This paper aims to address some of the key issues in the economic and agrarian historiography on medieval Southern Italy. The author proposes an analysis of the modes of exploitation of the royal demesne lands between the first half of the XIII century and the second half of the XV. During this period it is possible to trace the establishment and consolidation of an administrative and management structure of agricultural production, the royal farm, of which the author analyzes the genesis and functions in relation to the overall economic and fiscal strategies of the monarchy. With reference to recent neo-institutional readings of the economic and institutional framework of Southern Italy in the late Middle Ages, the hypothesis proposed in this essay brings out, however, some critical elements that tend to qualify the positive interpretation which is a frequent feature of the historiography about royal farms.
Keywords: Medieval agrarian history; Kingdom of Sicily (XIII-XV c.); Royal demesne; Royal farm; Transhumance