Keywords: Banditry; Civil War; Guerrilla Warfare; Historiography on Italian Unification; Public Order.
The article places the origins of Italian scientific historiography on Southern reactionary
brigandage in the political and intellectual contexts after the two World Wars. In both postwar
periods the need to rethink the structures of the Italian state inspired new research about
the resistances to unification. Drawing on 19th-century literature and on Gramsci's thought,
historians adopted a land paradigm, which led them to read the rural brigandage as a form
of class struggle. Fostered by the debate on Hobsbawm's work on social banditry, between
the 1970s and the 1990s new studies on brigandage showed its complexity and its relations
with traditional rural criminality. The land paradigm thus proved to be too rigid. In recent
years the rise of multidisciplinary research on civil wars, guerrilla and transnational armed volunteers induced a number of Italian and foreign scholars to turn again the attention to
brigandage, the understanding of which, consequently, is deeply changing.