why did so many Italians leave their country?

As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
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why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby anthonylr » 25 Jan 2005, 10:48

Why did so many Italians leave their country and start anew so far away?
and was it mainly from certain areas of Italy ? south? north?
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby wldspirit » 25 Jan 2005, 13:41

I just read about this in a book by Trafford R. Cole. The name of the book
is "Italian Genealogical Records". He cites a number of reasons for emigration, depending on the time frame.

Divided into three periods, the earliest emigrants were explorers and adventurers. During the mid 1800's political upheaval, revolution and widespread unrest in Italy. After 1870, immigration boomed as word
spread of the oppurtunities to be had in the U.S. and economic problems worsened in Italy.

Northern Italy was in a better position economically over Southern Italy for a number of reasons.

This is of course a very brief summary........You would have to read the book for yourself as there is much more detail to be had....

In my Nonno's case, the founding fathers of Springvalley, Illinois advertised in Europe for workers to come to their "Magic City". They
of course owned the vast coal mines in the area as well as the town itself.
85 to 90 per cent of the town was immigrant workers.

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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby anthonylr » 25 Jan 2005, 14:16

many thanks . It always seemed odd that so many left on such a huge adventure , especially in those times when transport was not great .

many thanks
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ptimber » 25 Jan 2005, 18:27

Wuildspirit synopsized the history of Italian immigration well but I feel constrained to add a little more "color". Because Italy was divided prior to 1870 between The Kingdom onf the Two Sicilies, the papal states and northern Italy, The kingdom of the two Sicilies consisting of the south and sicily enjoyed a the status of a true country with a developed economy, a full treasury and productive citizenry. The north was fractrured and under economic stress. South America was booming in agriculture, food, fibers and raw materials necessitating immigrants in the early 18th century. Northern Italians fliocked to South America,. When Italy was unified by garibaldi the North descended upon the south, struipped the treasury, dismantled factories and shipped them North, took over huge swaths of land from peasants, destroyed the exuisting economy in favor of the north. Millions were left with guerrila actuions against the north, war, real famine, out of work and penniless. The northern armies (Leopardo's work in the Sicilian vespers) came down hard and law and order broke down. The USA after the civil war boomed industrially and needed millions to build infrastructure of roads, factories, dams railroads etc etc etc. Millions of Souther Italians fled Italy to the USA. The USA now has abiout 20 million Population of Italians and Italian americans. Thuis gives you the picture of why they left for the USA in leaky boats, penniless and not knowing a word of english and were the first mediterraneans, catrholics and non english speaking immigrants to arrive in such numbers at one time period. Discriminatuion and heap labor took its toll. Peter
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby acamma » 26 Jan 2005, 00:35

I know from my grandfather and his brothers they left Sicily due to the poverty created by the distruction of the south by the unification. I also have heard that from others who left in the late 1800's or early 1900's as Peter detailed. It really happened throughout Europe because that is why my french and german ancestors left - economic conditions were getting worse in their cities and to everyone there America was see as the gold at the end of the rainbow. But many Italians were thrown in the fire of prejudice and outright arrogance of the americans of the time. Thus many did have really hard lives here.
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby acamma » 26 Jan 2005, 01:26

I think one other thing I found of interest years ago and was reconfirmed by a friend in SF lately who knows a elderly Italian gentleman who gives her information for me on Italy as I search for my ancestry.

My grandfather even though in general would say he was Italian but a few times he would want to really talk and he said some negative things about what he called (I know I will not spell this right as it has been years since I heard it) the "penisulares" and that he was a Sicilian. Now he was born in 1894 and was in the US by the age of 7, so I never knew if that was from his parents, his own view over in Sicily, or something that occurred here.

My friend asked the gentleman she knows in SF about it and he said yes as a Sicilian he does feel anger at time to Italians from the mainland but especially from the northern regions.

Does that go on in other Italian families today that are from Sicily and does it go the other way in that those from the mainland or the norhern regions not like the southern Italian. I think I tend to meet only Italians from the south so I am not sure if I know the true perspective on this.
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ptimber » 26 Jan 2005, 01:41

Peninsulares is Peninsulare meaning the mainland Italy which is Italy and is a peninsula. There has always been a historic antagonism by Southern Italians and Sicilians toward the north for what transpired with the unification and historically for what occurred during pre napoleonic days when france and Austria occupied much of northern Italy and the Papal states acted as a buffer. These antagnoisms were the rresult of the discrimination of the north tioward southern italians or "MERIDIONALI" which were viewed with disdain and contempt from the very beginning since Northern Italy identified with Austria and france and saw the south as Mediterranean, impoverished, ignorant and without culture. Upon unification, the north made matters worse sincre they were now part of one nation which they treated with further contempt and dsicriminatjion and cruelty by the italian army and police. This lasted until Mussolini arrived upn the scene andinstituted social and legal reforms, put down the mafia and instituted mandatory education for children. After ww11 the Italian government bent oveer backwards to bring the impoverished south into the mainstream and spent millions of dollars on all sorts of economic projects and industrialization schemes, built infrastructure of dams and refineries and finally during the past 30 some odd years brought southern Italy up to the level where it is today. Still less rich than the north but much much better.outhern Italians migrated north and one can say that there is still hard feelings but less today then before. Peter
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ymorrow » 26 Jan 2005, 02:59

I have just been reading the emails about why some many left Italy. Its true, as I have been and still am reading up on the Garibaldi wars.

My great grandfather is an obvious exception to the usual reason why people left. He was involved in some sort of fighting, not sure what, with his brother and possibly father also. His father was a ship owner/captain. Apparently, they were involved in some action that was seen as a crime, or someone was injured, and the brothers fled the country. This was in 1861-4 period.

Upon arrival in Australia in 1864, from Liverpool on a ship called Ariadne, he settled here and raised 8 children. He also used a different name, it seems. I think his true name was either Andrus Moro, or Antonio Nicholas Lomakes, or Lamacchio. I think he was born in either Matera, or Corfu or Malta!! Choices choices!


If anyone can throw any light on this period for me, especially around Pesaro, I would be very grateful. He had atattoo that read Loumak-Psaro 1858 on his hand. Perhaps his name, was he in jail? Perhaps a ship, was he a crew member??


regards to all,

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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby acamma » 26 Jan 2005, 03:09

I am surprised I came even close to the word that you used Peter. It has been over 30 years since my grandfather died and I heard it from him.

I did read before and just went back into the home page where it lists information on the journey to America for Italians. The one thing I didn't really understand based on how my family gave me information and things I have seen in some cities is the comments that Italians intermingled with other ethnic groups. Now growing up in the German dominated city of Cincinnati I had no contact with other Italians in my home city until high school so there really is not a big flood of Italians here. But my dad and his family were from Philadelphia and they always made me believe that South Philly in the 20's to the 50's was the Italian area with minimal other groups intermingling. Plus I have heard of Little Italy's in NYC and other cities in the US. I also knew my grandmother and her family lived in Boston before they moved to Phily and they also let on that it was in an Italian part of Boston back in the early 1900's (00 - 20's) What is true!!

Plus was there a reason for certain regions going to certain cities like the Sicilians to New Orleans (I guess I now will have to visit NO after all these years of missing out on trips there to see a strong Sicilian influence). I know a lot of Germans came to Cincinnati because the Ohio River somehow remined them of the Rhine and they even called part of the city where the Germans lived back in the early days of immigration here - Over the Rhine.
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ptimber » 26 Jan 2005, 03:43

Italians came by the millions and congragated in large cities and mining areas and along railroad lines where they worked the tracks. Italians neighjborhoods were big because there were so many Italians and german neighborhoods were less because many went out west and farmed and were less in numbers because they came earlier soon after the english and so spread out and became more adapted to the USA. By the timne the Italians and other southern euiorpeans arrived (Jews, polish, Greeks, slavs ) Germans were already up and out of the immigrant stream. Scandinavians all went to the Minnesota and Michigan and points west to become farmers while some Norwegians remained in brooklyn NY because of the large ship buisiness out of Norway. Peter
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby wldspirit » 26 Jan 2005, 09:46

I had heard of this North versus South attitude from my own family,
even to the point that blonde hair, blue eyes and lighter skin was preferred?? I did not understand any of it until I started reading the book
mentioned above.( I am really enjoying this book Peter!)

I do know that upon purchasing his own coal mine my nonno employed a
number of Italians and they all lived within the same small community.

I'm curious to know if it was common to advertise in Europe for workers
as Springvalley did??

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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ptimber » 26 Jan 2005, 10:12

es they would send recruiters to Italy and sign up a lot of men at one time and pay their passage and then they would all ship out together to the USA.ost of the familis followed later but some men abandoned their families in Italy and chose to remain never to return to Italy. Some would write from time to time and send money and some would never be heard of again. It was a sad time for everybody I guess. Peter
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby casassa » 27 Jan 2005, 04:20

In response to the post on Spring Valley, Illinois founding fathers recruiting Italians to their towns. Have you anymore info or dates on those years.

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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ptimber » 27 Jan 2005, 05:08

Dear casassa why dio you ask this question ????? it seems like you are fishing for something that does not fit here. Peter
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Re: why did so many Italians leave their country?

Postby ptimber » 27 Jan 2005, 05:45

Dear cazassa are you n the genealogy business? Peter
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