Through the magnifying glass: provincial aspects of industrial growth in post-Unification Italy



This article presents estimates of industrial production in post-Unification Italy's 69 provinces in the census years 1871, 1881, 1901, and 1911. Initially industry was largely artisanal, and located in the former political capitals; but even then the waterfalls of the subalpine north-west attracted what factory industry there was. Contrary to widespread opinion, in the aftermath of Unification the industrial and overall growth leaders were actually in the south, where selected provinces reaped the gains from the freer foreign trade, and infrastructure investment, that accompanied the loss of independence. Over the later nineteenth century industry concentrated into the ‘industrial triangle’; but even there industrialization remained sharply local, and excluded the right bank of the upper Po. The early twentieth century, in turn, brought a measure of industrial diffusion—to the centre/north-east, where it was tied to the production of perishables on recently improved land—and concentration within the north-western triangle itself, into its major cities, as progress in energy transmission effectively moved the waterfalls into the plains.