|The Foundations of Nobility. Elites, Colonisation and New Rural Towns in Early Modern Sicily|
|Between 1590 and 1650 feudal colonisation redesigned Sicilian territory and society. During these sixty years about 120 new feudal towns rose in Sicily. The concentration of this phenomenon in a relatively short period is indicative of important changes occurring in the social and economic structures in Sicily.
The protagonists of Sicilian feudalism was the aristocracy, chiefly the “new” nobles who acquired political prestige and a higher social status as owners of feudal estates through the foundation of new rural centres. The colonisation of a feudal state permitted them to enter the ranks of the feudal parliament of the Kingdom of Sicily with the title of Baron, Marquis, Count, or Prince as a sign of a consolidated political and financial position.
In fact, during the Seventeenth century the number of titles granted by the Spanish monarchs grew exponentially, compared to the Sixteenth century. In those years, for those who had money it was not difficult to purchase feudal titles and licentiae populandi. The Spanish Crown was committed militarily on several fronts in Europe and the rulers had to find financial systems to meet the needs of military expenses. One of the solutions was to sell the aristocracy feudal titles and the privileges associated with them.
Such behaviour and strategies will be compared to those investigated within feudality studies in other Italian and European contexts (above all in the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Castile), in order to identify common aspects and differences.|