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Corsica

CORSICA

CORSICA. The mountainous island of Corsica is visible from the nearby islands of Elba and Sardinia, themselves not far from Italy. Handicapped by a small population and few economic resources, Corsica during the Middle Ages was ruled by or associated with various Italian states. Corsica's proximity to Italy has also made it strategically of interest to such maritime powers as France, Spain, and Britain. Though not without rich soil, Corsica was plagued until the late twentieth century by malaria, causing the inhabitants to live for the most part in hilltop towns and villages considered safer and also easier to defend against endemic raids from the Barbary States. Not until the nineteenth century were any significant roads built. Thus Corsica's history has been continuously linked with that of other states, and since 1814 the island has been incorporated into France.

From 1447 until the eighteenth century Corsica was mainly under Genoese control. Until 1552 peace allowed population growth and agricultural development. Maritime commerce flourished, Calvi emerged as a major center, and Corsicans in Genoese service made their marks as far away as America. The Genoese began building solid and defensible watchtowers at points on the coast to limit the depredations of the Barbary corsairs, a program that continued all through the Genoese period. Peace and a degree of prosperity produced an increase in population mirrored by the rise in the number of Corsicans in Genoese, Venetian, papal, and French service.

After 1552, however, French warfare and higher taxes stimulated agitation against Genoese rule. A Corsican distinguished in his many years of service in the French army, Sampiero Corso (14981567), with limited support from Catherine de Médicis (15191589), landed in Corsica in June 1564, but the effort to expel the Genoese collapsed after Corso's death in an ambush in 1567. Two years later Genoa proclaimed an amnesty and discussed a list of Corsican complaints. Corsicans continued to find employment in France. Corso's son and grandson both reached the rank of marshal of France under the name of d'Ornano.

Having been challenged by the Corsicans, the Genoese never trusted them again and systematically excluded them from the administration of the island and from various professions. The reservation of these positions for the Genoese, who were often unprepared and who benefited from nepotism and corruption, increased Corsican alienation from Genoa. The island's poverty encouraged considerable emigration (including to Sardinia and, for fishermen, to Algeria) of Corsicans seeking service in the armies of various states as well as those pursuing commerce in regions not controlled by the Genoese. Particularly notable over the centuries has been the settlement of Corsicans in Marseilles. To compensate for this depopulation, the Genoese planted six hundred Greeks in Corsica, where they met a hostile reception but, with difficulty, survived. On the positive side, efforts were made to stimulate agriculture, though without much success. Some success was reached in introducing vines, olives, figs, chestnuts, and silk production to areas that had neglected them, but profits went mainly to the Genoese, whose regime at this time can be described as "colonial." The growth of cities, especially Bastia, Ajaccio, and Calvi, demonstrates increasing commercial activity, but one result was the appearance of an expanding Corsican bourgeoisie, though handicapped, in competition with the Genoese. Banditry flourished, and the murder rate averaged nine hundred a year.

The early eighteenth century brought full-scale rebellion against Genoese rule. A series of bad harvests culminated in two particularly bad years in 1728 and 1729, the latter year coinciding with new taxes. The rural population attacked some large estates but notably attacked the cities, taking over Bastia, Saint-Florent, and Algajola. Austrian military intervention restored Genoese rule, but new rebellions followed in 1733. The War of the Polish Succession (17331738) and the War of the Austrian Succession (17401748) prevented the great powers from intervening and opened a window of opportunity for the rebels. A sort of provisional government was set up in Corte with the support of a consulta or 'assembly' presided over by Giacinto (or Hyacinth) Paoli (16901768) and two other Corsican notables. To their aid in March 1736, totally unexpectedly, came a German adventurer, Theodor von Neuhof (16941756), bringing weapons and possibly British approval. In rapid succession Neuhof accepted the crown as king, distributed titles, ran out of money and support, withdrew (November 1736), and eventually died in a debtor's prison in London.

The Genoese turned to France. Troops landed in February 1738 and left in September 1741. A new Corsican insurrection followed. A coalition of Britain, Austria, and Sardinia fighting France, Spain, and their dependent Genoa in the course of the War of the Austrian Succession attempted to capture Bastia and succeeded briefly in 1745. A second attempt failed in 1748. In May 1748 French troops landed and imposed peace, but the commander, General Séraphin-Marie Rioult de Donilly, marquis de Cursay, emphasized conciliation. This displeased the Genoese and led to Cursay's recall and the departure of the French in April 1753. A fourth insurrection, headed by Jean-Pierre Gaffori (17101753), who was assassinated in October 1753, brought a period in which no single leader established dominance.

In contrast, the years from 1755 to 1769, when Pasquale Paoli (17251807) dominated, appear as a golden age, largely because of the favorable press he received as a thoughtful man of the Enlightenment and because of the heroic Corsican resistance to the French invasion of 17681769 that provoked enthusiasm across Europe and especially in America. Accounts of Paoli by James Boswell (17401795) and other travelers and comments about him by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778) and Voltaire (16941778) helped create his legend. Undoubted accomplishments help explain his success: the foundation (1765) of the university at Corte, a written constitution allowing for a degree of representation, the application of severe justice to reduce the rate of banditry and murder, a degree of accommodation with the church, the development of L'Île Rousse as a port not controlled by the French or the Genoese, and a degree of naval success culminating in the capture from Genoa of the island of Capraia (1767).

But Paoli was handicapped by financial shortages, bad harvests, and the opposition of major Corsican families. He would have been content to negotiate a benevolent protectorate with France, but the French minister Étienne-François de Choiseul (17191785) wanted control. By the treaties of Compiègne (1754, 1764), Genoa entrusted the major ports to France, thus limiting Paoli to the interior of the island. In the end the weight of French forces was too great. With the Treaty of Versailles (1768), Genoa handed over control to France.

From 1769 to 1789 the French regime attempted reforms much like those earlier attempted by Genoa, including improvements in agriculture, draining of the marshes, and repression of banditry by harsh measures (including repression of rebellions fomented by numerous exiles). Though some offices and estates were entrusted to Corsican supporters of France, in general the French benefited from government generosity at the expense of Corsicans, thus building up resentment. The university was abolished, though in an attempt at assimilation some Corsicans received scholarships for education and training in France.

The outbreak of the French Revolution brought new political upheavals. Although the French National Assembly voted that Corsica was part of France, Corsicans tried to expel French officials and succeeded in driving out Corsican supporters of the ancien régime. Paoli returned from exile in England in 1790 and reestablished a moral ascendancy over the island that left political power in his hands. Squabbles among minor figures for political office and their spoils became conflated with the major issues of the time. Thus the denunciation of Paoli as a friend of Britain shortly after the war against Austria was extended to Britain in 1793 may be seen as a political maneuver by Corsicans, who thought they could gain by his elimination. The belief that he could not receive justice in the Paris of the guillotine prompted separation and independence. Since there had been no effective administration in Corsica since 1789, there were no resources. A full-scale European war was in full flow, and to prevent another French invasion, Paoli (who feared the return of Genoa) invited British protection. The result was the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom (17941796). This arrangement gave Britain valuable naval bases, but British priorities in the Caribbean and South Africa had precedence, leading to inadequate military resources to defend the island once Spain joined France and Napoléon I (17691821) overran Italy.

Fighting a world war, Britain had inadequate finances to subsidize Corsica as Paoli and many Corsicans had hoped. Thus the constitution, parliamentary system, and proposed reforms weighed little compared to the necessity to make Corsica pay for itself, and necessarily unpopular taxes, one cause of incipient revolt, were reintroduced. Napoléon reconquered the island as the British withdrew, and in 1814, at the Congress of Vienna, Corsica was incorporated into France.

See also France ; Genoa ; Revolutions, Age of .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arrighi, Paul, and Antoine Olivesi. Histoire de la Corse. Toulouse, 1990.

Caird, J. H. The History of Corsica. London, 1899.

Pomponi, Francis. Histoire de la Corse. Paris, 1979.

John McErlean

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Corsica

Corsica (kôr´sĬkə), Fr. Corse, island (1990 pop. 251,000), 3,352 sq mi (8,682 sq km), a region of metropolitan France, SE of France and N of Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea. Ajaccio, the capital, and Bastia are the chief towns and ports. The island is largely mountainous, culminating in Monte Cinto (8,891 ft/2,710 m). Corsica is divided into two administrative departments. French is the official language, but most Corsicans also speak a dialect akin to Italian.

Much of the island is wild, covered by dense shrubs called maquis, whose flowers produce a fragrance that carries far out to sea and has earned for Corsica the name "the scented isle." The maquis also long provided hideouts for bandits, and banditry was not suppressed until the 1930s. Blood feuds between clans also persisted into modern times.

Fruit, cork, cigarettes, wine, and cheese are the main exports. Much wheat is produced, and sheep are raised. Tourism is important, with good air and sea transport from continental France.

History

After having belonged to the Romans (3d cent. BC–5th cent. AD), the Vandals, the Byzantines, and the Lombards, the island was granted (late 8th cent.) by the Franks to the papacy. It was threatened by the Arabs from c.800 to 1100. In 1077, Pope Gregory VII ceded Corsica to Pisa. Pisa and Genoa, later Genoa and Aragón, battled for control. In the mid-15th cent. actual administration of the island was taken up by the Bank of San Giorgio in Genoa. Genoese rule was harsh and unpopular, and unrest was typified by the 1730s episode of "King" Theodore I (see Neuhof, Theodor, Baron von).

In 1755, Pasquale Paoli headed a rebellion against Genoa, but its success resulted only in the cession (1768) of Corsica to France. One consequence of the transfer was the French citizenship of Napoleon I, who was born in 1769 at Ajaccio. With British support Paoli expelled the French in 1793, and in 1794 Corsica voted its union with the British crown. The French (under Napoleon) recovered it, however, in 1796, and French possession was guaranteed at the Congress of Vienna (1815). French rule brought education and relative order, but economic life remained agrarian and primitive.

In World War II, Corsica was occupied by Italian and German troops. Late in 1943 the population revolted, and, joined by a Free French task force, drove Axis forces out. A postwar population exodus caused the French government to announce a program of economic development. In 1958 a right-wing coup, similar to that in Algeria, contributed to the return to power in France of Charles de Gaulle.

Since the French took control in 1768, Corsica has seen separatist movements, with repeated incidents of violence, notably the Feb., 1998, assassination of the French prefect. Beginning in the 1990s the roles of true nationalists and of criminal gangs appeared to blur, and in the early 21st organized crime was a larger problem than separatism. In 2001, France's parliament voted to give the island's regional parliament power to amend some national legislation and regulations and to permit the Corsican language to be taught in schools, but the amending of national laws by regional parliaments was declared unconstitutional. In 2003, after constitutional amendments permitting greater local autonomy were approved, a referendum on autonomy was held, but Corsican voters narrowly defeated it.

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Corsica

Corsica (Corse) Mountainous island in the Mediterranean Sea, c.160km (100mi) se of the French coast. It is a region of France comprising two departments. The capital is Ajaccio. It was a Roman colony, before passing into the hands of a series of Italian rulers. In 1768 France purchased all rights to the island. Napoleon was born here in 1769. Products: grapes, olives, mutton, cheese, wool, fish. Area: 8681sq km (3352sq mi). Pop. (1999) 260,196.

http://www.visit-corsica.com; http://www.corsica.net

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Corsica

Corsicabicker, clicker, dicker, flicker, kicker, liquor, nicker, picker, pricker, shicker, slicker, snicker, sticker, ticker, tricker, vicar, whicker, Wicca, wicker •bilker, milker, Rilke •blinker, clinker, drinker, finca, freethinker, Glinka, Inca, inker, jinker, shrinker, sinker, Soyinka, stinker, stotinka, thinker, tinker, Treblinka, winker •frisker, whisker •kibitka, Sitka •Cyrenaica • Bandaranaike •perestroika • Baedeker • melodica •Boudicca • trafficker • angelica •replica •basilica, silica •frolicker, maiolica, majolica •bootlicker • res publica • mimicker •Anneka • arnica • Seneca • Lineker •picnicker •electronica, harmonica, Honecker, japonica, Monica, moniker, Salonica, santonica, veronica •Guernica • Africa • paprika •America, erica •headshrinker • Armorica • brassica •Jessica • lip-syncer • fossicker •Corsica •Attica, hepatica, sciatica, viatica •Antarctica • billsticker •erotica, exotica •swastika

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