History runs through the make up of this large island. It is everywhere: in people and in objects; it is very rich; it is as fragmented as much of its coastline, and ravaged as much as the western coast, after it had been assaulted by the sea when it had been strengthened in the Gulf of Lion (which lies between Spain, France and North Africa) and driven by the mistral wind which comes from Europe, the Rhone Valley and the Atlantic.
Ancient roots and the Shardanas (sea warriors of Sardinia)
Dolmen, menhirs, domus de janas and other finds tell of a pre-nuragic sapiens civilization (1400 -1600 BC).
Tombs, sacred wells, villages, over 7,000 nuraghes, writings, weapons, artifacts and artistic works tell of a refined and advanced civilization of sailors, warriors, farmers and shepherds who had links with Mycenae, the Phoenicians, the Etruscans. The "Shardana" (Sea Warriors) nuragics were also pirates and mercenaries who both fought with the Egyptians and served alongside them and it is proven that they reached the coasts of sub-Saharan Africa. Probably of Semitic origin, they came to the island around 1600 BC from the coastal regions (today Syria and Palestine) of Asia Minor (today Middle East) They spoke an Indo-European language similar to Latin, and, like the late prehistoric Sardinians, they worshipped a single divinity (with Israeli characteristics) called Yahwhé. According to an accredited theory, the Nuragic civilization could be at the root of the myth of Atlantis, destroyed by the flood following one of the tsunamis that occurred in the Mediterranean in antiquity; perhaps it is no coincidence that the Greeks called Nuragics and Etruscans by the same name: Tirsenoy.
Carthage, Rome and cities
The Nuragic civilization was gradually absorbed first into Carthaginian dominion, and then into that of Rome. Occupying the coastal areas, the new powers pushed the Nuragics towards the hinterland where traces of their culture still survive.
The Phoenicians were present on the island from 700-900 BC and had peaceful and mutually beneficial relations with the Sardinians. The Carthaginians, however, straightaway looked at Sardinia with a view to colonisation. Around 535 BC the Sardinians repulsed the first attempt at Carthaginian conquest, so the Phoenician coastal settlements became cities, but were influenced culturally and economically by North Africa. Karalis (Cagliari), Solki (Sant’Antioco), Bosa, Tharros, Bithia (Chia), Neapolis (Santa Maria di Nabui), Cornus (Cuglieri), Nora, Otocha (Santa Giusta) also had an influencing role.
The Romans dominated Sardinia from the beginning of 200 BC, after sharing its dominion with Carthage for some time and engaging in more than one conflict. They stifled numerous revolts and also founded cities, such as Turris Libisonis (Porto Torres) on the western entrance of the strait to the north and Forum Traiani (Fordongianus) along the road that connected the north with the south. During this period Olbia, which had already been a city of note for both the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, underwent a period of new found importance and regeneration. Roads, urban centers and public works marked the domination of Rome, which made Sardinia one of its “grain stores” and street Latin was absorbed into to the Sardinian language.
Contemporary Sardinian is a Romance language characterized by two variations: the Logudorese – spoken in Central and North Sardinia – and the Campidanes – spoken in Southern Sardinia. There are also a few “dialects”: the Arborense, spoken in the central-western area, Barbacino, used in the area surrounding Nuoro (similar to the original Logudorese) and Ogliastrino, typical of the central-eastern region. Gallurese, spoken in northeastern Sardinia, is a variation of a South Corsica dialect, the Sassarese, spoken in northwestern Sardinia reflects the municipal and mercantile history of the city and is a mixture of Logudorese, the language spoken in the closest area, Corsican and Tuscan dialect with Catalan, Spanish and Ligurian influences. The dialect spoken in Carloforte, the town in San Pietro island, is Tabarchino, an archaic dialect with Ligurian origins. In Alghero, the spoken language is a variation of Catalan combined with dialects from the provinces of Girona, Barcelona and the Balearics. In Arborea – a new town founded in 1928 – and in Campidano di Oristano – a sub-region in Western Sardinia – the Venetian dialect – which started spreading in Sardinia as a result of the immigration related to marsh reclamation which occurred in mid-18th century - is slowly disappearing just like in Fertilia, where the Venetian-Friulian dialect which was brought about by an immigration flow of Istrian and Dalmatian origins which, after World War II, combined with a dialect of Ferrara origins which was spoken in the area before the war. In Isili, in the Sarcidano area between Campidano and Bargagia, a dialect of gipsy origin, probably brought from artisans and street vendors of copper artifacts, is slowly disappearing.
The exploitation of mineral resources started around 6,000 BC - with the extraction of obsidian from Mount Arci. Around 3000 BC mineral mining was combined with metal extraction, continued and developed first by the Nuragic civilization and then by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, especially in the area surrounding the city of Iglesias. During the Roman period, metal extraction was also developed in other areas including the Sarrabus region (Southeastern Sardinia) thanks to the work of the then called “metallari” (metal miners) and to the exploitation of slaves and forced labourers. Concomitant with the empire’s decline, mining activity too, suffered from recession, and entire mines were abandoned to be reused many centuries later.
All’inizio del IV secolo (400 d.c.),
In the early 5th century AD, forced by the pressure from the Huns coming from the north east and by the Roman resistance in central and northern Italy, the Vandals from Central Europe overran Gaul (France) and Spain. They then occupied North Africa and landed in Sicily first and, having ejected the Romans, in Sardinia next. In the second half of the 5th century AD, the Vandals brought exiled African people to the island, including a group of Mauritanian warriors, who were settled in Forum Traiani (Fordingianus) to fight against the inland population which was trying to resist the new invaders. At the end of the Vandal dominion, this group of warriors – who over the years turned into looters and brigands – scattered throughout the island including Southern Sardinia.
After the occupation by the Vandals (their rule lasted 80 years), in 534 AD Sardinia became a province of the Byzantine Empire. The new rule soon led to the conversion to Christianity including those living inland on the island. The conversion was established by a treaty signed by Zabarda, a Byzantine dux (Latin for “leader”), Pope Gregory the Great, and Ospitone, the head of Barbària (the current Barbagia), a region that was unconverted during the Byzantine dominion. The Byzantine culture and religion influenced significantly the tradition, art, architecture and political structures of Sardinia. The Byzantine influence, combined with preexisting heritages, is still very clear today in modern Sardinia.
The Byzantine political-administrative division survived the progressive decline of the imperial dominion, caused also by the increasing Arab influence in the Mediterranean area. In late 9th century AD, Sardinia – which was previously a Duchy of the Exarchate of Africa (the Exarchate of Africa was a division of the Byzantine Empire) and then an Archontate depending directly on Constantinople - moved towards independence from the Empire giving life to the Sardinian Judicates, Giudicati, era, based on the old island’s political-administrative structure.
The Sardinian political culture between late 10th century and early 11th century AD differed from that developed in the same period in mainland Europe. The island was regulated by Roman law and for this reason feudalism did not develop in Sardinia until the Catalan rule in 1400 AD.
The Judicates were sovereign states which somehow were influenced by the feudal forms common in the European continent. A landowning aristocracy, different from that typical of feudalism, started gaining ground. The Judicates were, for many aspects, rather modern states and their experience is similar to that of the Communes which in the Middle Age characterized Central and Northern Italy and Western Europe. Important experiences of the communes intertwined in Sardinia with those of the Judicates, especially Sassari and Villa di Chiesa (Iglesias) which, alongside Alghero, Cagliari, Oristano, Bosa and other cities – many years after the end of the Judicates – remained distant from the feudalism models introduced by Aragon rule. There were 4 Judicates: Cagliari (Santa Igia, that is Santa Gilla); Arborea (Tharros, later named Oristano), Torres (Porto Torres, later named Ardara and then Sassari) and Gallura (Civita, including Olbia and Luogosanto).
Although they maintained their common Byzantine and institutional structure, they differed from one another in their political customs, the culture and elegance of their courts, power, wealth etc. Initially a small Judicate, that of Agugliastra (Ogliastra), was included in the list. It was soon absorbed by the Judicate of Cagliari.
The Judicate monarchy was a mixture of hereditary and elective monarchy. Its legitimacy was founded on the consensus of the “Corone” (crowns), public bodies which provided the functions of public government and justice alongside the Judge (the head of the Judicate). The institutions were well-structured, balanced and subsidiary. The State patrimony was separated from that of the Judge and the aristocracy. The citizens and slaves’ conditions, property, use of land and public property, the civil and penal laws were, for that era, governed in an extremely modern way.
Genoa and Pisa joined forces with Sardinia between 1015 and 1016 AD, to repulse the Mujahid’s (the Prince of the Balearic, faithful to the Caliph of Cordoba) invasion. That was the last major conflict, after Arab pressure of almost three centuries had gone to and fro and had been opposed by the Sardinians. Raids followed for quite a long time, but the focus of the political interest had moved elsewhere.
The Judicate of Cagliari fell into Pisan hands in mid-13th century AD. In the same period, the Judicate of Torres was divided between two Genoa families; the Dorias and the Malaspinas. The Judicate of Gallura, controlled by Pisans since the early 1200, disappeared more or less with that of Cagliari. The Crown of Aragon and the Judicate of Arborea – which disappeared two centuries later – took advantage of these events and expanded their territory.
The Judicate of Arborea strenuously opposed the Crown of Aragon’s ambition to rule the entire island, based on the Pope’s advocacy to cede the Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica to the King of Aragon in return for a pledge of vassalage and annual payment, as part of a treaty aimed at balancing the power of Angevins and Aragonese in Sicily, after the Vespers.
The first phase of the Judicate era occurred between 900 and 1250; the second phase, which involved only the Judicate of Arborea, spanned from mid-13th century (1250) to 1420.
The Sardinian Judicate
When in 1297 Pope Boniface VII granted the Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica to the King of Aragon, he ignored the exisiting signories (characteristic forms of government in Italy): the Judicate of Arborea, which survived the other three; the Commune of Sassari, the Genoa dominions belonging to the Doria family in Northern Sardinia and the Pisan dominions in Cagliari, Villa di Chiesa and in Gallura.
For this reason the King of Aragon viewed the Judges of Arborea – who thought of themselves as the legitimate sovereigns of the island – as vassals. The different institutional culture of the two dynasties and the independent attitude of Sardinians had an impact on their different mutual perspectives (equal for the Sardinian, subordinate for the King of Aragon). The King of Aragon, ie the Count of Catalonia, granted numerous titles and lands to the Judicate family, eventually naming Ugone II Viscount of Bas. Ugone II – the grandfather of future Giudicessa (lady Judge) Eleonora - rose to the top ranks of royalty and in doing so ensured the vassalage of the Judge and his loyalty in the struggle against the Maritime Republics.
On the other hand, Ugone II accepted the Spanish connection to take advantage of Aragon’s military power in order to free “his island” from invaders coming from Liguria and Tuscany.
Under the reign of Ugone II, the King of Aragon named Mariano – Ugone’s son - Count of Goceano (a sub-region in Center-North Sardinia including Tirso; Bono, Benetutti, Bultei, Nule, Burgos, Bottidda, Illorai, etc.) and of Marmilla (a sub-region in Center-South Sardinia including the Giares). Thus the King of Aragon made Mariano a vassal for those territories of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica which did not officially belong to the Judicate; Mariano immediately distinguished himself for his wise and forward-looking strategy in terms of agricultural, political and military organization of his lands. He became the leader of the Judicate when, his elder brother Peter III died with no descendants. Mariano, as the leader of the Judicate , immediately took the necessary measures to stem the Catalan expansionistic aims focused on Sardinia.
Having driven out the Maritime Republics from Sardinia, relationships with the Aragonese came to a head. Despite the family ties , Mariano IV distanced himself from his father’s policy, which implied alliance with the Spanish kingdom. Conflict was inevitable, and it was a bloody and long-lasting fight: over 90 years. Mariano led, alongside his son Ugone, many military operations both on land and sea, containing the Aragon presence in just Cagliari and Alghero and expanding his dominion throughout the rest of the island. Trading his kingdom’s grain wisely and cynically throughout the Mediterranean area, he amassed a huge fortune that he used to easily fund his war operations.
In the second half of the 14th century, Mariano IV was succeeded by his eldest son, Ugone III, Eleonora’s elder brother, whose mother was a Catalan noblewoman, Timbora di Roccaberti; Ugone III married an aristocratic woman from Viterbo who gave him a daughter. Ugone III continued his father’s independence policies in the juridical and military sphere. He did not succeed, however, in having a good relationship with the Sardinian upper class and this triggered an insurrection in which Ugone III and his daughter got killed.
It is not unlikely that Ugone’s sister was the one who planned the murder taking advantage of the circumstances. Eleonora, in fact, had been “asked” to leave Sardinia by her brother who suspected her to be in league with the King of Aragon given her ill-concealed dynastic ambitions. She might have plotted with her Genoese husband Brancaleone Doria who acknowledged paternity of her two sons, although he might not be the father of Eleonora’s second son. Brancaleone, despite being a vassal of the Count of Catalonia, had married Eleonora, the future Judge, on the suggestion of Mariano IV so as to oppose the King of Aragon, since the Doria family owned large properties in northern Sardinia which were later confiscated by Ugone III. With the rise of Eleonora, however, the Dorias regained their Sardinian properties.
In 1383, a revolt led to the proclamation of the Republic in Sardinia, confirming, however, the regulatory systems introduced by Mariano IV and Ugone III.
Eleonora asked the King of Aragon – nominally the sovereign of the Kingdom – to recognize her son’s succession to the Judicate. The sovereign in Catalonia, Peter IV of Aragon – called the Ceremonious – rejected Eleonora’s request fearing the power of the family connected to the Genoa Republic which would have obtained the dominion of two thirds of the island. The king held hostage Brancaleone, Eleonora’s husband, who was at the king’s court to receive lands, noble insignia and to negotiate the intervention of a fleet to support the reinstatement of his wife’s judicial monarchy. Eleonora went to Oristano, reached an agreement with the aristocratic insurgent faction and proclaimed herself ruler on the behalf of her eldest son Federico, signing, however, all government acts as Giudicessa, even though the Salic law of succession (the rule by which persons descended solely through a woman from a previous sovereign, were excluded from succession to the throne) was not in force in Sardinia.
The Doge of Genoa owed the Giudicessa, the second-born daughter of Mariano IV, a large amount of money; the Doge’s daughter was engaged to Eleonora’s son Federico. This arrangement satisfied the geopolitical and economic interests of both the Sardinian Judicate and the Maritime Republic. Consequently Eleonora was already entrenched in Mediterranean and European policies and was an ally of the Genoa power through economic and family ties.
Eleonora acted as a genuine Queen. Pursuant to the Sardinian tradition, she legitimised her reign by ruling with the people’s consent. She ruled with determination and wisdom, and was able to oppose Aragon’s ambition with smart effectiveness, patience, strength and cynicism, expanding the dominion of her Judicate to almost the entire island. She signed a peace treaty with the King of Aragon, offering him large territories in order to obtain the recognition of her legitimacy and to free her husband; she then disregarded the agreement and her army, led by Brancaleone, reconquered much of the territory granted to the king of Aragon. She cultivated the seed of Sardinian independence planted by Barisone I, she picked up the baton from her father and brother who had in turn inherited it directly from the first King of Sardinia nominated in 1164 by Frederick I (known as Barbarossa) – and not by the Pope – who tried in vain to unify all the Judicates; which, however, except for the Judicate of Arborea, gathered under the Pisan, Genoa and Catalan influence.
The Carta de Logu
In 1215 the King of England, John Lackland, was forced to grant the Magna Carta Libertatum; the Carta, which is considered the first step for the recognition of the man’s universal rights, is however, a sort of “contract” between the monarch and his/her Barons; conversely the Carta de Logu, promulgated by Eleonora almost two centuries later, has a constitutional flair and it is one of the very first documents of this kind.
Two years after Eleonora’s birth, 41 years before she began her rule, 5 years before her father Mariano IV ascended to the Judicate throne, 50 years before the promulgation of the Carta de Logu and a century and a half after the creation of the Magna Charta, in 1342, another strong-willed aristocratic woman, Countess Margherita Maultasch of Tyrol-Gorizia (1318-1369), promulgated in Alto-Adige a statute which implied forms of political representation, created an autonomous and public administrative and jurisdictional system, defined and extended individual freedoms, regulated property, recognizing also farmers’ rights, and disciplined the justice, trade and mining activity.
Eleonora promulgated her Carta de Logu in 1392, when her second-born son Marian V Doria was about to ascend to the Judicate throne, succeeding his brother Federico who died before adult age.
The Carta gathered and modernised the regulations and the rural code promulgated by Eleonora’s father and brother, it added a few legal systems of Byzantine origin, absorbed a few aspects of the Sardinian and Central Italy communes’ juridical civilization (such as the Breve of Villa di Chiesa and the Sassari Statutes); it included elements from the Catalan and canonic juridical philosophy combining everything with the local system; it was extremely ahead of its time and brought, in the late Middle Ages, the concept of introducing the certainty of rights, public laws and private property. It defined criminal, civil, agricultural and procedural law, ratified the two routes of appeal together with procedural guarantees, it safeguarded women, tackled usury, it foreshadowed the modern nature of the State, the Government and the Judiciary. It regulated the rights of the family, and of successions, and was a forerunner of the principle of erga omnes (erga omnes: from Latin "towards all" or "towards everyone". In legal terminology, erga omnes rights are owed to everyone toward all) and the measures taken to face the problem of fires were extraordinarily similar to those of today.
Eleonora governed with realism as a Giudicessa and ruler between 1383 and 1392, but she actually held power until her death in 1404.
The Judicate of Arborea was definitively defeated 11 years after the battle of Sanluri (1409), when the last Judge of Arborea sold it to the King of Aragon for 100,000 gold florins, marking the end of an era of extraordinary cultural, juridical, economic and political glory, an era whose heritage is still visible today.
The Carta de Logu, transmitted, confirmed and extended throughout the entire island by the King of Aragon after the end of the Judicate in the early 15th century, remained in force in Sardinia for over four centuries, until 1827, when it was replaced by the Carlo Felice Code, seven years after the ratification of the Edict of the Closures which overturned the Carta’s agrarian reforms. The Carta de Logu touched many areas of the island’s culture. As long as it was in force, it deeply influenced Sardinian culture and it still represents a kind of connection among the different eras and pre-judicial civilizations.
During the Byzantine period, Sardinia had begun to export metals, especially silver, until the activities of Saracen pirates together with the decline of the Eastern Empire made it difficult.
After the creation of the Judicates, following the implosion of the Byzantine Empire, the Pisans - hegemonic in most of the island on the basis of the treaty with Genoa promoted by Benedict XIII - gave new impetus to mining, in conjunction with Ugolino della Gherardesca , count of Donoratico who ruled the south of the island. The abandonment of Sardinia by the Pisans following the defeats inflicted on them by the alliance between the Judicate of Arborea and the Kingdom of Aragon caused the interruption of the transport of silver cargoes to the Maritime Republic, which contributed greatly to its decline. During Spanish rule, despite its best efforts, the mining activity became low key.
The Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica, desired by Pope Boniface VIII for the Aragonese but never actually formed, was therefore accomplished, more than a century after its inception, at the end of the last Judicate. As Europe entered the end of the Middle Ages, the Aragonese systems and their oppressive and vexatious politics made Sardinia regress after the years of modernity and splendor that had distinguished it. The King of Aragon tried repeatedly to subdue the Sardinians and the Corsicans, the conflict, however, was always under the surface, but that with Sardinia emerged in 1470, with Leonardo de Alagon, a feudal lord who had just succeeded his indomitable uncle Marquis of Oristano Salvatore Cubello as ruler of Arborea and Goceano, to which the Crown aspired directly. Leonardo fought the Catalan Viceroy at Uras and defeated him; 8 years later, in the battle of Macomer, the Aragonese troops prevailed over Leonardo, taking away his dominion and imprisoning him in Spain where he died many years later. The Spanish rule was always opposed and gave no benefit to the island as a whole, even after the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon with Isabella of Castile who had unified the Iberian kingdoms.
The Kingdom of Sardinia came to Savoy with the Treaty of London in 1718, after the Spanish succession wars that had marked the beginning of the century and a three-year Habsburg interregnum. The Savoy King Amedeo II oppressed the people greatly and militarily occupied the Island. Even his successor, Carlo Emanuele III, who gave the Tabarchini (fishermen and traders from Pegli settled in 1540 on an island near the North African coast and who came into conflict with the Bey of Tunis) the Island of San Pietro, did not introduce substantial changes in the feudal structure of the island nor did he promote changes in the living conditions of the populace; instead, like his successors, the tax burden and the exploitation of Sardinian resources increased.
La Maddalena - inhabited since prehistoric times, known to the Greeks, a crossroads of maritime traffic in Roman times, the scene of clashes between the Saracens and the Maritime Republics and the seat of Benedictine settlements - was not considered by the Treaty of London in spite of its strategic importance; it therefore remained no man's land for about 50 years. It had been inhabited by a colony of Corsican shepherds since 1600. The Savoy took possession of it in 1767, bargaining with the islanders; this explains the loyalty shown by the Maddalenian community towards the Savoy King during the war against revolutionary France. At the end of the century, in La Maddalena, Andrea de Geneys founded the Savoy Navy - the Sardinian Navy- from which the Italian Navy emerged; the island gradually became an important naval base, first of Savoy-Piedmont, then of Italy.
In Caprera, the second island of the archipelago of La Maddalena, Guiseppe Garibaldi lived on and off, retired, died and was buried.
In the second half of the century the Sardinians had already started to rebel against the Savoy ruler more and more often and were effectively supported by growing political and intellectual support especially after the French Revolution, in 1789.
In 1793, while La Maddalena resisted the pressure of the French, they occupied Sant’Antioco and Carloforte, establishing republican and Enlightenment-inspired systems; they attacked Cagliari, but were defeated and repulsed by the resistance of the Sardinians and were deceived by the clever propaganda of the clergy and aristocrats loyal to the crown.
In the wake of these events, the Sardinian aristocracy requested autonomy and representation within the Piedmont kingdom, but they did not get what they had been led to believe.
In 1794 the cities and the countryside rose, Piedmontese generals were killed, officials of the kingdom and the Viceroy himself were either imprisoned or fled. Sassari and the Logudorese fiefdoms asked, however, to emancipate themselves from Cagliari and to depend directly on Turin. The revolt became progressively anti-feudal. The situation was turbulent and belligerent until Christmas 1795, when the rioters took Sassari.
Giovanni Maria Angioy
Sent by the Viceroy who granted him full powers to suppress the rebellion, yet charmed by the Enlightenment philosophy, Angioy observed the emerging connections among the social classes which until then had been excluded from political power, he understood their discontent and was welcomed as a liberator who won people’s consent everywhere.
In Sassari, too, he was welcomed as a liberator, for this reason he did not make use of the large army he had gathered on his way to Cagliari to suppress the rioters.
Once he brought peace back into the island, he tried to introduce emancipation for both the fiefdoms and the Sardinian people, resulting in a clash with the Savoy family, a clash that saw the army involved. He, however, was defeated. He was gradually abandoned by his own allies and by the upper class which had supported him. His powers were revoked and he ended up hunted by the Viceroy’s army.
He managed to escape to France where he started nurturing the idea to make Sardinia a more independent land. He worked hard for this belief and he even convinced the then First Consul Napoleon to organize an expeditionary force, however this was cancelled due to the distraction of the Corsican insurrection.
With his death in France the Sardinian people lost a further opportunity to be free.
The King of Sardinia. The Savoy King took refuge in Sardinia when the French army occupied Piedmont in 1799. He remained in Sardinia until 1814, when Napoleon was conclusively defeated.
The Chiudende Edict
Back in his own land, after the Sardinian “exile” in the early 19th century, Piedmont King Vittorio Emanuele I gave the final blow to the Sardinian economy with the promulgation of the Chiudende Edict in 1820. This edict allowed enclosures and the possession of lands that were usually collective property. The strongest economic figures of that time – landowners and Piedmont citizens – took advantage of the edict, overturning one of the fundamental principles of the Sardinian agricultural and juridical culture which had survived intact even up to domination by Aragon.
Given its avariciousness for getting the island’s resources, Piedmont strongly opposed the numerous attempts of insurrection, suppressed with the use of violence, and the independence pressures that occurred throughout the 19th century. The huge deforestation of the island is still evidence today of Piedmont’s greedy interest.
When the Kingdom of Sardinia was entrusted to the Savoy family, mining activity – which at the beginning was assigned to mainly foreign (English, German and Swedish) companies - became more intense. In the mid-19th century, when the old concessions expired and the new related law came into force, many companies with funds from Sardinia, Liguria and Piedmont, invested in the island with changing fortunes. Thanks also to an analysis carried out by Quintino Sella (Italian politician, economist and mining engineer) between 1868 and 1871, the Sardinian mines – which for over thirty years had been increasingly productive – drew ever more the attention of the Savoy government at the turn of Italian unification. Companies with foreign assets started to look at the island’s resources with great interest. It was the beginning of an era that saw a substantial increase in production, the mines’ expansion and the arrival of new immigration flows from the different regions of the newborn Kingdom of Italy. However these developments were not accompanied by recognition of the miners’ rights to improve their life and working conditions and by their emancipation from the concessionary companies.
The “imperfect” union
In 1847, the Albertine Statute came into force in Sardinia as a result of the so-called “perfect union (or merger)” between the Piedmont Kingdom and the island. The Albertine Statute replaced the Carlo Felice Code, which had remained in force for about 20 years after the Carta de Logu abrogation.
Thus, all the historic values of the island disappeared and from then on there would be no more discontinuity of destiny between the Piedmont – and later Italian – Kingdom and Sardinia.
The first general strike in Italy
In the early 20th century, the trade union was split by deep rifts, which came very evidently to light at the Socialist Congress in April 1904. Many strikes occurred in Sardinia that year; the miners of Monteponi, Montevecchio, Lula, San Benedetto, San Giovanni Ingrostu, the stonecutters of Villasimius and La Maddalena, the leather workers of Sassari and Bosa went on strike demanding their rights. On September 3, the miners of Buggerru abandoned the mine, causing the interruption of operations in surface mining plants too. The French concessionary company remained indifferent to the miners’ demands and asked for the support of the Italian government, which sent two military units. The riots that followed were put down by the troops of the Italian King which fired on a defenseless crowd of workers to safeguard the interests of the French concessionary company. Despite the bloodshed, the miners, reluctantly and with little benefits, went back to work. It did not take long, however, for the national reaction to come. Trade unions from all over Europe, including Switzerland, started crying out for a general strike. The Milan Chamber of Labour proposed the strike and, during a memorable and crammed-full of people assembly held in the courtyard of the town schools in Porta Romana, the crowd acclaimed the proclamation of the national strike. Protests and riots – causing the death and the injury of a number of people – occurred in various cities and towns of Italy. Given the increasing pressure, the Socialists overcame fears, rifts and hesitations and proclaimed the first general strike in Italian history. Italy experienced a 5-day demonstration where outraged workers and farmers protested against the brutal massacre of the Sardinian miners.
The Sardinian “Short Century”
The first half of the 20th century was marked by a great economic depression, by depopulation and by the rise of a new phenomenon of banditry due to: government by an oppressive State which had worsened people’s lives and became a burden to the Sardinian community; and the large amount of people who lost their lives during the two world wars.
The 20th century, however, witnessed also periods in which the Sardinians saw their strong yearning for self-determination re-emerge, in literary and cultural production or in the new political excitement which – between the two world wars - gave life to the Partito Sardo d’Azione (a regional political party) and to the Statuto della Autonomia (Autonomy Statute) which came into being at the same time as the Republican Constituent Assembly. Moreover, in the 20th century, Sardinia was also the birthplace of different important figures who made their mark in both the national and international political and cultural scene.
The Italy’s fascist period (1922-1943) saw the reclamation of various areas of the island and agricultural and coal mining activities thrived in the Sulcis region, which led to the creation of Carbonia, a new city created in the 1930s to house workers employed in coal mines. Its original rationalist architecture style injected new life to the economy bringing new immigration flows.
Agriculture and livestock farming experienced a new period of growth
The second postwar saw the defeat of malaria as well as the rise of military base easements, of industrialization – whose controversial fruits are still visible today – and of a new form of banditry. Metal and coal extraction progressively ceased due to the depletion of mineral resources and/or to its poor cost-effectiveness. Sardinia, however, still has important goldfields. The tourism industry, a source of prosperity and employment despite strict building regulations, started to gain ground. The culture emphasizing autonomy and independence was injected with new life with a different, and often cutting-edge, attitude.
Independence and autonomy
From the Nuragic era to the Statute of Autonomy (1948), the Sardinian people have been independent intermittently for about 1400 years. Over the various eras, however, they have been subject to the dominion of up-and-coming powers for a total of 2150 years. Today Sardinia is included in the Italian republic, but the island has been granted some degree of domestic autonomy by special statute.
The Sardinian “adventure” continues in 21st century Europe, at the start of the third millennium, in a now global world. The island is testing itself with deep economic change, with new challenges of social and cultural integration and with a new desire for autonomy.