This essay draws upon judicial archives to address the civil conflicts that accompanied the transition from the Bourbon to the Savoy regimes in the continental Mezzogiorno province known as Terra d’Otranto (currently the provinces of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto). It focuses on key events that occurred between the final stages of the reign of Francis II and 1865, the last year of application of the Pica law. These events are approached thorough consideration of the political-ideological reasoning of revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries, as well as with attention to various other social and economic motivations relevant to the conflicts. The essay argues that three different and particularly violent moments are fundamental to understanding how political change affected the geographic area under study: 1) clashes which followed the Sovereign Act of 25th June 1860 and the people’s bid to the possession of common lands; 2) reactionary responses; and, 3) movements in support of Garibaldi influenced by a democratic opposition critical of the policy of Rattazzi and the agreement with Napoleon III. The essay concludes that the picture which emerges from a close reading of relevant source material is complex and articulated, and that both territorial context and the pivotal role of National Guard figure importantly in the dynamics and events of the political transition period.
Keywords: Civil conflict, commons, National Guard, brigandage, democratic movement, History of the Southern Italy during the Risorgimento.