See C. J. Finger, Highwaymen (1925, repr. 1970); D. Dolci, Outlaws (1961); C. Hibbert, Highwaymen (1968); E. Hobsbawm, Bandits (1969).
Brigandage may be, and not infrequently has been, the last resource of a people subject to invasion. The Calabrians who fought for Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, and the Spanish irregular levies, which maintained the national resistance against the French from 1808 to 1814, were called brigands by their enemies.
In the Balkan peninsula, under Turkish rule, the brigands (called klephts by the Greeks and hayduks or haydutzi by the Slavs) had some claim to believe themselves the representatives of their people against oppressors. The only approach to an attempt to maintain order was the permission given to part of the population to carry arms in order to repress the klephts. They were hence called armatoli. As a matter of fact the armatole were rather the allies than the enemies of the klephts.
The Scottish Marches supplied a theatre for the gentlemen reivers. Later after the War of the Three Kingdoms policing the Scottish moss-troopers tide up many English soldiers of the occupying New Model Army. Their contemporaries in Ireland were known as tories. Rapparees were Irish guerrillas of a later generation who fought for James II after the Revolution of 1688 and on his defeat degenerated into brigands.
The Apennines, the mountains of Calabria, the Sierras of Spain, were the homes of the Italian banditos and the Spanish bandoleros (memer of a gang) and salteadores (raiders). The forests of England gave cover to the outlaws, whose very much flattered portrait is to be found in the ballads of Robin Hood. The maquis, i.e. the bush of Corsica, and its hills, have helped the Corsican brigand, as the bush of Australia covered the bushranger.
The great haunts of brigands in Europe have been central and southern Italy and parts of Spain, except those which fell into the hands of the Turks.
England was ruled by William III, when "a fraternity of plunderers, thirty in number according to the lowest estimate, squatted near Waltham Cross under the shades of Epping Forest, and built themselves huts, from which they sallied forth with sword and pistol to bid passengers stand". The Gubbings (so called in contempt from the trimmings and refuse of fish) infested Devonshire for a generation from their headquarters near Brent Tor, on the edge of Dartmoor.
In relatively unsettled parts of the United States there has been a considerable amount of a certain kind of brigandage. In early days the travel routes to the far West were infested by highwaymen, who nonetheless seldom united into bands. Such outlaws, when captured, were often dealt with in an extra-legal manner, e.g. by "vigilance committees".
In France there were the Ecorcheurs, or Skinners,in the 15th century, and the Chauffeurs of the revolutionary epoch. The first were large bands of discharged mercenary soldiers who pillaged the country. The second were ruffians who forced their victims to pay ransom by holding their feet in fires. In the years preceding the French Revolution, the royal government was defied by the troops of smugglers and brigands known as faux saulniers, unauthorized salt-sellers, and gangs of poachers haunted the king's preserves round Paris. The salt monopoly and the excessive preservation of the game were so oppressive that the peasantry were provoked to violent resistance and to brigandage. The offenders enjoyed a large measure of public sympathy, and were warned or concealed by the population, even when they were not actively supported.
In the Balkan peninsula, under Turkish rule, brigandage continued to exist in connexion with Christian revolt against the Turk.
During the 19th century, several brigands used to live in the area across Latium, Umbria and Tuscany which was marking the southern border of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and, since 1861 the Kingdom of Italy, and the States of the Church. At the end of the 19th century, when the area became part of the Kingdom of Italy, one of the brigands of northern Latium was Fortunato Ansuini. The most influential brigand of the zone was Domenico Tiburzi, called Domenichino and known as the King of Lamone, or the Robin Hood of Maremma. He always refused to come into alliance with Ansuini because he considered him no more than a common outlaw. Born at Norcia in 1844 from a family of farmers, Ansuini later worked as a stonemason. After killing a man in a tavern, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in Rome. On May, 1866, he escaped through a drain together with three jail-mates. Maremma was chosen by the fugitives as a secure place for their robberies and racketeering to get weapons, bullets, and money. The gendarmes were on their traces and forced them to continuously move from one site to another, without being able to capture them for a long time. The outlaws surrendered once being identify by the soldiers with the help of a spy. In April 1890, Ansuini was locked up in the fort Filippo II to the Monte Argentario. Again, he was able to escape together with other captives including the bloodthirsty brigand Damiano Menichetti. Ansuini disappeared after a fight with carabinieri. Menichetti was captured after killing the brigadier Sebastiano Preta, and died in prison. With them, the phenomenon of brigandage in that area has approached its end.
In Basilicata, people such as Carmine Crocco, Ninco Nanco, Giuseppe Caruso, Michele Volonnino and Antonio Locaso showed immediately their strategy in battle and created many problems to the Piedmontese Army. Crocco formed an army of over two thousand men, most of whom were poor and hungry peasants and, along with Ninco Nanco and Giuseppe Caruso, was protagonist of many assaults and ambushes against Piedmontes.
In Naples, every successive revolutionary disturbance saw a recrudescence of brigandage down to the unification of 1860-1861. The source of the trouble was the support the brigands (like the famoous Nicola Napolitano (brigand)) received from various kinds of manutengoli (maintainers) - great men, corrupt officials, political parties, and the peasants who were terrorized, or who profited by selling the brigands food and clothes.
In Sicily, in 1866 two English travellers, Mr E. J. C. Moens and the Rev. J. C. Murray Aynesley, were captured and held to ransom. Mr Moens found that the manutengoli of the brigands among the peasants charged famine prices for food, and extortionate prices for clothes and cartridges.
In Calabria, Giuseppe Musolino (also known as brigante Musolino) was an elusive fugitive, always managing to escape traps. Musolino stirred the imagination of many people in Italy and in short order he became a legend. He became the subject of many Calabrian folk tales and popular songs.
The Sierra Morena, and the Serrania de Ronda, have produced the bandits whose achievements form the subject of popular ballads, such as Francisco Esteban El Guapo (Francis Stephen, the Buck or Dandy), Don Juan de Serralonga, Pedranza, &c. Jose Maria, called El Tempranillo (The Early Bird), was a liberal in the rising against Ferdinand VII, 1820-1823, then a smuggler, then a bandolero. He was finally bought off by the government, and took a commission to suppress the other brigands. Jose Maria was at last shot by one of them, whom he was endeavouring to arrest.
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