The Sardinian Proscenium

Sardinia has almost always occupied the elliptical proscenium of Mediterranean history;

Ancient Roots

Vasco De Cet - October 2011

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An Amphitheatre of Time

al centro della scenaAndalusia, Murcia, Valencia and Catalonia; Aquitania, Midì, the Languedoc and Provence with the Principality of Monaco; Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio with the Holy See, Campania and Calabria; Sicily with the Strait and the Channel that opens up the road to the East via Malta and the Ionian, the Aegean, the Libyan Coast, Medina, Gabes, Sfax, Mahdia, Monastir, Sousse, Nebeul; the gulf of Tunis, Bizerte, Beja and Jendouba; le 14 coastal wilaya (provinces) of Algeria and the Moroccan regions of Oujda with the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Taza-Al Hoceima-Taounate and Tangier; Gibraltar; the Balearics: Sardinia embodies this historical, natural, geographical, economic, political and military scenario in its scars, wounds that are still open on the land, the language, in the character of its people and in its history.

History is laid down in layers on the Island-Continent; it is everywhere: in people and in things; it is so rich; it is jagged, like a large part of the coastline; it is tormented like the western coast, beaten by the sea that has increased its strength in the Gulf of Lion - between Spain, France and North Africa - pushed along by the Mistral winds that bring the air gathered up in Europe and the Atlantic here from the Rhone Valley.

Sardinia has almost always occupied the elliptical proscenium of Mediterranean history.

Ancient roots, Shardana

Dolmen, menhir, domus de janas and items found tell the story of the pre-Nuragic sapiens civilisation (14000 B.C.-1600 B.C).

Tombs, sacred wells, villages, more than 70,000 nuraghes, documents, weapons, items and art all tell the story of an advanced and sophisticated civilisation of navigators, warriors, farmers and shepherds who had relations with Mycenae, the Phoenicians and the Etruscans. The Nuragic people, the  “Shardana” (Sardians) were also pirates and mercenaries, fought the Egyptians, served them and it has been proven that they reached the coasts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Probably of Semitic origin, they reached the island around 1600 B.C. from the coastal regions (today Syria and Palestine) of Asia

Minor (now the Middle East); they spoke an Indo-European language similar to Latin; like the late pre-Historic Sardinians, they worshipped a single god with Israelite characters called Yahwhé. According to an accredited theory, Nuragic civilisation may be at the root of the myth of Atlantis, destroyed by a flood after one of the seaquakes that hit the Mediterranean in ancient times; it is perhaps no coincidence that the Greeks called the Nuragic people and the Etruscans by the same name:  Tirsenoy.


Carthage, Rome and the cities

The Nuragic civilisation progressively declined during first Carthaginian and then the Roman dominion. By occupying the coasts, the emerging powers pushed the Nuragic people inland were traces of their culture can still be found.

The Phoenicians, who were present on the island from 700-900 B.C., had a peaceful and trade relations with the Sardinians; the Carthaginians, on the other hand, immediately saw Sardinia as a place that they intended to colonise. Around 535 B.C. the Sardinians fought back against the first Carthaginian attempt to overtake them; the coastal Phoenician settlements became towns, but fell under the cultural and economic supremacy of the North-African civilisation; Karalis (Cagliari), Solki (Sant’Antioco), Bosa ,Tharros, Bithia (Chia), Neapolis (Santa Maria di Nabui), Cornus (Cuglieri), Nora, and Otocha (Santa Giusta) all sprang up.

The Romans ruled Sardinia from the beginning of 200 B.C., after sharing dominion with Carthage for a short time and after more than one battle. They put down several revolts, imposing Roman authority and also founded cities such as Turris Libisonis (Porto Torres) at the western mount of the strait to the north and Forum Traiani (Fordongianus) along the road that joined the north with the south. In this period, Olbia, that was already an important city for the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, enjoyed a period of new importance and vitality. Streets, town centres and public works characterised Roman dominion, which made Sardinia one of its great granaries and lent the final layout to the Sardinian language with Latin.

The cosmopolitan vocation

Modern Sardinian, which is a Romance language, has two different variations: Logudorese in the centre and north and Campidanese in the south. There are also Sardinian “dialects”: Arborense spoken in the central-western area, Barbaricino in the area around Nuoro (the type of Loguodorese that is closest to the original) and Ogliastrino in the central-eastern area; Gallurese, spoken in the north-east is a variation of the southern Corsican dialect; Sassarese spoken in the north-west reflects the communal, merchant history of the city and is a mix between Logudorese that it lives alongside, Corsican, Tuscan and also with Catalan, Spanish and Ligurian influences. In Carloforte, on the island of San Pietro, a dialect known as Tabarchino is spoken, which is an ancient dialect with Ligurian roots; in Alghero there is a hybrid variation of Catalan and some dialect idioms from the provinces of Girona, Barcelona and the Balearics are used. In Arborea, where it was founded and in Oristano area of Campidano, the Venetian dialect is disappearing, which was introduced by immigration for the reclamation of the swamp areas in the first half of the 20th century; in Fertilia a hybrid Venetian-Friuli dialect is slowly dying out, which was brought to the island by a flow of immigrants from Istria and Dalmatia after the Second World War and was added to a Ferrara dialect that was already present in the area before the war. In Isili, in the Sarcidano area, between Campidano and Barbagia, a form of the language based on Gypsy slang, probably brought by craftsmen and travelling sellers of copperware, is disappearing.

Ricchezza

Exploitation of the mines, that began in about 6000 B.C. With Obsidian on Monte Arci, was added to around 3000 B.C. With the extraction of metals, that was continued and developed by the Nuragic people and then by the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, especially in the Iglesias area; in Roman times mining became intensive in other areas too, such as Sarrabus in the south- east and using forced labour and slaves as well as miners, the so-called “metallari”. As the Empire declined, the mining industry also suffered; whole extraction areas were abandoned, and were then rediscovered several centuries later.

Vandals

At the start of the 4th century (400 A.D.), pushed by the combined effect of the Huns from the north-east and Roman resistance in central-northern Italy, the Vandals from Central Europe had reached and entered Gaul (France) and Spain; from here they managed to occupy North Africa, travelled through Sicily and then Sardinia, and took the island from the Romans. In the second half of the 4th century, the Vandals sent African exiles to the island, including a group of Mauritanian warriors; they were settled in Forum Traiani (Fordingianus) to fight the inland population that were resisting their new rulers; only after the end of Vandal rule, dedicated to banditry and sacking, they spread around the island and moved southwards too.

Byzantium

After Vandal rule that lasted 80 years, the Byzantines took over, in 534 A.D. The new rulers also brought Christianity with them, even to the inner regions of the island, with the pact between Zabarda, the dux of Pope Gregory the Great and Hospito, the leader of Barbària (now Barbagia) that remained irredentist during Byzantine rule. Byzantine cultural and religious influence was intense, in customs, traditions, art, architecture and political structures; an influence that still can be seen in traces that are mixed with pre-existing heritage.

 

 

Medieval Splendour

The Byzantine political-administrative division survived the progressivediminishing of Imperial rule, also caused by the growing Arab influence in the Mediterranean. Towards the end of the 9th century A.D., Sardinia - that was first a Duchy of the Esarchate of Africa and then Arcontea directly dependent on Constantinople - moved towards autonomy from the Empire and the Giudicati were created, on the traces of the various parts of that same empire.

The Sardinian political culture at the end of the first millennium A.D. Was different to the one that matured on the European coastlines in the same period; Roman law was its main reference; the island remained without feudalism for this reason, that only arrived with Catalan rule from 1400 A.D.

The Giudicati were real sovereign states that were not totally free from the feudal systems that were dominant on the continent. They were rather modern in many ways and their experience is equal to that of the municipalities that characterised central-northern Italy and Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Important municipal experiences also combined in Sardinia with Giudicato experience, especially in Sassari and Villa di Chiesa (Iglesias) that, with Alghero, Cagliari, Oristano, Bosa and other towns, kept their distance from the feudal models introduced by the Aragon rulers even several centuries after the end of the Giudicati.

There were 4 Giudicati: Cagliari (Santa Igia, i.e. Santa Gilla), Arborea (Tharros, later Oristano), Torres (Porto Torres, later Ardara and lastly Sassari) and Gallura (Civita, i.e. Olbia and Luogosanto). While they maintained a common Byzantine and institutional matrix, they differed from one another in their political habits, culture and sophistication in the courts, power, wealth etc. Initially there was also a small Giudicato, that of Agugliastra (Ogliastra), that was soon absorbed by the Cagliari Giudicato.

The Giudicato monarchy was a mix or hereditary and elected and based its legitimacy on consent from the “Crowns”, a kind of parliament that carried out public government and justice functions alongside the Giudice. The institutions were complex, balanced and subsidiary. The State assets were separated from the Giudice's private ones and that of the aristocrats. The condition of citizens and servants, property, the use of land and public domain, civil and penal law were regulated in an extremely advanced way for the period.

People from Pisa and Genoa had come to Sardinia when they fought off the invasion of the Prince of the Balearics Mujiahid, who was loyal to the Caliph of Cordoba in 1015-1016 A.D. It was the last real battle, after almost three centuries of Arabic pressure that the Sardinians fought with alternating events. There were several other raids over a long period, but the geo-political pendulum was now swinging elsewhere.

The Giudicato of Cagliari fell into the hands of Pisa in the mid-13th century A.D. The Torres Giudicato was divided up between the Genoese families of Doria and Malaspina in the same period. The Giudicato of Gallura, controlled by the Pisans from the beginning of 1200 A.D. ceased to exist more or less at the same time as the Cagliari one. The Aragons and the Giudicato of Arborea took advantage of these events by taking the territory, and only ceased to exist two centuries later.

The Giudicato of Arborea vehemently opposed the Aragon ambition to dominate the whole island, based on the call-back of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica by the Pope to cede it to the King of Aragon, further to a pledge of feudalism and annual payment, as part of a treaty aimed at the balance between the Anjou and the Aragon dynasties in Sicily after the Vespers.

The first phase of the Giudicato era can be dated between 900 and 1250 A.D.; the second phase, that only involved the Giudicato of Arborea as a protagonist, from the mid 13th century (1250 A.D.) to 1420 A.D.

The Sardinian Giudicato

When,in 1297, Boniface VIII granted the Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica to the King of Aragon, he ignored the other powers already on the island: the Giudicato of Arborea, that had survived the other three; the Municipality of Sassari, the Genoese Doria family in the north, the Pisan domains in Cagliari, Villa di Chiesa and in Gallura.

For this reason, the Aragons considered the Giudici of Arborea to be vassals, who instead considered themselves to be legitimate sovereigns of the island. In this different reciprocal vision (equal for the Sardinians, subordinate for the Aragonese) the different institutional culture of the two houses and the inherent independent trait of the Sardinians carry weight. The King of Aragon, i.e. The Count of Catalonia, conferred several titles and lands to the Giudicato family to the point he made Hugh II, the grandfather of the future Giudicessa Eleonora, the Viscount of Bas, raising him to the noble hierarchy of the Catalan kingdom; he did it to mark the vassalage of the Giudice and to ensure loyalty in the fight to conquer “his Sardinian kingdom” against the Marine Republics; on the other hand, Hugh II accepted the Iberian mix to take advantage of the Aragonese military power for himself, in order to liberate his island from Ligurian and Tuscan invaders.

When Hugh II still reigned, his son Mariano was granted the title of Count of Goceano (centre-north/Tirso; Bono, Benetutti, Bultei, Nule, Burgos, Bottidda, Illorai, etc.) and of Marmilla (centre- south/giare) by the King of Aragon; in this way, he made him his vassal for the island areas of the Sardinian-Corsica Kingdom that were not formally part of the Giudicato; Mariano immediately distinguished himself through an illuminated, far-sighted vision of agricultural, political and military organisation of his lands. He took over the Giudicato when his older brother Peter III died without descendants and he immediately wanted to stem the Catalan aims on Sardinia.

Having chased away the Marine Republics from Sardinia, the problems with the Aragonese came to the fore; in spite of their family ties, Mariano IV therefore inverted the paternal politics of alliance with the Iberian court and a fight was inevitable, bloody and very long: more than 90 years. Together with his son Hugh, Mariano conducted several military operations by sea and land, limiting the Aragon presence to Cagliari and Alghero and extending his powers to almost all the rest of the island; by trading the corn from his kingdom shrewdly and cynically throughout the Mediterranean, he accumulated great wealth that he used to fund his war campaigns without any difficulty.

He diffused the Rural Code; he was in touch with great characters of his time along all the shores of the sea that surrounds the island.

In the second half of 1300 A.D., his eldest son Hugh III, the elder brother of Eleonora, succeeded him, whose mother was a Catalan aristocratic woman, Timbora of Roccabertì; Hugh III married a noble woman from Viterbo and had a daughter and continued the independent policies of his father, also in law and military areas; however, he did not manage to have a good relationship with the Sardinian aristocracy, who struck up a revolt against him, during which he was killed, along with his daughter, the future Giudicessa.

It is a possibility that it was his own sister who ordered his assassination, taking advantage of the circumstances.“Removed” from Sardinia by her brother who suspected her of “intelligence” with the Aragonese, due to her clear dynastic ambitions, she perhaps plotted with her husband, Brancaleone Doria, from Genoa, who recognised her two sons, even though actual paternity of the second son cannot be attributed to him. Although a vassal of the Count of Catalonia, he had married the future Giudicessa on inspiration from Mariano IV as an anti-Aragon move, as the Doria family had large estates in the north of the island. Hugh III took them from him, but the ascent of Eleonora gave back control over their Sardinian estates to the Doria family.

In 1383, a Republic was proclaimed in Sardinia after the revolt, but which confirmed the legislative systems that Mariano IV and Hugh III had introduced.

Eleonora

Eleonora asked the King of Aragon – who was nominally appointed the head of the kingdom - to recognise the succession of her son to the Giudicato; the Aragonese nobleman Peter the Ceremonious was reigning over Catalonia, and he refused, fearing the power of this family linked in two ways to Genoa, who in a single strike had gained control over 2/3 of the island and took Brancaleone hostage whohad come to court to receive lands, noble titles and negotiate the sending of a fleet to support the restoration of his wife's Giudicato monarchy. Eleonora arrived in Oristano, however, paid her dues with the aristocratic insurgents and proclaimed herself regent on behalf of her eldest son Federico; she always signed her government papers as Giudicessa, however, also because the Salic law was not in effect in Sardinia.

The second child of Mariano IV, the Giudicessa was a creditor of the Doge of Genoa for a large amount; the latter's daughter was promised in marriage to her son Federico. This agreement sealed the geopolitical and economic interests of the Sardinian Giudicato and those of the Marine Republic. Eleonora was therefore already a part of the Mediterranean and European political dynamics and was an ally of Ligurian powers through economic and marriage connections

Eleonora was a true Queen. Her reign gained legitimacy from consent, as was common use in Sardinia. She governed with determination, wisdom and good measure and knew how to combat Aragonese ambition with shrewd efficacy, patience, strength and cynicism, expanding the power of her Giudicato to almost the entire island. She signed a treaty of peace with the Aragonese, transferring large estates to them to obtain recognition of her legitimacy and the liberation of her husband; she disregarded the agreements, however, preparing an army that was lead by Brancaleone and recovered a large part of what she had transferred. She cultivated the seed of Sardinian independent culture that had been planted by Barisone I, taking up her father’s and brother’s testimony, who had inherited it in turn from the first King of Sardinia invested in 1164 A.D. by Federico Barbarossa – not by the Pope – who tried in vain to join the Giudicati together. However, with the exception of Arborea, they were under Pisan, Genoese and Catalan influence.

The Carta de Logu

In 1215 the King of England, John Lackland, was forced to grant the Magna Charta Libertatum; the Carta, that is considered to be the embryo of recognising man’s universal rights is, however, a kind of “contract” between the monarch and his Barons; to the contrary, the Carta de Logu, which Eleonora wanted almost two centuries later, has a constitutional “feel” and is one of the first documents of this type.

In 1342, two years after Eleonora’s birth, 41 years before her regency, 5 years before her father Mariano IV ascended to the Giudicato throne, 50 years before proclamation of the Carta de Logu and a century and a half after the Magna Carta, another feisty aristocratic woman - Contessa Margherita Maultasch di Tirolo-Gorizia (1318-1369) – had proclaimed a statute in Alto- Adige that provided for political representation, created an autonomous, public administrative and legal system, expanded personal liberties and regulated property, recognising the right for peasants too, while intervening in the organisation of mining, justice and trade.

Eleonora proclaimed the Carta de Logu in 1392, when her second son, Mariano V Doria was about to ascend to the Giudicato throne, succeeding his brother Federico (like Barbarossa) who had died before adult age.

The Charter gathered together and updated the orders and rural code of Eleonora’s father and brother, added some Byzantine-style legal orders and acknowledged aspects of Sardinian municipal law (such as the Breve di Villa di Chiesa and the Sassari Statutes) and that of Central Italy; it also included elements of Catalan and Canonic law and adapted it all to local customs; It had a surprisingly anticipatory effect at the end of the Middle Ages, introducing the certainty of law, the public nature of laws and private property, by deed. It defined penal civil, procedural and rural law, approved two degrees of appeal and trial guarantees, protected women, addressed usury practices, anticipated the modern nature of the State, government and justice, regulated family law and inheritance, preceded the principle of erga omnes, addressed the matter of fires with an amazing similarity to current laws.

Eleonora governed as Giudicessa and regent between 1383 and 1392 A.D. with realism but actually remained in power until her death in 1404 A.D.

The Giudicato of Arborea finally succumbed 11 years after the battle of Sanluri in 1409 A.D., when the last Giudice of Arborea transferred it to Aragon for 100,000 gold florins, putting an end to an era of extraordinary cultural, judicial, economic and political splendour that left a timeless bequest.

The Carta de Logu, which was acknowledged, confirmed and extended to the whole island by the Aragons after the end of the Giudicato, at the beginning of 1400 A.D., remained in force in Sardinia until the Code of Charles Felix - over 4 centuries later - replaced it in 1827, seven years after the Edict of Chiudende that overturned the rural laws. The Carta de Logu included many traits of Island culture on which it had a deep effect for a long time, where it regulated communities and is the link with all periods of history and civilisations prior to the Giudicato.

Exploitation

With the Byzantines, Sardinia began to export metals again, especially silver, until the threats from Saracen pirates and the decline of the Eastern empire made it difficult. After the Giudicati were created, after the Byzantine Empire imploded, Pisa - which ruled a large part of the island according to their treaty with Genoa, promoted by Benedict XIII - started up mining again, in particular with Ugolino della Gherardesca, Count of Donoratico who ruled the south of the island. Pisa abandoned Sardinia after the defeat at the hands of the alliance between the Giudicato of Arborea and the Kingdom of Aragon, leading to an interruption in the flow of silver to the Marine Republic, something that played a considerable part in its decline. During Spanish domination, mining was only a minor activity, in spite of efforts made.

The Spanish Decline

The Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica, created by Pope Boniface VIII for the Aragons but never actually formed, only actually came about after the last Giudicato fell, almost a century after it was created. While Europe moved towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Aragonese systems and their oppressive politics threw Sardinia back in time, after the breath of modernity and splendour that had distinguished it. The King of Aragon continuously tried to bring the Sardinians and Corsicans to submission, but the conflict was always latent and emerged explicitly in Sardinia almost immediately, in 1470 A.D., with Leonardo de Alagon, a lord who had just succeeded to his unbowed uncle, the Marquis of Oristano Salvatore Cubello in the realm of Arborea and Goceano, that the Crown directly aspired to. Leonardo challenged the Catalan Viceroy to Uras and defeated him; 8 years later, in the battle of Macomer, the Aragon troops were triumphant over Leonardo, and removed his estates, imprisoning him in Spain where he died many years later. Spanish rule was always objected to and was unproductive for the island overall, even after the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon with Isabella of Castile that had joined together the Iberian kingdoms.

Savoy

The Kingdom of Sardinia came into the hands of the house of Savoy by means of the Treaty of London in 1718 A.D., after the Spanish wars of succession that had marked the beginning of the century and a three-year period of Hasburg interregnum. The Savoy King Amadeus II carried out a fierce repression and his troops occupied the island. His successor, Charles Emanuel III, who released the Tabarchini (fisherman and fish traders who had established themselves on a small island close to the north-African coast in 1540 A.D:, and entered into conflict with Bey di Tunis) giving them the Island of San Pietro, did not make substantial changes to the feudal set- up of the island and didn’t promote change in the island dwellers’ living conditions. Like his successors, however, he increased fiscal pressure and exploited Sardinian resources.

La Maddalena, which was inhabited from Prehistoric times, was known to the Greeks, was a crossroads for sea traffic in in Roman times, was the setting for battles between the Saracens and Marine Republics and was the location of Benedictine settlements, was not included in the Treaty of London regardless of its strategic importance; it was therefore a no man’s land for about 50 years. It was inhabited by a colony of Corsican shepherds from 1600 A.D. The Savoys took control in 1767, under an agreement with the island dwellers; this explains the loyalty shown by the Maddalena community to the Savoy king during the war against Revolutionary France. At the end of the century, Andrea de Geneys founded the Savoy War Navy, the Marina Sarda, in La Maddalena, which was the forerunner of the Italian Military Navy; the island progressively became an important naval base, first for the Savoy-Piedmont kingdom and then for Italy.


The second island in the La Maddalena archipelago, Caprera, became the home, of Giuseppe Garibaldi, where he also retired, died and was buried.

In the second half of the century, the Sardinians had begun to rebel against the Savoy rulers more frequently and efficiently. They were increasingly supported politically and intellectually, especially after the French Revolution, in 1789 A.D.

In 1793 A.D., while La Maddalena resisted pressure from the French, the latter occupied Sant’Antioco and Carloforte, setting up a system with a Republican and Illuminist air; they attacked Cagliari, but were defeated and pushed away by Sardinian resistance, that had been fooled by a clever propaganda campaign of the clergy and the aristocrats who were loyal to the crown.

After these events, the Sardinian aristocracy called for autonomy and representation in the Piedmont kingdom, but was buttered up and disappointed.

In 1794 A.D. The cities and countryside rose up, Piedmont generals were killed, while kingdom officials and the viceroy himself were imprisoned and crushed. Sassari and the Logudoro feuds asked for freedom from Cagliari and wanted to depend directly on Turin. The revolt expanded against the feudal system. The situation was turbulent and violent until Christmas 1795, when the rebel forces took Sassari.

Giovanni Maria Angioy

Sent by the viceroy with full powers to put down the revolt, he was however sensitive to the Illuminist culture and recognised the emerging unification of the social classes that had been excluded up to that point from political power. He heard their complaints, and was welcomed as a liberator, gaining support everywhere.

He was welcomed as a liberator in Sassari too; this is the reason why it was not necessary for him to use the large military force that he gathered together along the road from Cagliari to defeat the rebels.

Once the island was at peace again, he tried to start up emancipation of the feuds and to release the Sardinian people, also coming entering into combat with the House of Savoy; he was, however, defeated. He was progressively abandoned by his companions and the aristocrats who had supported him. His powers were revoked and he was hunted down.

He managed to escape to France, where he still dreamt of the idea of making Sardinia a freer land. He worked for this ideal, even convincing Napoleon - the First Consul - to organise and send troops, that never left, however, but because it was distracted by a revolt in Corsica.

He died in France; and with him a crucial occasion for the Sardinian people was also lost.

The King in Sardinia

The Savoy King took refuge in Sardinia after the French occupation of Piedmont in 1799 A.D.; he remained there until 1814 A.D., when Napoleon was finally beaten.

The Edict of Chiudende

After returning to his land after taking refuge in Sardinia in the early 19th century, the Piedmont King Victor Emanuel I lent the final blow to Sardinian economy with the Edict of Chiudende in 1820 A.D. In fact, with this provision he authorised anyone to fence off and take control of the lands that were traditionally considered to be a collective resource. The strongest economic subjects, such as the landholders and the Piedmont family themselves, took advantage of the edict, overturning one of the hinges of Sardinian rural and legal culture, which had even survived the period of Aragon rule.

Ravenous appetite

In response to the numerous attempts at revolt, always put down in bloody solutions, and at the attempts to gain independence and autonomy, that continued for the entire 19th century, the Piedmont rulers always contrasted by showing a ravenous interest for the island's resources, including the intensive deforestation of the island that the land still bears witness to today

When the House of Savoy took over the Kingdom of Sardinia, mining had once again started up, but the Savoy monarchy initially entrusted the industry to foreigners (English, German and Swedish miners). In the mid 19th century, once the old concessions had expired and new mining legislation had come into force, several companies with Sardinian, Ligurian and Piedmont capital invested in the island, and had various degrees of fortune. Thanks to an analysis carried out by Quintino Sella (1868-71) – a mining engineer - the Sardinian mines became the subject of more attention - as they had already been more productive for thirty years - from the Savoy rulers during the period of Italian unification; “intelligence” with foreign capital also fed new appetites for the Island’s wealth in this period too. Thus a period of great production began, with the mining areas expanding and with new immigration from various regions of the newly- founded Kingdom of Italy. However, this was not accompanied by a recognition of miners’ rights to good living and working conditions and their emancipation from the companies granted mining concessions.

The “imperfect” union

In 1847 A.D. The Albertine came into effect in Sardinia as a result of the so-called “perfect union (or merger)” between the Piedmont Kingdom and the island, replacing the Code of Charles Felix that had remained in force for about 20 years after the abrogation of the Carta de Logu.  

The historical values of the island were thus obliterated. There would be no more discontinuity between the fortunes of the Piedmont Kingdom, the Kingdom of Italy and Sardinia.

The first general strike in Italy

At the start of the 20th century, the trade union movement was affected by deep divisions that clearly emerged in April 1904, at the Socialist Congress. In that year, there had been several strikes in Sardinia; the miners of Monteponi, Montevecchio, Lula, San Benedetto, San Giovanni Ingrostu, the stone cutters of Villasimius and La Maddalena, the tanners of Sassari and Bosa had gone on strike to make their claims. On 3rd September the miners in Buggerru deserted the mineshafts, causing work to be interrupted in the surface plants too. The French concessionary company would not hear their requests and asked the Italian government for help, that sent two companies of soldiers. There was disorder and the Italian king’s soldiers fired on the unarmed crowd to defend the French company’s interests. 3 people died and several others were injured, one of whom died a month later. In spite of the bloody price paid, work went back to normal ob torto collo, with little advantage for the miners. The national reaction, however, was not late in coming; there were lively, never-heard-of general strikes among labourers all over, even in Switzerland. The Chamber of Labour in Milan proposed it and during a memorable crowded meeting, held in the courtyard of the schools in Porta Romana, the crowd called for a national strike. There were protests and disorder in several parts of Italy, with more dead and wounded. Tension grew and the Socialists overcame fears, divisions and hesitation, proclaiming the first general strike in the history of Italy. For 5 days, the whole of Italy was affected by a movement of indignant protest by workers and peasants over the despicable, vile bloodshed of Sardinian miners.

The Sardinian “Short Century”

The first half of the 20th century was marked by deep economic depression, depopulation, the onset of a new kind of banditry as a reaction to the condition that a foreign state, oppressor, that was distant, short-sighted and deaf had condemned the communities to, and by the enormous contribution of lives to the two world wars.

The Sardinian yearning for self-determination continued to spring up throughout the century, however, in literature and culture or in the new political ferment that gave rise to the political party Partito Sardo d’Azione between the two world wars and the Statute of Autonomy parallel to the Republic being founded. The 20th century saw the birth of illustrious personalities in politics and culture, who were Sardinians, but also of national and international fame.

During the Fascist twenty-year rule, a new season of agriculture, reclamation and mining in the Sulcis – for coal, with the founding of Carbonia and its original rationalist and social architectural nature, gave a new spurt to the economy, bringing with it new immigration.

Throughout the entire century, a considerable political and trade union conscience took shape on the island, that was also filled with culture, as expressed by several important personalities. .

Agriculture and sheep-farming became more popular.

After the 2nd World War, malaria was beaten, but the easement for military purposes was born, so was industrialisation with its controversial fruit as well as a new type of banditry; metal and coal extraction slowly died out due to the fact the seams were exhausted or because they had become too expensive to mine; there are, however, still rich gold mines in Sardinia. Tourism became a huge source of wealth and employment, but also brought with it the dangers of construction that accompany it. The autonomist and independent culture found new life in an often modern key.

Independence and autonomy

From the Nuragic era to the Statute of Autonomy (1948 A.D.) the Sardinian people have been independent in alternate periods for about 1400 years; they have also been subjected to control by emerging powers in the various eras for a total of 2150 years. Sardinia is now a part of the Italian State, but enjoys a special regime of autonomy.


In 21st century European scene, and through the Mediterranean ferment of the beginning of the third millennium, in a global amphitheatre, Sardinia has been measuring itself with a deep change in the economy, with new challenges for socio-cultural integration and with a new yearning for autonomy, so as the Sardinian adventure continues, as always, front stage.


Special thanks go to Marta, Chiara and Carlo who were patient and kind enough to review this work

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