The author underlines the transition from economic and social history to the history of rural society in Villani’s scholarship. Some publications have been considered that better than others show, firstly, his participation in that debate that took place between scholars with a Crocean approach and scholars with a Gramscian and/or Marxist approach during the 1950s and 1960s;; secondly, that phase that led him to resume the lesson of the Annales through the experience of Quaderni Storici. In this context, his positions are examined with respect to the debate between Emilio Sereni and Rosario Romeo, the attitude towards the political commitment of historians. The adherence to the novelties of French historiography led him to a broader and more complex vision and to the use of the category of "rural society".
Keywords: Southern Italy, socio-economic history, rural society, Croce, history and social sciences.