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Sardinia

Sardinia (särdĭnˈēə) [key], Ital. Sardegna, region (1991 pop. 1,648,248), 9,302 sq mi (24,092 sq km), W Italy, mostly on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, which is separated in the north from Corsica by the Strait of Bonifacio. The region also includes Asinara, Caprera, San Pietro, and La Maddalena islands. Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, which is divided into the provinces of Cagliari, Nuoro, Sassari, and Oristano (named for their capitals). The highest point of the mostly mountainous island is Mt. Gennargentu (6,016 ft/1,834 m). The main agricultural area is the large Campidano Plain, located in the southwest and watered by the Manno and Tirso rivers. Natural pastures cover more than half the area of Sardinia; sheep and goats are widely raised. Wheat, barley, grapes, olives, cork, and tobacco are produced. Sardinia is endowed with minerals, including zinc, lead, antimony, lignite, copper, and salt. Fishing for tuna, lobster, and sardines is important. Sardinia is a troubled economic region with a low per capita income and high unemployment. There is still little industry, although hydroelectric plants, all-weather roads, and reclamation projects have been completed since 1945. Manufactures include non-ferrous metals, refined petroleum, processed food, wine, textiles, and leather and wood products. Tourism is also an important industry. An early center of trade, Sardinia was mentioned in Egyptian sources in the 13th cent. B.C., and many traces of its prehistoric inhabitants remain. Phoenicians (c.800 B.C.) and Carthaginians (c.500 B.C.) settled there before Rome conquered (238 B.C.) the island. Sardinia was a source of grain and salt for the Romans, who governed the island harshly. After the fall of Rome, Sardinia passed to the Vandals (mid-5th cent. A.D.) and then to the Byzantines (early 6th cent.). The Byzantines neglected Sardinia, and the popes gained considerable power there; they claimed suzerainty over it and helped repel Arab attacks (8th–11th cent.). Later, Pisa and Genoa often fought (11th–14th cent.) for supremacy over the island, but neither held sway for long. Pisa had much influence on the art and architecture of Sardinia. In 1297, Pope Boniface VIII bestowed the island on the house of Aragón, from which it passed (late 15th cent.) to Spain. By the Peace of Utrecht (1713) Spain ceded it to Austria, but in 1717 Cardinal Alberoni sent a Spanish force to occupy the island. The settlement of 1720 awarded Sardinia to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy (who styled himself king of Sardinia) in exchange for Sicily, which was given to Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. The kings of Sardinia usually resided at Turin. They tried to establish some order out of chaos on Sardinia with judicial, agrarian, and ecclesiastic reforms. Feudal privileges caused much unrest until they were abolished in 1835. Administrative autonomy was ended in 1847; however, the region received some autonomy under the Italian constitution of 1947. There are universities at Cagliari and Sassari.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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