Popular Legitimism and the Land Question. Repertoires of Contention in Capitanata, 1860-61
The present paper offers an insight into the behaviour of people who took part in booth reactionary and land protests which took place in Northern Apulia since August 1860. Such a comparative analysis allows us to observe the difference between the objectives and the dynamics of those two forms of collective action. While the people who was demanding the access to agricultural resources did not show any kind of legitimistic politicization, the reactionary riots were characterised by standard repertoires of contention caused by the diffusion of a legitimistic political culture among the populace. Many peasants considered king Francis II as the legitimate head of a traditional political and economic order based on justice and religion, subverted rst by the liberal transformation of the Kingdom of Two-Sicilies in June 1860, then by its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy. The performances of reactionary riots can be interpreted not as a form of class struggle against landlords, but as rites of passage aimed at restoring that order. The existence of this legitimistic ideology among the lower classes leads to reconsider the problem of the spontaneity of the popular reactionary commitment, which, despite the organizational involvement of the élite in the revolts, can hardly be denied.
Keywords: Repertoires of contention; Popular legitimism; Rural protest.