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Latifundia in Northern and Southern Italy

by | Cultural subjects

The latifundium in Southern Italy had an impressive duration: it was abolished only in 1950 by the Riforma Agraria (agrarian reform).

This system was characterized by a poor agriculture, extensive and mostly single-crop (grain, olive trees…). It was very different from the agriculture of the Northern Italy, that was more rational, intensive and diversified.

What was the reason for this difference?

The feudal institution in the North was regulated by the iure Longobardorum, estabilishing that the estate was not to be considered as an indivisible unit: it was not inherited only by the firstborn (which was the one aquiring the peerage), but it was shared among all male feudatory heirs. As a consequence, the large estates ended up to disappear within a few generations. Small properties  preferred more evoluted crops, with remarkable advantages for the economy of the Country.

On the contrary, in the South the institution was regulated by the iure Francorum, that considered the feud as indivisible and inheritable only from firstborn to firstborn. It could be sold or bought only if “entire”. In this contex the introduction of better and more efficient cultivation methods was not possible, also because the usi civici (right of common) had to be preserved (pasture, sowing, gleaning…).

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