Cliometrics and the Unification of Italy: A Bulletin from the Front
The present is a brief report on the authors’ ongoing quantitative research on the sub-national aspects of the Italian economy over the decades from Unification to the Great War. The initial regional estimates for the census years 1871,1881,1901 and 1911 suggested that the north-western «industrial triangle » emerged over those decades, as factories attracted by the subalpine waterfalls that replaced artisans attracted by their customers in the capitals of the pre-Unification states. The new, finer-grained provincial estimates enrich even more that story. The concentration of factory industry in the subalpine provinces of the northwest is already evident in 1871; industry was subsequently intensified in those self-same provinces, with no significant diffusion to the right bank of the Po river. Over the pre-war upswing, the subalpine provinces languished and Milan boomed, as progress in the transmission of electric power effectively moved the waterfalls from the mountain valleys to the plain; but the fastest industrial growth was registered in Emilia, where land-reclamation led to the cultivation of sugar beet and the construction of refineries. The most novel results concern the earliest decades: the fastest-growing provinces were then almost uniformly southern, apparently because Unification released the local economy from the shackles imposed by the Bourbons’ high tariffs.