Myth of the 20th Century – Episode 64: Blood Brotherhoods – Organized Crime in Italy

Social Matter
April 6, 2018

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Adam Smith, Nick Mason, Hans Lander, and Alex Nicholson


Organized crime in Italy is a complex subject, with origins stretching back for centuries. For at least a millennia, southern Italy, in particular Sicily, was forcibly occupied and ruled by foreign warlords, kingdoms, and empires. As the local people adapted to their volatile political climate, their ways and customs began to incorporate various strategies designed to maintain power independent of their government, and focused on family and secretive clans bound together by codes of duty and loyalty, often operating petty extortion rackets to earn money. As modern Italy began to take shape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this broad based criminality posed a threat to the government in Rome and local citizens alike as the South struggled to develop economically, lagging far behind their counterparts in the North. To this day, the divide continues, as the brief period of fascist rule that brought the mafia under control quickly eroded after the war, and as Italy rebuilt so too did the organized crime networks – to the point where today they represent arguably the largest in Europe.


Early-16th century: A unique feudal structure is developed in Southern Italy/Sicily, with local oligarchs empowering families of enforcers to create collection schemes, eventually establishing a strongman middle class.
1870s – Revolution and unification efforts throughout Italy empower the mafia clans in the South/Sicily, under the hopes that integration will be easier.
Late 1890-1900s – Italian troops are deployed throughout Sicily to combat increasingly powerful Costa Nostra clans.
1915 – Bernardino Verro, the first Socialist mayor of Corleone, is assassinated by mafia forces after their political relationship collapses.
1915-17 – The ‘Mafia-Camorra War’ is waged, primarily in New York City. Cosa Nostra forces under the Morello family battled mafia families from the Camorra (Naples).
1922 – Italian fascists, upon assuming power, begin a campaign against mafia forces across Southern Italy, especially Sicily.
1925-29 – Cesare Mori, Prefect of Palermo, is ordered by Mussolini to conduct a massive crackdown on the Mafia activities in Southern Italy. He is largely successful, with the arrests of over 11k suspects. Mori conducts a counter-guerrilla war against the mafia dons and helps to cement Fascist rule over Southern Italy until the 1940s.
Late 1920s – The ‘Castellammarese War’ unfolds across Italy and urban American cities. The war is driven by increasing necessity for expansion overseas as Italy becomes inhospitable for the mafia.
1960s – The ‘Ndrangheta begins establishing outposts in Northern Italy, Australia, United States, and Canada.


– The Last Struggle With The Mafia, Mori (1933)
– The Normans in Sicily, Norwich (2004)
– The Middle Sea, Norwich (2007)
– Blood Brotherhoods, Dickie (2012)
– The Enemy Within: Church, State, Freemasonry, and the Mafia, Cascio (2016) –
– The Norman Conquest Of Sicily, Welton (2017) –
– Francesco Macaluso and American Fascism, Cascio (2017) –
– Murdered Slovak Reporter Sought to Expose Italian Organized Crime, GERMANOVA , PÉREZ-PEÑA (2018) –
– History of Sicily and the Origins of the Mafia, University of Michigan –
– Four Groups: Cosa Nostra Mafia (Sicily), Camorra Mafia (Naples), ‘Ndrangheta Mafia (Calabria), Sacra Corona Unita Mafia (Puglia)