Episode 0 Extra 1: How the Mafia Got Its Start

Growing lemons requires a lot of water and patience — and a little organized crime. (Photo: Giovanni/flickr)

In 1803, Sicily and Malta won contracts to provide lemon juice to the entire British Royal Navy. Half a century later, the mafia was born.

Stephen Dubner and A.J. Jacobs are joined by Helena Attlee.

  • Tim Drummond

    First exposure to the different TMSIDK format and I already love it! I liked the live show just fine, but the extra time on both ends really adds to its value, and I never really cared about the ‘competition’ anyway.

    The person presenting the IDK gets so much more time to share interesting bits about their topic, and they get much more interesting and leading questions. There is also great opportunity to do a lot more meaningful fact-checking (on the live show, most people don’t show up with something blatantly false, and so the fact checker is simply scrambling to find something pithy to add to their bit).

    I see this as the future of the show – more of this, please!

  • cristala

    This is not very inaccurate. It really wasn’t just over lemons.The mafia began during the years Spaniards were confiscating land from locals. These families began working for the land lords to protect their theft of peasant owned land and got rich doing it, like a little army of thugs for the landowners, forcing people off their land etc..which is one reason Sicilians still hate mafia so much, they chose to wreak havoc on the small people, farmers etc. Not only that, and I hate to say it because these are my roots, but the culture of blood feuds came from the Arbereshe settlements and are still raging in Albania to this day. if you look at the mafia “hotbeds” they are almost all Arbereshe. A famous story from my mothers town Piana degli Albanese, when Mussolini went to visit he brought his troops. The mayor (?) apparently told him he he didn’t need troops because he was protected by mafia in the town, this angered Mussolini and launched his war on the mafia. The mafia has been squeezing out the little man since its beginning as a mercenary force for landowners even after unification..nothing changed for peasants which is why many migrated to america.