The territory of the province of Reggio Emilia

         In order to illustrate the numerous territorial assets acquired by the province of Reggio Emilia over the course of time, the period examined begins in the mid-18th century, during the reign of Francesco III. The dominions of the Estense family still comprised several “states” which, in addition to the duchy of Modena, also included the duchy of Reggio Emilia, the principality of Correggio and the county of Novellara.

         However, all this disappeared within the space of just a few years: the Napoleonic republics split the previous duchy of Modena and Reggio Emilia into the two separate and autonomous departments of Panaro and Crostolo, replacing governors, jurisdictions and podestà (high-ranking officials) with a public administration that emanated from the central government and that managed and controlled the territory through a widespread and well-structured network of state offices and territorial public bodies.

         It took many years and repeated attempts before this major change was fully implemented. The department of Crostolo, one of the first to be established, participated in this progressive change (or underwent it, depending on how you look at it). Therefore, in the period from 1797 to 1814, it took on numerous administrative territorial forms.

         The ensuing Restoration did not discount all this hard work: with the exception of the restitutions determined by the application of the “principle of legitimacy”, from 1815 the Austrian-Estense duchy was no longer divided into “states” but into provinces, and the municipalities that formed them greatly resembled the Napoleonic cantons. Administrative simplification was acquired once and for all, while state control of political power was completed and consolidated: feudal estates were suppressed and there was no going back.

         From then on, it can be claimed that it was simply a case of recording territorial adjustments due to political events, the most significant of which was the birth of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, but the fundamental structure of the province of Reggio Emilia did not undergo any further substantial changes and remains the same today. Because of this, the last district division was recorded in 1862.

         The complex territorial events in the various locations often had major effects on their documentation, meaning that it was felt advisable to record the changes in detail: overlooking the facts associated with the history of the territory, it would sometimes be impossible to understand the presence or absence of some registers in certain archives.

         The images of the forty-five municipalities in the province are taken from the Biblioteca d’Istituto, more precisely from the Biblioteca Catelani, Cartoline illustrate della città e provincia di Reggio Emilia, 13 albums; many of the selected postcards feature photographs by Roberto Sevardi and were chosen because of the originality of the frames and their ability to render the “feel” of the place. It is therefore worth providing some brief information about this great professional.

         Born in Correggio in 1865 to parents of unknown origin, Roberto Sevardi took to photography as an adult, going on to become one of the greatest photographers in Reggio Emilia, leaving behind a portrait of a province that, in the early 20th century, experienced major social, economic and cultural transformations.

         A self-taught amateur (as he loved to describe himself), it was only in 1915 that he decided to dedicate himself exclusively to photography, making it his profession. He received numerous awards and accolades, and some of his photographs were published in major magazines. He also worked intensely in local publishing, producing the first postcards featuring views of the city and province. In 1935 he moved to Montecchio, where he died in the summer of 1940.

         Sevardi also studied photographic technique: from sepia to coloured paper, from salt print to film, creating a series of views of the Reggiano Apennines and castles using the "transfer” technique in the first decade of the 1900s.

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