The revolt of Terranova against the Savoy government
A friend of mine, so far anonymous, sent me a sheet from a newspaper I didn’t know, called A Olbia, from June 2014, in which there is an intriguing article by Salvatore Zappadu, Tutti uniti contro il governo sabaudo di inizio ‘800 – alle saline la grande rivolta del popolo di Terranova (All united against the Savoy government at the beginning of the nineteenth century – the great insurrection of the people of Terranova at the salt works). By the way, Terranova was the original name of Olbia. Before commenting on the content of this article, I have to say that I have wondered why someone took the trouble to send it to me, and why anonymously. I think that my previous articles about Sardinian history have maybe taken root in some enthusiastic reader, who thought to please me with this news, in the end forgetting to add his name, simply.
I don’t know, but anyway I’m going to synthetize the framework and the interesting episode told by Zappadu.
There were more than 800 workers in the salt works at Cagliari, conscripted and forced to work there in the summer to ensure the strategic production of salt. Some came from 74 villages in southern and central Sardinia, and from Piedmontese jails too. Terranova in northern Sardinia, which was far from the other villages, had a poor number of shepherds and farmers. The workers producing salt were forced by the hated Marchese, the Savoy Marquis of Villamarina. There were few of them and they all came from Terranova itself. The salt went to supply the northern region, which the population of Terranova thought was hugely unfair: only Terranova made sacrifices, depriving itself of the support of the best workers, while all the fruits of their work were shared with the entire territory of the Marquis. Hence it was a sort of ante litteram strike, a form of passive resistance in terms of low productivity, moreover supported by the whole community and the town ‘fathers’. A royal order of 18 January 1782 was also disregarded using smart tricks performed by the whole town. A captivating piece of information is that every year, between August and September, all the inhabitants performed rain dances. As soon as the rain fell – when it fell – the municipal council communicated to the Marquis that the production of salt was over.
At this precise point in the article there is a rude 1) continua, and the account stops, so I don’t know what happened next, sorry.
So, an exhortation to my friend, to my welcome reader: don’t hesitate to come out, please. I have to thank you for the interesting window into a forgotten part of Sardinian history, but I’d like to know the continuation of the story. Was that strike the revolt of Terranova or were there subsequent riots and violence? How did the fight develop?
An unknown part of Sardinian history, in fact, concerns the period starting from 1793, when the French Republican Army tried to invade Sardinia disembarking troops in the north, on the La Maddalena archipelago, and in the south, in the bay of Cagliari. The commander of the troops, who came from Corsica, was a 24-year-old Napoleon Bonaparte. Sardinian volunteers defeated both the French armies, while the Piedmontese participation was only marginal, although Sardinia already belonged to the Savoy. All expenses for equipment and weapons were paid for by famous Sardinian figures, such as the Bishop of Cagliari and the magistrate Giovanni Maria Angioy. Napoleon, too, was defeated, first in a battleship and then in a pitched battle, and was chased back to the Corsica.
After this successful war, King Victor Amadeus III of Savoy, instead of recognising the role of the Sardinian people and granting them liberal and economic reforms, intensified the strict chains of colonialism. As a result, various revolts exploded against the Savoy in 1794, 1795, 1799, 1802 and finally in 1812, called I Moti Rivoluzionari Sardi – which unluckily failed.
This tranche of history is entirely unknown, and Zappadu’s article opens a curious view of this conflictual relationship between the Sardinian populace and the Savoy.
An easy consideration: what do we know about Italian history?