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Mafia: The History of the Mob

Where these pursuits will take the family adds a fascinating coda to Lupo's work. What Salvatore Lupo captures particularly well, against all the stereotypes, is the Mafioso as a modern character: the pure distillate of entrepreneurial and criminal intelligence that illuminates the history of both Italy and contemporary Europe. If we can truly break ourselves of the habit of thinking of the Mafia as a belated survival of Sicilian feudalism and the product of underdevelopment, we will have taken a major step forward, and perhaps even be on the road toward a solution.


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The book is essential reading for anyone who hopes to be well informed about the Mafia. The New Yorker This is not a book of dramatic shoot-outs or even one that lingers long on individual characters.

The Mafia’s Sicilian Roots

It is a sober assessment of the history of a movement. Guy Dinmore, Financial Times Lupo carefully indicates and assesses the many ways in which the mafia has been understood Recommended Choice Well-researched Italian American Review. His research focuses on Italian history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a special emphasis on fascism and the Mafia. He is the associate editor in chief of the journal Meridiana , the most respected forum for the multidisciplinary discussion of the history and society of southern Italy.


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The Mafia arose in Sicily during the late Middle Ages , where it possibly began as a secret organization dedicated to overthrowing the rule of the various foreign conquerors of the island— e. The Mafia owed its origins and drew its members from the many small private armies, or mafie, that were hired by absentee landlords to protect their landed estates from bandits in the lawless conditions that prevailed over much of Sicily through the centuries.

A Brief History of the American Mafia

The right to avenge wrongs was reserved for the victims and their families, and to break the code of silence was to incur reprisals from the Mafia. Following World War II , the American occupation authorities released many of the mafiosi from prison, and these men proceeded to revive the organization. During the late s the Mafia in Palermo became deeply involved in the refining and transshipment of heroin bound for the United States. There were, in the groups that emigrated from Sicily and Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, individuals who had been part of the Mafia and who, in their new countries particularly the United States and parts of South America , set about reproducing the criminal patterns that they had left in Europe.

By the early s the organized Italian criminals in the United States had wrested control of various illegal activities from rival Irish, Jewish, and other gangs, and they proceeded, after a bloody nationwide conflict in —31, to organize themselves into a loose alliance with a clearly defined higher leadership. After the repeal of Prohibition in , the American Mafia abandoned its bootlegging operations and settled into gambling , labour racketeering, loan-sharking, narcotics distribution, and prostitution rings.

Origins of the Mafia - HISTORY

It grew to be the largest and most powerful of the U. Investigations conducted by U. In most cities where syndicated crime operated, there was one family, but in New York City there were five : Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo, and Bonanno. The heads of the most powerful families made up a commission whose main function was judicial.

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Each don had an underboss, who functioned as a vice president or deputy director, and a consigliere, or counselor , who had considerable power and influence. Convictions of top officials, defections by members who became government witnesses, and murderous internal disputes thinned the ranks.

In addition, the gradual breakup of insulated Italian-Sicilian communities and their assimilation into the larger American society effectively reduced the traditional breeding ground for prospective mafiosi.

See also organized crime.