The Economic and Social Conditions of the Italian South
at the time of Unification Revisited
This short essay discusses the recent view put forward by some authors according to which there was no per capita income gap between the North and the South of Italy at the time of Unification and therefore economic dualism was born after unification. Three are the arguments developed: first, the soundness of the new numerical estimates of the income gap is disputed, on various grounds; second the relevance of per capita income in the pre- modernization period as an indicator of likelihood of progress is considered very limited. There are other more important indicators to look at: commerce, transports, manufactured goods, finance and, above all, literacy. The third argument is connected to a recent research on the fiscal reforms enacted immediately after unification, which did not produce a levelling of per capita tax payments between North and South. The conclusion reached is that the revision has not proved that the North-South economic and social gap was born after unification.