L’industria in epoca preindustriale? Riflessioni su “L’industrie au village” di Catherine Verna

Autore: Mathieu Harsch
In: Storicamente. 18 (2022)

The book published by French medievalist Catherine Verna L’industrie au village (2017) raises a double question: on the one hand because it uses the term industry in reference to the Middle Ages, and on the other because it associates the same term with the village, i.e. rurality, whereas medieval industry – at least for those who think it is possible to talk about industry during these times – is traditionally associated with cities rather than the countryside. In the introduction of the book, Verna conducts a historiographical review of the concept of industry, limited to only French medievalists. This paper endeavors a similar review but focused on Italian historiography, illustrating how the concept of industry appears no clearer to Italian medievalists than it does to French ones. In addition, it discusses the definition of industry proposed by Verna – in order to determine whether it is appropriate or not to talk about “industry in the pre-industrial times” – and analyzes what the author means by the expression “industry in the village”. In particular, it pays attention to the concepts of small town and industrial district developed by Verna within her case study (the Pyrenean village of Arles-sur-Tech and the Vallespir localities in the 14th and 15th centuries), i.e. two concepts that constitute valuable interpretive keys for the history of medieval and modern Italy.