Keywords: Mafia, Banditry, Land Productivity, Land Ownership.
The purpose of this paper is to show that in the period after Italian unification in 1861 two
very important criminal phenomena in Southern Italy, banditry and organised crime, became rooted in the structure of rural and land organisation. We develop a simple model to show that organised crime has a greater incentive to offer protection when economic development and land productivity are relatively high and the state is unable to provide adequate protection for property rights. The model is tested on the provinces in Southern Italy in the late nineteenth century and then on Sicilian towns in the early 1900s. Other
findings suggest that banditry spread in the poorest areas of the South where land ownership was highly concentrated and productivity was low. On the other hand, organised crime developed only in the wealthiest areas. Finally, there was an inverse relation between the intensity of banditry and that of organised crime.