By John A. Davis
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Extra info for Conflict and Control: Law and Order in Nineteenth-Century Italy
It was not the destitute pe asants who were the beneficiaries of the land sales since their poverty debarred them from purchasing the land, but the wealthy landowners and new speculators who bought up huge estates at derisory prices, often evicting the peasants who had held customary tenancies under the former religious landowners. The fierce resentments that were generated by these developments contributed in no small part to the violence that swept through Calabria a decade later in 1799. Similar developments were also occurring elsewhere.
The brusque abolition of guild privileges, the removal of controls on food prices and the deregulation of urban provisioning, in many cases even the physical destruction of old city walls, illustrated the initial determination to establish a more equal relationship between city and countryside and to remove one of the most vexatious features of the economies of the Ancien Regime. Yet in practice this was difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Economic recession and massive urban unemployment posed the threat of urban unrest, and led to new measures to protect the urban economies such as controls on the export of agricultural products wh ich effectively subjected the countryside and the rural producers once again to the needs of the urban consumers.
Few things are more difficult than generalisations about the status of land in Ancien Regime societies, and Italy was certainly no exception. There were enormous variations from region to region, the import an ce of wh ich was heightened by the specific characteristics of local economies. In theory, the common lands might either belong to the Crown (beni demaniali) or form part of the historical endowment of a particular community (beni comunali), but even when these terms were used, subsequent grants, settlements or usurpations had frequently affected the original status of the land.