Numero 4
ottobre - dicembre 2020 anno 61

Sommario e abstract degli articoli

L’indistricabile intreccio. Imprese, imprenditori e regime fascista

An Inextricable Intertwining. Companies, Entrepreneurs, and the Fascist Regime

 
The papers of this section analyse the relationships between the economic and business community and the fascist regime. Their aim is to refresh the interpretations that were established in the 1960s-1970s and remained undisputed in the decades thereafter, becoming a sort of mantra among Italian contemporary historians. The article presents the most relevant contributions of that historiographical season, explaining the reasons for a new approach and a new interpretation on the strength of the numerous public, business, and private archives that have become available over the past 20-30 years, extensive use of which has been made by the papers included in this section.
 

Keywords:  Economy and politics during the fascist regime, Historiographical debates, Business archives.

Parole chiave: Economia e politica durante il fascismo, Dibattiti storiografici, Archivi d’impresa.

Józef Toeplitz and the End of Universal Banking in Italy. A Political (Re)Interpretation of the 1930s Banking Crisis

 
The theme as to whether the banker is the capitalist par excellence evoked by Schumpeter, or the lender of other people’s money who has to be accountable to society, is again en vogue after the 2008 financial crisis. This essay looks at the issue through the lenses of Józef Toeplitz, a Polish-born banker who was Banca Commerciale Italiana’s executive director from 1917 to 1933. Toeplitz was called upon to cope with the 1930s banking crisis that eventually put an end to the first era of universal banking in Italy. Above all, he was obliged to accept that economic questions had become a matter for governments, not bankers. His story of pragmatic, if incomplete, adaptation to the new reality highlights the ‘political’ nature of the 1930s Italian banking crisis.
 

Keywords:  Universal bank, Banking crisis, Fascism, Mussolini, Beneduce.

Parole chiave: Banca universale, Crisi bancaria, Fascismo, Mussolini, Beneduce.

Between Legitimate Requests and Open Blackmail. The Entrepreneurs of the Sea, Stringher and Beneduce

 
This article examines the relationships between the government and some of the major shipping companies during Fascism. To a large extent, these relationships revolved around two credit institutions, Consorzio per sovvenzioni su valori industriali (CSVI) and Istituto per il credito navale (ICN). CSVI and ICN had to provide subsidized loans to aid the maritime industry, a sector considered economically and politically strategic by fascism. In order to induce them to grant credit, Bonaldo Stringher – Governor of the Bank of Italy, of which CSVI was a section – and Alberto Beneduce – creator and President of ICN – were subjected to strong pressure from entrepreneurs, some ministers, and Mussolini.
 

Keywords:  Fascism, Bank of Italy, Credit, Maritime industry, Shipping.

Parole chiave: Fascismo, Banca d’Italia, Credito, Industria navale, Navigazione.

In Search of Stability. Montecatini and the Italian Chemical Industry between Crisis and Change (1929-1940)

 
This article reviews the history of Montecatini between 1929 and 1940. The impact of the Great Crisis on the strategies of the Italian chemical industry and its leading company is a crucial but still neglected episode in Italy’s industrial history. The disintegration of international markets forced Montecatini to abandon the internationalization strategy pursued during the 1920s and to focus on the internal market. For Montecatini, increasing State intervention during the 1930s, which culminated in the launching of the «autarky plans» in 1937, presented an opportunity to shift its «technological trajectory» from its dependence on hydroelectricity towards the use of coal and coal byproducts, in particular coke oven gas. In spite of the fascist regime’s apparent goal to reduce imports and achieve economic self-sufficiency, the scaling-up of production and the development of new products and processes was achieved through the use of imported coal.
 

Keywords:  Montecatini, Chemical industry, Great crisis, Autarky, Industrial policy.

Parole chiave: Montecatini, Industria chimica, Grande crisi, Autarchia, Politica industriale.

Giuseppe Volpi. The Great Mediator, amid Institutions, Politics, and Economy

 
Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata represented a mediation point between different interests both in the economic field and in the complex national – but also regional and local – political balance that long underpinned the fascist regime. This article intends to revisit this figure between the 1920s and the Second World War. The attempt will be made to identify, through an approach that will be chronological and thematic, the passages that led Volpi to embody the ideal prototype of the mediator between different economic and political interests. In his relationship with the institutions and with the fascist government the paper will identify the elements that made him – to the eyes of many, in Italy as well as abroad – a potential successor to Mussolini in the event of a regime crisis.
 

Keywords:  Giuseppe Volpi, Fascist regime, Mussolini, Economic interests, Confindustria.

Parole chiave: Giuseppe Volpi, Regime fascista, Mussolini, Interessi economici, Confindustria.

An Imaginary Nationalism? Multinationals in Italy during Fascism

 
Fascist Italy hosted many foreign investments in key industries. This is true not only for the 1920s, but for the 1930s as well, when Italian economic policy turned progressively to autarky. In spite of Mussolini’s claim about Italy’s need to escape from «foreign bondage» («servitù straniere »), many multinationals were able to increase their investments in Italian industry, securing control over entire productive branches and their related markets. On the one hand, the Regime provided exceptional incentives to foreign investments, considering these firms necessary for the transfer of capital and technologies from abroad; on the other hand, multinationals were able to escape from the political risk of fascist policies, adapting their operations to the Italian context.
 

Keywords:  Multinationals, Foreign firms, Nationalism, Autarky, Fascism.

Parole chiave: Multinazionali, Imprese estere, Nazionalismo, Autarchia, Fascismo.

Ricerche

The Medici Alum: Notes on the Mines of Volterra and on the Case of the Sienese Capacci (1472- 1483)

 
Having conquered Volterra in 1472, Florence obtained the right to exploit its alum deposits, set up a mining centre alongside the papal one of Tolfa, and attempted to make the Florentine wool industry autonomous. While Medici interests in this sense are well known, this article, following the commercial lines of Volterra’s alum, formulates new hypotheses on the commercial, political and diplomatic implications linked, at an international level, to that mineral’s circulation in the late Middle Ages. The lawsuit over compensation brought against Florence by the Sienese Capacci brothers, retraced through analysis of the documentation in the State Archives of Florence, opens original perspectives on the issue of the exploitation and circulation of Volterra alum.
 

Keywords:  Alum, Fifteenth-century, Florence, Trade, Europe.

Parole chiave: Allume, Quattrocento, Firenze, Commercio, Europa.

Gioia’s Thought, Napoleon’s Policy: Free Ports in the Early Nineteenth Century

 
This article offers some preliminary results of a research on the evolving debate over free ports, the role played in them by Melchiorre Gioia, and the mutual influences between the political economist’s thought and Napoleon’s actions. The debate over free ports provides a useful vantage point for formulating hypotheses on Napoleon’s visions of economic policy – aside from the category of exceptionality given the persistent state of war that characterized his government experience – and on their legacy during the nineteenth century. Gioia, author of Nuovo prospetto delle scienze economiche, is one of the fundamental figures for understanding the political debate over free trade and free ports (many of which concentrated in the Italian area), and therefore Napoleon’s choices.
 

Keywords:  Napoleon Bonaparte, Melchiorre Gioia, Free port, Nineteenth century, Political economy.

Parole chiave: Napoleone Bonaparte, Melchiorre Gioia, Porto franco, Ottocento, Economia politica.

«You Can’t Eat Cotton»: Italian Colonial Policies in Somalia and Food Safety, 1900-1945

 
This paper explores the links between Italian colonial policies and food insecurity in Somalia during the period from 1900 to 1945. It is argued that over the long term, the policies put in place to ensure the necessary labour force for cotton and banana plantations dramatically reduced local staple food production to the point of making the area dependent on food imports for subsistence. Building on arguments inspired by Polanyi, the analysis shows that colonial policies disrupted the natives’ mode of economic production as well as their social structures. This combined effect contributed towards undermining food security in an area already severely vulnerable to drought and famine due to its arid climate. This paper draws primarily on documentation produced mainly by Italian authorities and individuals involved in the agriculture «valorization» efforts in Somalia in the first half of the twentieth century.
 

Keywords:  Somalia, Italian colonialism, Agriculture, Food security, Cash crop.

Parole chiave: Somalia, Colonialismo italiano, Agricoltura, Sicurezza alimentare, Colture da reddito.

The Community Movement and the Attempt at Unification of Italian Socialist Political Forces (1956-1957)

 
Starting in 1956, Following international and national events, a process of rapprochement developed within the Italian political system, between the progressive forces of a secular and socialist mould. In this particular context, the Community Movement, founded and led by Adriano Olivetti, promoted a series of actions aimed at building a new and broader Socialist Party. With the input of unpublished documents, the reconstruction of the events related to that experience can explain the significance of the contribution made by the CM to the first experiment of unification between the PSI and PSDI. In spite of the unsuccessful outcome, the project took shape as among the most important political actions coordinated by the Community Movement during the delicate political context of the second post-War period.
 

Keywords:  Community Movement, Socialism, Second post-War period, Italian Politics, Italian Socialist Party.

Parole chiave: Movimento Comunità, Socialismo, Secondo dopoguerra, Politica italiana, Partito socialista italiano.

Note critiche

Machiavelli and the Italian Defeat

 
This article reflects on the book by Alberto Asor Rosa, Machiavelli e l’Italia. Resoconto di una disfatta, Torino, Einaudi, 2019.
 

Keywords:  Alberto Asor Rosa, Niccolò Machiavelli, Italian history.

Parole chiave: Alberto Asor Rosa, Niccolò Machiavelli, Storia d’Italia.

News on Friedrich von Spee and his Cautio criminalis

 
This article reflects on the book by Frank Sobiech, Jesuit Prison Ministry in the Witch Trials on the Holy Roman Empire: Friedrich Spee SJ and His Cautio Criminalis (1631), Roma, Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2019.
 

Keywords:  Friedrich Spee SJ, Cautio Criminalis, Tribunal of the Inquisition.

Parole chiave: Friedrich Spee SJ, Cautio Criminalis, Tribunale dell’Inquisizione.

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