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Brief History of Sicily

Internal strife weakened the Muslim regime, and by the 11th century the Normans (descendents of Vikings) gained control of Sicily.

Under Roger II, Sicily was changed into a kingdom, and became one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe - even compared to Britain.

The Norman dynasty ultimately died out after a century of ruling, and the crown passed on to the German Hohenstaufens. By 1266, a conflict between the Papacy and Hohenstaufen house led to Pope Innocent IV crowning French prince Charles as king of Sicily.

Tensions flared under French command, as mistreatment and taxation of the island grew, and eventually led to an uprising.

A wave of disasters rocked the island, beginning with the SpanishInquisition in 1492, wherein Ferdinand II declared the entire Jewish population be removed from Sicily. In 1542 and 1693 two powerful earthquakes struck, with the latter taking an estimated 60,000 lives. Revolts during the 17th century, and pirate raids lasting until the 19th century, discouraged settlement along the coast.

Following the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Sicily and Naples merged formally into the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons. Unsatisfied with the Bourbon government, major revolutionary movements began in 1820. However, it wasn't until the 1848 revolution that Sicily was able to gain their independence - if only briefly.

In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi led the Expedition of the Thousand, and captured Sicily. Promises of an Italian Republic and equality were guaranteed, and as the final Bourbons were removed Garibaldi announced his dictatorship; Sicily then officially became a part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Sicilians were never granted their promised republic or equality, and staged a revolt pushing for their independence. Within a week, the Italians moved in and brutally suppressed the rebellion.

Upon the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946, Sicily was one of five named as an autonomous region. Partial land reforms and special funding helped improve the Sicilian economy from 1950 to 1984.

Sicily's economy is based largely on agriculture, fishing, mining, and of course... tourism. Many visitors to the island use the dependable ferry service from the Italian mainland to Messina. Also there is ferry or hydrofoil service to Palermo from ports throughout the central Mediterranean.

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