Christine Desan's Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism provides an authoritative answer to a fundamental question about medieval English money that has puzzled a few scholars, but that has been largely ignored by most: were medieval payments normally weighed or counted? The same question can be expressed differently as: were payments made by weight or by tale at face value; or again, was the value of money determined by its intrinsic content or by royal decree? But why might this curious distinction between counting payments and weighing them matter?
This article examines kidnappings for ransom by the ’Ndrangheta in Italy from the more measured perspective that the passage of time allows. To investigate the importance and characteristics of this phenomenon, we analyse a new database compiled from various sources. We put forward an explanation of the way that the kidnapping era ended that derives both from statistical analysis of the 654 instances surveyed and from a case study (the abduction of Cesare Casella). Within this analysis, we award significant weight to the changing political context and to two particular factors: the crime's politicisation under new electoral pressure, and the behaviour of law enforcement agencies. The two factors often regarded as the principal explanations for the end of kidnapping, legislation on the freezing of assets and the appeal of the drugs trade, are treated here as simply aspects of the overall picture. The disappearance of this criminal practice seems to have followed a hiatus in relationships and a reciprocal show of strength. Although the repertoire of state threats, notably military action and prison sentences, was substantial, the political value of victims’ lives and the weakness of the government were powerful weapons for the final cohort of kidnappers.
Abstract This article explores the emergence of reformist sentiment and political culture in Madras in the mid-nineteenth century. Moreover, it contributes to, and expands upon, the growing body of literature on colonial petitioning through a case-study of a mass petition demanding education reform. Signed in 1839 by 70,000 subjects from across the Madras presidency, the petition demanded the creation of a university that would qualify western-educated Indians to gain employment in the high public offices of the East India Company. Through an analysis of the lifecycle of this education petition, from its creation to its reception and the subsequent adoption of its demands by the Company government at Fort St George, this article charts the process by which an emergent, politicized public engaged with, and critiqued, the colonial state. Finally, it examines the transformative effect that the practice of mass petitioning had on established modes of political activism and communication between an authoritarian colonial state and the society it governed.