Presentación de libro: Susan Deans-Smith, “Burócratas, cosecheros y trabajadores. La formación del monopolio de tabaco en la Nueva España borbónica” (México, 4 de noviembre de 2015)

Presentación de libro: Susan Deans-Smith, “Burócratas, cosecheros y trabajadores. La formación del monopolio de tabaco en la Nueva España borbónica” (México, 4 de noviembre de 2015) Book Review: The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy since Unification

Published by EH.Net (October 2015)

Gianni Toniolo, editor, The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy since Unification. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. xiv + 785 pp. $170 (cloth), ISBN: 978-0-19-993669-4.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Leandro Prados de la Escosura, Department of Social Sciences, Universidad Carlos III.

In addition to being a leading scholar of the economic history of modern Italy, Gianni Toniolo has been throughout his career an outstanding citizen. He has had a leading role in debates on Italy’s economic performance since the 1970s — initially as an active member of the new generation of distinguished economic historians that challenged and renovated the conventional narrative. More recently, he has led a new generation of young economists and economic historians in a major revision of Italian economic history that focuses on standards of living and income distribution.

The Oxford Handbook, a most ambitious re-interpretative project in modern European economic history, is the latest proof of Toniolo’s good citizenship. The purpose of this collective effort is assessing Italian long run economic performance within an international perspective. A common element in the contributions to the volume is addressing historical issues from a present day’s perspective and emphasizing its policy dimensions. This feature differentiates the volume from conventional economic history texts. The wide variety of issues considered does not harm the volume’s unity. In addition, the book is well written and accessible to the non-technical reader.

The volume is divided into five parts: aggregate growth and policy; sources of growth and welfare; international competitiveness; firms, banks, and the state; and the regional divide. For each topic within each of the five sections, the editor has chosen two or three specialists, usually an international scholar in the field and an Italian economist or economic historian. Such a bold idea proves to be a success. An excellent quantitative appendix, that includes a new set of GDP estimates from the output and expenditure sides, together with new series of labor quantity, capital stock and total factor productivity, completes the volume.

Part I on aggregate growth and policy represents, perhaps, the most ambitious interpretative section of the volume. It starts with a thoughtful introduction by the editor that constitutes a good guide for the rest of the volume. In contrast to the relative decline during the Early Modern era, Italy experienced sustained growth and catching up to the leading economies for most of the twentieth century, separating two phases (pre-1896 and post-1992) of sluggish performance and falling behind. The process of international convergence was accompanied by internal divergence between north and south. The introduction is followed by Harold James and Kevin O’Rourke’s assessment of Italy’s performance during the first globalization and its subsequent backlash, in which they stress pre-World War II capital scarcity and highlight the specificity of interwar industrial policy under the lead of state-owned industrial conglomerate IRI. Then, Andrea Boltho compares Italy to Germany and Japan, countries defeated in World War II and great successes in the postwar, which slowed down significantly at the turn of the century. Lack of major reforms during the reconstruction years, administrative inefficiencies, permanent conflict in industrial relations, and the gap between North and South are pointed out as Italy’s distinctive elements. Nicholas Crafts and Marco Magnani carry out a path-breaking interpretation of Italy’s catching up during the Golden Age and lagging behind since 1992. Their main argument is that institutions and policy choices that allow success in a far-from-frontier economy differ from those required for a close-to-frontier economy. Thus, Italy successfully performed as a far-from-frontier economy in the so-called age of Fordist manufacturing within a stable context of growing export demand, diffusion of U.S. technology, and high investment opportunities, with regulation, industrial policy, government intervention, and undervalued exchange rates as the main policy instruments. As Italy got closer to the technological frontier, factor and product markets’ flexibility and human and intangible capital accumulation became central to growth opportunities and Italy fell short of achieving them, as the delayed diffusion of information and communications technologies confirms. In the closing paper, Marcello de Cecco provides an original insight on how major issues in Italian economic performance were addressed by foreign scholars in which dualism receives particular attention.

Part II on sources of growth and welfare represents the most empirical section of the volume and provides a quantitative background for the rest of the volume’s contributions. It opens with a major contribution by Alberto Baffigi (that represents a collective endeavor) to produce a new set of historical national accounts with homogeneous GDP series from the supply and demand sides, at current and constant prices, over one hundred and fifty years. In the next chapter, Stephen Broadberry, Claire Giordano and Francesco Zollino compute new series of capital and labor and combine them with Baffigi’s new GDP series to draw trends in labor and total factor productivity (TFP) that place Italy in comparative perspective. Their analysis of the sources of growth reveals that during 1913-1993, TFP drove labor productivity growth (in which structural change played a relevant part) especially during growth accelerations. However, up to 1913 and, then, since 1993, factor accumulation dominated long-run growth. Italy appears to have come full circle. Andrea Brandolini and Giovanni Vecchi address standards of living in a comprehensive way to conclude that modern economic growth in Italy was compatible with substantial achievements in human development and the eradication of extreme poverty. The evolution of Italy’s educational system is addressed in Giuseppe Bertola and Paolo Sestito’s essay. They find that insufficient education levels (in both quantity and quality) represent a much more relevant obstacle for growth and catching up in today’s advanced Italian economy than during the Golden Age. In their assessment of emigration, Matteo Gomelli and Cormac Ó Gráda stress the positive self-selection of migrants and the favorable impact of migration on living standards and growth, as well as on reducing regional discrepancies. Lastly, Luigi Guiso and Paolo Pinotti use the enfranchisement of 1912 to investigate whether civic capital had an effect on democratization. After enfranchisement, electoral turnout declined but more in the South than in the North, which was more civic-capital intense. From this finding they conclude that formal democratization had a lower impact in the South as lower civic capital reduced political participation and, hence, did not contribute to closing the North-South gap.

Part III focuses on the international competitiveness of the Italian economy. It starts with a complete survey of the evolution of comparative advantage by Giovanni Federico and Nikolaus Wolf who emphasize the association between economic growth and export performance. They stress the dynamic role of manufacturing exports from World War I to 1980, when low-tech exports dominated and competitiveness declined, especially during the last two decades. Virginia di Nino, Barry Eichengreen, and Massimo Sbracia show that Italy’s currency was mostly undervalued between unification and the 1990s, after which it became overvalued. Undervaluation stimulated growth through export expansion and a more efficient resource allocation. Federico Barbiellini Amidei, John Catwell, and Anna Spadavecchia, who investigate technological innovation, highlight the major role played by international transfers of technology. Italy creatively adopted foreign technology, as industries’ innovation was driven more by engineering and design than by R&D. Since the 1990s, imports of foreign disembodied technology slowed down while R&D expenditure lagged behind advanced countries deepening the gap. A most informative chapter on the emergence and expansion of Italian multinationals by Fabrizio Onida, Giuseppe Berta, and Mario Perugini closes Part III.

The theme of Part IV is how firms and industries evolved and what the role played in it by banks and public policies. Franco Amatori, Matteo Bugamelli, and Andrea Colli assess how firms reacted to different technological paradigms in a global economy. During the first three-fourths of the twentieth century, industry, especially small and medium-size firms, performed satisfactorily. However, in the latest phase of globalization, small-size firms were unable to take full advantage of the information and communication technology, while suffered increasing competition from emerging countries. Inability to manage social conflict and to create a modern institutional framework seems to underlie Italy’s disappointing performance during the last two decades. The impact of credit allocation on growth and efficiency since World War II is at the core of Stefano Battilossi, Alfredo Gigliobianco, and Giuseppe Marinelli’s essay. They find a contribution of Italian banks to economic growth up to 1970, while overregulation and financial repression — a result of policies socially motivated and serving vested political interests — had a negative impact between the 1970s and mid-1990s. Liberalization had a positive effect on the banking system that responded to growth opportunities and directed credit towards promising industries. Banks, thus, should not be blamed for Italy’s current structural problems. In their chapter, Fabrizio Balassone, Maura Francese, and Angelo Pace find support for the hypothesis of a negative association between public debt and growth over the long run through a reduction in capital accumulation. Nonetheless, unlike the experience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, reducing public debt from 1995 to 2007 did not have a positive effect on growth. Delayed fiscal consolidation and the size of public expenditure and deficits appear as the explanation. In this section’s closing paper, Magda Bianco and Giulio Napolitano address the impact of public administration on the efficiency of the Italian economy.

In Part V, dedicated to the regional divide, Giovanni Iuzzolino, Guido Pellegrini, and Gianfranco Viesti focus on the changes in regional convergence of GDP per head since unification and find a declining North-South gap between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century that gave way to its increase during the Golden Age, to be followed by a reduction that has stabilized since the 1980s. In human development terms, however, the divergence partially closed over time. Brian A’Hearn and Anthony Venables investigate, in turn, the role of internal geography and foreign trade patterns in regional disparities showing that location of natural advantage and access to domestic and international markets favored the North over time, rejecting the hypothesis of an inverted-U pattern of regional inequality. Water abundance permitted intensive agriculture after unification; largely inward-looking industrialization in the early twentieth century also gave advantage to the North with its larger and more sophisticated markets. In the post-World War II era agglomeration in the North facilitated its access to European Community markets.

I cannot refrain from adding some succinct remarks after reading such a fascinating volume. As regards the quantitative part, it needs to be said that Baffigi’s chapter would by itself justify the volume. However, the way the new series are presented is a bit disappointing. One misses the presentation of long-run trends in GDP and GDP per head and the contribution due to supply and demand components.

In the excellent chapter by Broadberry, Giordano and Zollino it seems surprising that human capital is not considered independently. This decision implies that in the estimates any potential contribution of labor quality is included in the residual, rendering TFP estimates an upper bound of its actual magnitude. In turn, using full time equivalent workers (FTE) fails to take into account the decline in hours worked per employed worker that probably results in a downward bias in labor productivity levels and growth.

Some additional questions emerge. Are broad capital accumulation and efficiency gains, complementary or alternative? Does TFP growth follow capital accumulation? Should it be concluded that Italy exhausted its catching-up potential as it got closer the technological frontier? Other national experiences, such as Korea’s, tend to suggest otherwise.

On the contentious issue of inequality, the Italian historical experience appears of great interest. A’Hearn and Venables do not find confirmation for the hypothesis of an inverted-U pattern of regional inequality. Such a finding is consistent with the results for personal income distribution by Brandolini and Vecchi. This coincidence suggests a possible association between them as differences in average incomes between rich and poor regions will be most probably an element in overall inequality and would explain, perhaps, the absence of a Kuznets curve in Italy.

As the reader will realize, the long journey through this lengthy book is worth pursuing. Italian and European economic history is better and more thoughtful after the appearance of The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy.

Leandro Prados de la Escosura is the author of “Economic Freedom in the Long Run: Evidence from OECD Countries (1850-2007),” Economic History Review (forthcoming).

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Trans-Atlantic Credit Terms, Slave Prices, and the Geography of Slavery

EH net

The Editors of the Journal of Economic History are pleased to present Nicholas Radburn’s article, Keeping “the wheel in motion”: Trans-Atlantic Credit Terms, Slave Prices, and the Geography of Slavery in the British Americas, 1755–1807

This article uses a new dataset of 330 slaving voyages to examine terms of credit issued for British American slave sales between 1755 and 1807. Our dataset shows that credit terms were highly erratic, especially in the last quarter of the century, contributing to both surges and collapses in the slave trade to individual colonies, and in the trade as a whole. Four such instances are examined in detail to show that instability in credit terms played an important and hitherto unacknowledged role in the volume and direction of Britain’s trans-Atlantic slave trade in the second one-half of the eighteenth century

Free access to the article is until Sunday, October 25th: Book Review: Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground

Published by EH.Net (October 2015)

Michael Kwass, Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. ix + 457 pp. $50 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-674-72683-3.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Jeff Horn, Department of History, Manhattan College.

Michael Kwass of Johns Hopkins University has written an ambitious book that melds global, national and local perspectives to provide insight into eighteenth-century political and economic culture. It focuses on the life, career, trial, execution and legacy of the infamous Dauphinois smuggler Louis Mandrin, who was executed in 1755. Consequently, Kwass adds human interest and drama to this wide-ranging study centered on the middle decades of the eighteenth century, though parts of the narrative begin in the seventeenth century and another section sketches the tale into the early nineteenth century. His central argument is that “the convergence of three formidable historical forces — globalization, consumption, and state formation — destabilized the old regime and contributed to the outbreak of revolution” (p. 6). As a corollary to that thesis, Kwass stresses that the extent and troublesome nature of the “global underground” was an “unintended consequence” of the state’s efforts to increase revenue and regulate the economy (p. 16).

Through the careful study of calicoes and tobacco, Kwass establishes a model of “The Globalization of European Consumption.” He continues by exploring the policies and practices of the Bourbon government’s approach to commercial regulation — setting up a monopoly for the latter and outlawing the former combined to galvanize the black market. A chapter on the “shadow economy” describes the routes, actions, and backgrounds of the smugglers. These subjects are interspersed with and provide context and meaning for six chapters exploring Mandrin’s life and activities. He smuggled these goods in three daring and violent raids into France, using Savoy as a base. The General Tax Farm that oversaw the tobacco monopoly and enforced the ban on calicoes as subcontractor to the crown was the chief object of Mandrin’s ire and the political economy he expressed both in word and deed. Kwass then details how Mandrin’s story became publicized and politicized through the medium of print from newspaper accounts to a putative first-person “political testament” written by a budding political economist from Grub Street (p. 288). A thoughtful chapter on “Smuggling in the Enlightenment” considers the political economy of smuggling and is followed by a chapter on the Revolution. The conclusion competently summarizes the main arguments. Kwass also explores the Farm’s police powers and ability to implement summary justice especially the Commission of Valence, the Enlightened push for reform of the criminal justice system, the overweening place of hatred of the system of indirect taxes and the role of the Farm in collecting them in the cahiers de doléances written in the spring of 1789, as well as the significance of anti-tax sentiment in Revolutionary violence. The “consumer revolution” of 1650-1800 (his next project) lurks behind many points in Kwass’ account.

Kwass has done extensive research in both the archives and in the relevant secondary literatures. There are, however, a number of notable lacunae, mostly, but not exclusively relating to the economic effects of the subjects under discussion. That said, his research is generally impressive. He has also included twenty-four well-chosen images as well as sufficient maps to illustrate his points.

Contraband has already won several major prizes (see for details). Kwass excels at institutional and political history as well as the history of ideas. In terms of economics, however, a more critical stance may be warranted. While he is proficient at examining the economic culture of contraband, he pays scant attention to its domestic economic effects. For example, Kwass ably demonstrates the global nature of tobacco production and provides a few statistics about tobacco consumption and the number of retail outlets for tobacco (pp. 21-31), but he makes no effort to calculate or even estimate the effects of smuggling on that market. Nor does he discuss the effects on focusing on these two atypical goods rather than emphasizing salt, the most commonly smuggled good. Although Kwass claims to have examined the importance of production in his depiction of the underground economy (p. 359), this reviewer could find little evidence to support that assertion. Kwass focuses on commerce, the state’s regulation of it, and efforts of smugglers and consumers to avoid paying taxes on goods. Even with a product like calicoes that was made in France both before and after the ban, Kwass says little about the impact of smuggling on sales, the workforce, or even on France’s international competitiveness. In fact, Kwass ignores those modern scholars who do not fit his contention that historians have not looked at “the violence, coercion, and turmoil that accompanied trade in the metropole” (pp. 2-3). Among those historians who have examined these issues are Alessandro Stanziani in Rules of Exchange: French Capitalism in Comparative Perspective, Eighteenth to Early Twentieth Centuries (2012), Natacha Coquery, Tenir boutique à Paris au XVIIIe siècle (2011), Philippe Minard, La fortune du colbertisme : État et industrie dans la France des Lumières (1998), and my own The Path Not Taken: French Industrialization in the Age of Revolution (2006) which considers the impact of smuggling in the context of the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty of 1786 and during the Continental Blockade.

The effects of the command economy associated with the Maximum in the Year II (1793-94) represent another important and somewhat perplexing gap in Kwass’ consideration of contraband and the underground economy. As I demonstrated in The Path Not Taken, the Maximum represented a vitally important state effort to regulate the economy that engendered massive smuggling efforts, not only at the borders, but between departments (which had different price levels set by the state) and often at the district and municipal levels. Calicoes and especially tobacco were among the goods that were traded clandestinely. Many of the themes of Kwass’ examination of the underground economy and state formation culminated in 1793-94, an historical moment that he skips over in this chapter on the Revolution (see p. 350). Of course, authors cannot be expected to do everything, but by extending his story after the fall of the old regime in such a cursory fashion, Kwass has missed an opportunity to consider the impact of the Revolution on the underground economy. At least some comparative consideration of how France stacked up against other countries in terms of the role of contraband and repression of smuggling would also have been welcome in this study of the global underground. Examining the cultural impact of Mandrin’s legacy in the manner pioneered by Cynthia A. Bouton in Interpreting Social Violence in French Culture: Buzançais, 1847-2008 (2011) would also have contributed meaningfully to the importance of Kwass’ project.

A plea for more attention to the economic effects of state policies and the efforts of consumers and smugglers to circumvent those policies and the institutions charged with implementing them should not be mistaken as undervaluing or dismissing Kwass’ achievement. Far from it. Still, a major component of “economic culture” ought to be economic impact. Despite these (and similar) gaps, those interested in the subject or the period will learn a great deal from Kwass’ stimulating book.

Jeff Horn is professor of history at Manhattan College. He is the author of Economic Development in Early Modern France: The Privilege of Liberty, 1650-1820 (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Contact him at jeff.horn @

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nep-his Book reviews: Why Did Europe Conquer the World? de @batizlazo

This week Clair Wright brings us comments on Phillip T. Hoffman’s Why Did Europe Conquer the World? (Princeton) in The National Post, Foreign Affairs, The Telegraph and Wall Street Journal

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Houses for a New World: Builders and Buyers in American Suburbs, 1945-1965, by Barbara Miller Lane


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Houses for a New World:
Builders and Buyers in American Suburbs, 1945-1965

Barbara Miller Lane

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While the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, and their contemporaries frequently influences our ideas about house design at the midcentury, most Americans during this period lived in homes built by little-known builders who also served as developers of the communities. Often dismissed as "little boxes, made of ticky-tacky," the tract houses of America’s postwar suburbs represent the twentieth century’s most successful experiment in mass housing. Houses for a New World is the first comprehensive history of this uniquely American form of domestic architecture and urbanism.

"Lane uses original research, images, plans, and maps to illustrate the American suburb."–Shannon Sharpe, Metropolis

Hardcover | 2015 | $49.95 / £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691167619

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