Lower Middle Class and Circuits of the «Nation».
The Case of Terra d’Otranto between the 1820s and the Unification
The paper joins the current debate on nation building during the XIXXX centuries and on the state-building processes in Italy, with particular reference to the relationship between Mezzogiorno and Risorgimento. It examines the politicization channels activated in the ancient province of Terra d’Otranto (corresponding to the present provinces of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto) between the 1820s and the Italian unification of 1861. The paper includes a selection of various sources– such as a number of political trial acts from Lecce State Archive, the documentation about the exiles in Sardinia Kingdom from Turin State Archive, some letters to Garibaldi from Rome Risorgimento Archive and contemporary press sources. In this perspective, the essay focuses on three crucial moments to understand the concrete terms by which this area of Southern Italy got involved in the unification: the political struggle matured around 1848, the experience of exile after the failure of the revolutions of 1848 and the national myth of Garibaldi built around 1860. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between the lower middle class (especially artisans and small traders) and the national cause, that reveals some mechanisms of full but often complex and conflictual participation.