideology of the landed elites of the American South and the Italian Mezzogiorno in the half-century preceding the American Civil War and the Unification of Italy. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the elites of the American South and of the Italian Mezzogiorno based their wealth on the possession of land and on the income derived from staple crops such as tobacco, rice, cotton, and wheat in the United States, and wheat, citrus, olive oil, and wine in Italy. The two elites were extremely diversified on a structural basis; although many of the wealthiest families had built their fortunes well before the 1790s, at the beginning of the nineteenth century in both regions newer classes came into possession of vast amounts of land. The ideologies of new and old sections of the landed elites were acutely different, especially regarding the relations between masters and laborers. This ideological difference, which was reflected in the creation of two distinct political programs, was the most important factor that prevented the formation of a southern nation-state under a unified ruling class in both regions. Unlike what happened in the larger souths, in South Carolina and Sicily, sections of the landed elites overcame their structural and ideological differences and joined together in a strong nationalist project: both South Carolinian and Sicilian landowners, in fact, considered themselves apart from the rest of the souths and fought against centralizing institutions to be recognized as legitimate ruling classes in their own right. "Elitist nationalism" achieved its success in 1860, when South Carolina seceded from the Union and Sicily separated from the southern kingdom. However, in both cases, the triumph was due to the merging of regional nationalisms into projects for the creation of much larger political entities: the Confederacy and the Italian kingdom.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Southern elites: a comparative study of the landed aristocracies of the American South and the Italian South, 1815-1860
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10115550
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