Italy and the United States

The Politics and Poetics of 'The Southern Problem'

in Volume 12 (2000): Issue 1 (Mar 2000): South to a New Place. Guest Editors: Suzanne W. Jones and Sharon Monteith
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Both nations were ‘made’ in the 1860s. One was proclaimed on March 17, 1861; the other began a doomed civil war for its autonomy on April 12, 1861. The architect of Italian unification, Count Camillo Cavour, did not live to see the national reality; he died a few months after the proclamation. Abraham Lincoln died before national unity was reclaimed. As a policy of unification, the victorious North dissolved monasteries without anticipating negative effects on employment and social services for the poor. The victorious North dissolved the slave labour system in the defeated states without adequately anticipating the effect on employment and social services for the poor and black. In the southern regions of Italy the primary organisation for agricultural land use was a large holding, usually owned by one family, and rented to peasants: latifundia. In the southern regions of the United States the primary organization for agricultural land use was a large holding, usually owned by one family, and worked by slave labour: plantations. Southerners in the new Italy tended to view their civilisation as separate from the new nation, ‘an ancient and glorious nation in its own right’.1 Southerners in the US tended to view their civilisation as separate within the nation as a whole, ‘ancient’ by New World standards, and ‘glorious’ by virtue of its traditions.