This is the first major work in English on the political and social history of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, a state that flourished under five kings of the House of Bourbon from 1734 until its annexation to the newly-unified Italy in 1861. Formally constituted in 1816, the Two Sicilies united the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily to form the largest and most prosperous of the pre-unitary Italian states. At its demise in 1860, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies boasted a treasury of gold reserves exceeding those of all the other Italian states combined, and the largest royal palace in Europe, at Caserta outside Naples. It was the most industrialized state in the Italian peninsula, home to Italy’s first railroad, first public pension plan, first unemployment benefit plan, and first recycling system. The Two Sicilies has left its mark on what the world perceives as Italian culture. Spaghetti, pizza and one of Europe’s first chocolate recipes were born in this region, along with the first vernacular Italian literary language. It was from this part of Italy that most Italians migrated to the United States, Canada, Argentina and elsewhere at the beginning of the twentieth century, and this book complements studies of family history by those having roots in this region. In this volume, a leading historian brings us the true story of a semi-forgotten kingdom and its people. This long-awaited book will be of interest to Italophiles, travelers, armchair historians, researchers, Italian descendants around the world, and to anybody curious about the history of a unique region that traces its origins from ancient Magna Graecia and the medieval, multicultural kingdom founded by Norman adventurers during the twelfth century. It is a useful reference for libraries and an excellent introduction for students. In these pages is the untold story of the other Italy, the most typically Mediterranean region of a diverse country. While many histories of modern Italy focus on Rome and the cities to its north, the stars of this book are Naples and Palermo. Even readers familiar with Italy may find a few surprises here. This is an accurate, candid, unvarnished history that transcends clichés, stereotypes and clouded misperceptions. It includes a timeline, photographs, several maps, genealogical tables, seven informative appendices on such topics as coinage and heraldry, and a bibliography. Until now, books written in English about the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies have tended to focus on the ruling dynasty or arcane topics such as its orders of chivalry. There have also been specialized studies of the Italian unification movement and books about Italian history broadly. This is the first book in English that considers the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in a general way. Much of the information was drawn from original sources such as royal decrees and eyewitness accounts of events. The story of the Two Sicilies is the story of every family of southern Italy. It is an epic to be cherished for all time. Here is the identity of a people and a culture.
Louis Mendola is one of Sicily’s leading historians, the author of landmark works on the Middle Ages and the first English translations of chronicles written before 1300 in Latin and Sicilian. He resides in Palermo.