"Dark" and "Swarthy" Italians Are Still Light

July 3, 2020

We've seen how olive skin is misunderstood by people to mean "tan" or "non-white", now let's look at the same thing with words like "dark" and "swarthy" used to describe the complexions of Europeans. Applied mostly (but not exclusively) to Southern Europeans, people treat them as evidence against "whiteness", but they're really just exaggerations of reality, like in this passage from White on Arrival about how Italian gangsters were portrayed in the media:

Al Capone was constantly portrayed in books, magazine articles, pulps, and movies as having a "dark" or "swarthy" complexion. When he appeared in court in 1929 in Philadelphia on charges of having concealed a weapon, the Chicago Daily News noticed that his "face, which is rather dark, assumed a dull reddish hue." No one emphasized Italians' dark features more than popular writer and former newsman Walter Burns. In his book, The One-Way Ride, Johnny Torrio was "a slight, dapper, dark young man"; gunmen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi had "dark faces"; the Genna brothers were "swarthy, black haired, black eyed, looked not unlike Arabs, and probably had in their ancestral strain a strong dash of Saracenic [North African] blood".

From these descriptions you'd probably picture really dark Saudi Arabians or maybe even mixed-race Berbers, but here's what those people actually looked like (the rare mugshot of Capone has been skillfully colorized to show his blue eyes):


Al Capone
Genna Brothers


Johnny Torrio
John Scalise and Albert Anselmi


This kind of exaggeration is similar to English ideas about the so-called "Black Irish". They're really just white people from the British Isles (not just Ireland) who have dark hair and eyes and a Mediterranean appearance — like Colin Farrell, Catherine Zeta Jones, Sean Connery, Mr. Bean, Russell Brand and many others — but old school Nordicists used to claim that part of the Celtic physiognomy was "black-tinted skin".

Benjamin Franklin was even more extreme, basically lumping all whites who weren't Anglo-Saxon into a "swarthy" group with non-whites, including some who are probably lighter than English people:

All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

So the lesson is to not take descriptions like that literally or as meaning something "non-white". Europeans (including Southern Europeans) actually have the lightest untanned skin in the world, so even when they're "dark" or "swarthy", they're still lighter than everyone else.

Italy Is Over 2000 Years Old

April 8, 2020

People with an agenda to divide Italy who say that it's "not a real country" because it "didn't even exist until 1861" don't know their history. Italy was first unified by the Ancient Romans, and then it was divided by foreign powers after Rome fell. The movement for national unity was actually a reunification movement that went back to the Renaissance and was supported by many prominent Italians.

Italy was unified by Rome in the third century BC. For 700 years, it was a de facto territorial extension of the capital of the Roman Republic and Empire, and for a long time experienced a privileged status and was not converted into a province.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Italy remained united under the Ostrogothic Kingdom and later disputed between the Kingdom of the Lombards and the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. Following conquest by the Frankish Empire, the title of King of Italy merged with the office of Holy Roman Emperor. However, the emperor was an absentee German-speaking foreigner who had little concern for the governance of Italy as a state; as a result, Italy gradually developed into a system of city-states. Southern Italy, however, was governed by the long-lasting Kingdom of Sicily or Kingdom of Naples, which had been established by the Normans. Central Italy was governed by the Pope as a temporal kingdom known as the Papal States.

This situation persisted through the Renaissance but began to deteriorate with the rise of modern nation-states in the early modern period. Italy, including the Papal States, then became the site of proxy wars between the major powers, notably the Holy Roman Empire (including Austria), Spain, and France.

Harbingers of national unity appeared in the treaty of the Italic League, in 1454, and the 15th-century foreign policy of Cosimo De Medici and Lorenzo De Medici. Leading Renaissance Italian writers Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Guicciardini expressed opposition to foreign domination. Petrarch stated that the "ancient valour in Italian hearts is not yet dead" in Italia Mia. Machiavelli later quoted four verses from Italia Mia in The Prince, which looked forward to a political leader who would unite Italy "to free her from the barbarians".

The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 formally ended the rule of the Holy Roman Emperors in Italy. However, the Spanish branch of the Hapsburg dynasty, another branch of which provided the Emperors, continued to rule most of Italy down to the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14).

A sense of Italian national identity was reflected in Gian Rinaldo Carli's Della Patria degli Italiani, written in 1764. It told how a stranger entered a café in Milan and puzzled its occupants by saying that he was neither a foreigner nor a Milanese. "'Then what are you?' they asked. 'I am an Italian,' he explained."


Roman Italy at the death of Augustus (14 A.D.)

Genes and Geography (Italy vs. Britain)

January 16, 2020

All else being equal, genes mirror geography in Europe. We've already seen this by comparing Italians to Germans, and now we can do another similar comparison. A new study that has even better geographical coverage than Sazzini et al. (2016) shows the samples clustering to form an almost perfect map of Italy, while another new study shows the same thing in the British Isles.

[NOTE: For the samples in gray, "NWEur" is actually Southern French, "WEur" are Spanish and Portuguese, and "SEEur" is Greeks.]


Raveane et al. "Population structure of modern-day Italians reveals patterns of ancient and archaic ancestries in Southern Europe". Sci Adv, 2019.


Gilbert et al. "The genetic landscape of Scotland and the Isles". PNAS, 2019.