This is the first detailed study of Sicilian life in the reign of Frederick III (1296-1337), a period which saw Sicily reduced from a bustling and prosperous Mediterranean emporium to a poor backwater torn apart by violence. The relative economic and social backwardness of Sicily within modern Italy has attracted considerable scholarly attention. Attempts to explain its ingrained poverty and civil strife usually blame either the legacy of two thousand years of colonisation by rapacious foreigners or the inherent weaknesses in the island itself and its people. More recently a model of 'economic dualism' has pointed to basic structural flaws in the economic relations that were established between the island and its continental trading partners from the twelfth century onwards. This book, by focusing on Frederick III's crucial reign, argues that there were many more things 'wrong' with Sicilian life than just the shape of its overseas trade relations.
"This book opens up a new subject in English for the first time." American Historical Review "...a valuable and thought-provoking addition to this growing corpus of research...Clifford Backman guides his readers with authority through notoriously complex themes, and his lively prose style disguises an impressive depth of scholarship. He has written an admirable book...his study will be required reading in its field." The Catholic Historical Review "Backman's new questions and fresh research challenge the conventional themes of Sicilian history...By rooting a familiar story into the political and cultural realities of the first decades of the fourteenth century, he has written a convincing account of how peace and prosperity eluded Sicilians, despite their best intentions." Journal of Interdisciplinary History "Backman's monograph makes a substantial contribution toward comprehending the origins of Sicily's notorious poverty and pervasive lawlessness. A lively writing style sustains the reader through a great deal of detailed social. political, and economic analysis, and Backman provides fascinating vignettes of social customs, religious mores, and the condition of women." Choice "Backman presents his material in a pleasing manner; his organization is goo...His familiarity with the topography of Sicily greatly assists the reader. The book includes a most useful map, three tables of justices and one of feudal dues, an extensive bibliography, and a brief index." Louise Buenger Robbert, Journal of Church and state "...The Decline and Fall of Medieval Sicily: Politics, Religion, and Economy in the Reign of Frederick III, 1296-1337 is an excellent study of its subject and a magnificent contribution to our knowledge and understanding of Sicily's long, intricate, and often misunderstood history." William Granara, The Medieval Review "...this is a welcome book that fills an important gap in the history of Sicily and the Mediterranean. It is also excellently produced with full and detailed footnotes, including ample quotation of the more important passages in the sources. It is nice to encounter a book at once scholarly and readable." Carola M. Small, Speculum "Backman writes with great fluency and has produced a thoughtful, wide-ranging book that fills a gaping whole in the literature on the medieval Mediterranean." Journal of Economic History "Backman writes with great fluency and has produced a thoughtful, wide-ranging book that fills a gaping whole in the literature on the medieval Mediterranean." David Abulafia, Jrnl of Eco Hist